The first book ended with a game changing shocker that left me breathless and my brain frozen. Serious wow-factor. And this book was to follow it and continue with the fall-out story from the big climax scene. I didn’t know whether to be excited beyond belief or nervous about the book delivering on it’s promise. I was a little of both.
This second of the Sons of Steel Row books began exactly where the last one ended, but a new hero and heroine have taken the spotlight. Obviously, this book isn’t the best idea for a standalone or out of order, but in a pinch, the reader could begin here.
Chris O’Brien thought he was one of the bad guys with dirt and blood on his hands, but then he committed the worst sin he could- he betrayed another Son and a blood brother, but also his best friend. It can’t get lower or blacker than that. He started out wanting and needing to get his hard, brutal dad’s approval and instead has become him. Growing up under that mean abuse had taken it’s toll, but somehow his need for a parent’s approval had survived intact until now when what it took to achieve it tasted bitter and empty.
When the Bitter Hill gang catch up to him, he almost doesn’t care that they are going to kill him for his part in the loss of some of their brothers, but his survival kicks in and he fights them off. Bleeding out and near death, an angel of mercy finds him and ignores his threats and growls, brings him into her home to take care of him.
Molly Lachlan lives in fear since the day her kind, gentle father was gunned down by a gang member in Boston’s southie Steel Row neighborhood. She teaches her kindergartners and goes home alone every night. No going out on the town with friends, no dates, no anything. She doesn’t want to get attached so she never has to hurt when it’s gone and she definitely wants nothing to do with danger. So why she helped a lethally dangerous gang member of the Sons of Steel Row, she doesn’t want to examine too closely because there is no good sane reason.
Molly recognizes Chris. She grew up next door to him after all. Oh sure, everyone in their affluent neighborhood knew that Chris’ dad made his money in an illegal way and that he’s a gang tough who raised his son to follow him, but Chris was always sweet to her. After her dad died, he quietly did things around her home like lawnwork, painting, and snow removal. But Molly kept her distance. Only now, she can’t just let the man die or let him go even if he insists his presence in her home isn’t safe for her. As he heals, Molly learns a new perspective and realizes that she was pretty lucky and Chris never had her luck the way he was raised and he did the best he could with the hand life dealt him. He is still dark and his hands have blood on them. Molly can’t handle his dangerous life and the possibility that if she let him inside her emotional walls that he’d leave her just like her father.
Bitter Hill raises the ante on the gang war between them and the Sons. Chris keeps his new resolution to protect Lucas’ little brother Scotty in his undercover work even while working hard to keep Molly safe. Physically safe from the danger that surrounds him and safe from him hurting her heart. She’s a beautiful angel of light and he won’t soil her even if he wants her more than anything and wants her to want him back. Dare he stay and hope?
Alright, I was glad to get back into the Sons of Steel world. This story took a step back and spent a lot of time in Molly’s clean ordinary world, but the other grittier world crashed across the line now and then in sharp contrast. It was like a West Side Story plot. Chris did the unforgiveable and yet I was rooting for his redemption and chance at happiness. I liked getting more of Scotty and the deep danger he is in doing what he is doing. Molly was sweet and nice, but didn’t grab me as a character like Chris. He pulled all the emotion from his past, his huge mistakes and his painful and changing present as he transformed.
The story was strong though I didn’t feel it was as sharp and tight as it could have been. The point about Chris and Molly’s differences was painted on rather heavy so that it was always brought up. I got the point early on- he’s a murdering thug and she’s a sweet innocent. He lives in a violent world and she lives in a nurturing one. Got it.
The conflict was solid and believable when it comes to their romance. Chris really is stuck and even if he wants to change and leave, he can’t. And Molly won’t. So things are doomed from the start. I liked that the author didn’t do a half-way job with Molly or Chris’s characters and development. She didn’t make it easy and she didn’t gloss over the tough stuff.
Chris did a horrid thing and he has to pay for it. He has to restore the situation he caused and earn back the trust of one of the men he wronged to do the right thing. He has to live with the fact that he and his life are not right for Molly and take it when she pushes him away.
Molly is who and what she is and it isn’t easy or immediate for her to accept her attraction to Chris or do anything with it. The violence terrifies her and it should. She is caught in the crossfire more than once. What I thought was too far was her naive decision to drive her expensive car down into Steel Row sticking out like a lighthouse beacon and look for Chris like a little bunny prey for the wolf hunters after the rival gang had already proven that they will take her or take her out to hurt Chris and he told her so. Then she turns around and wants him gone because she can’t handle the violence (so what was the point of going to find him?).
As a couple, it was bittersweet as they grew close. Chris wasn’t used to softness or someone caring for him. He didn’t know what to do when Molly wanted to do something special for him. Just like she was confused when he wanted to protect her and do things for her and he didn’t immediately want to get rough and tumble her in bed. Molly saw beneath the surface with Chris and brought out the best in him just as he helped her get past her need to close off the world and the world of feeling because she was scared of being hurt.
This was something a bit different from the first book, but no less good in it’s own way. I had to sneak the preview chapters for the next book because I am dying for Scotty’s story. And yay, he is indeed next. All in all these are fantastic romances set in the dark gritty world of a gang that don’t glamorize the life, but bring the people and their relationships alive. I would recommend them for those who enjoy the rougher worlds and settings of anti-heroes and their dangerous lives.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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