Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2
I have been slowly making my way through Kristen Ashley’s booklist. After listening/reading about 8 to 10 of her books in the past couple of months, I’ve noted something easily from her books: alpha-male heroes are her crack and their heroines are guileless, compassionate, and independent. Usually through some type of self-introspection or “finding themselves,” her heroines show their heroes and the surrounding community a woman with a backbone, but a heart of gold. Over and over again, these heroes and heroines play out in Ashley’s stories.
In Ashley’s newest book, Wild Wind, a 1001 Dark Nights novella, grounded in Kristen Ashley’s CHAOS universe, there is still this same truth in this book’s hero and heroine. Jagger Black, the son of Graham Black, is a self-possessed alpha-male, a brother in the Chaos MC. He is as masculine as they come. He meets his match at the age of sixteen when he spies a younger girl across a cemetery while visiting his father’s grave. As their eyes meet, they know that they are cosmically connected. However, it takes about ten years for these two to finally acknowledge their connection, and they move forward in their journey towards discovering if their connection is real and meant for forever. Where Ashley deviates from her usual in this newest book is in her characterization of her heroine. Archie is incredibly independent and compassionate, but there is a strength and a self-possession in her that I don’t often find in Ashley’s other heroines. In Wild Wind, Archie can see a pain and question in Jagger that he has yet to accept and answer. Ashley’s other heroines usually struggle to know themselves, and in being loved by her heroes, they come to know themselves better. That isn’t the case with Archie; instead, she becomes the impetus for Jagger’s acknowledgement of his own emotional pain. It’s exciting to read Kristen Ashley mix this up.
Now, I know that I’ve probably missed the true genius of this story as I have yet to read the other books in Ashley’s CHAOS world. As I was reading Wild Wind, I knew that I was missing out on the depth of connection to that series. However, where the gravity lies in Wild Wind is in its interrogation of death and grief. Yes, it’s easy to find yourself wrapped up in Kristen Ashley’s ability to create steamy, $exy moments between her hero and heroines, and Jagger and Archie light up the pages of this book. They simply can’t keep their hands off of each other. And just as she does in her other books, once Archie and Jagger are together…they are together, never to be separated again, which alleviates any anxiety you might have about a possible separation. Instead, what Kristen Ashley does beautifully in this story is to show the various ways that people process and acknowledge theirt grief. In various characters, specifically Jagger and Archie, we see ways in which its productive to move on with life, while acknowledging and accepting the loss, to ways in which grief is supressed and eventually volatile. This motif seems timely as we surpass half a million deaths due to COVID. This means that any one of us could have lost a family member or friend in death, and we might be dealing in grief. For Ashley to use this space to help her readers understand the significance of grief and our need to find productive ways to process death is thoughtful and necessary.
There is much to love about Kristen Ashley’s Wild Wind, a story that challenges your thinking about death and dying. Had I known that a simple MC romance with a hunky hero and funky heroine would steal my heart in equal measure, I might have scoffed. Kristen Ashley just reminds us again and again why her brand of romance makes us fall in love with the possessive, masculine hero and the kindred soul of his heroine, believing that, even when life brings us down, her romance will pull us up.
In love and romance,