Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
“Once you get that everything comes and then it goes, you learn to take the leap.”
Hello world. My name is Amy Dickinson aka Professor Romance, and I am a Kristen Ashley junkie. The past year and a half, I have devoured her booklist, and I fell hard for her newest series, River Rain. Infused with alpha heroes, heroes and heroines reticent of relationships, the traumatic pasts of characters that have shaped them in the present, and a motley crew of characters that promises stories into the future, Kristen Ashley’s signature is indelible. At the end of Chasing Serenity, as she loves to do to entice her fevered readers, Kristen Ashley gifted us with the start of Taking the Leap. As I inhaled Rix and Alex’s beginning, I was consumed with the want for their story when Ashley leaves her reader bereft, choking on Rix’s inability to fully see Alex and Alex broken over Rix’s inconsideration. I was rabid for more…and I waited. I waited and waited, and finally, Taking the Leap hit my Kindle as an ARC (for an honest review, of course). And it was everything I had hoped it would be. In fact, I broke my blogger rules for this book. I read my ARCs in the order of their release dates. I never break that rule even when I salivate for an ARC sitting on my e-reader. But I couldn’t wait for Rix and Alex because, in one simple chapter, I felt connected to Alex, and I needed Rix to wake up and find a happy ending with her.
Taking the Leap is a story with layers. It’s more than Rix’s disability from injury. It’s more than Alex’s want to be free from the confines of her wealthy family. It’s about finding love with the least likely person for you and establishing a beautiful future on your own terms, one that feels organic to you. Without any personal experience, I thought Kristen Ashley handles the ableism of Rix and Alex’s world well. Again, I don’t profess experience in this world, but I thought Ashley is sensitive to this struggle for her readers who live this every day. That Alex loves Rix beyond his disability, and she acknowledges it without magnifying it makes her characterization one of the best parts of the book. In fact, for me, Alex IS the best part of Taking the Leap because she must navigate and accept Rix’s mental complications from his past trauma. Ashley draws her as a complete heroine, meaning that Rix adds flavor to her life without taking it over. What makes Rix beautiful in his depiction is his protectiveness of Alex. She needs it in the world of her family. With a mother who’s a vulture, a sister who self-sabotages her own happiness, and a father who appears indifferent, Alex has learned to fade into her imagination as protection. It doesn’t make her less; it simply makes her self-protective. When Rix agrees to be her fake fiance, he becomes the type of Kristen Ashley hero readers like me expect. Until that point, though, there are many moments when you want to scream at him for his callowness towards her.
Thankfully, the community of River Rain, namely Chloe and Judge, come to their rescue, and this is where the magic resides in Taking the Leap (and, well, any KA book for that matter). My favorite part of a Kristen Ashley story is the impact of the larger community on her heroes and heroines. In this book, they conspire to help Rix work beyond his past, and they help Alex overcome being a wallflower to bring them together. Family is carefully crafted in books such as Taking the Leap; it’s the superpower of a Kristen Ashley book, and it brings tears to my eyes as they support, admonish, and encourage each other. If you love that premise in a KA book, then you will be delighted in this one. And you must know that it feels important that community equals family, as though Ashley needs us to understand that, if our birth family is awful, we can create our own family to love us beyond measure.
Simply put: I want more River Rain stories. I want more Kristen Ashley stories. Every word feels intentional and thoughtful, drawing out the emotions in her readers. For me, Taking the Leap stole my heart from its first page, and it kept a piece of it before it gave it back.
In love and romance,