Kristen Ashley is a rock god. Seriously. I have some favorite authors and some books that I can read, love, re-read, and appreciate quotes and dialog written. Kristen Ashley's books are beyond that for me. I'm slightly obsessed with her, but without the creepy stalker, restraining order behavior. With her books, I read them, digest them, feel them, every word, every emotion, every celebration, freak-out, heart break, angst, love, laughter, angry rant. All of it. Deep. Then I read them again. I highlight. I steal her vocabulary.
The Will is no different. In this book, she introduces us to Josephine Malone, a single woman in her mid-forties who returns to the only real home she's known to bury her beloved grandmother Lydia. See? Emotion already and I haven't even started with the good stuff. She's alone. Crying behind her sunglasses when she sees a man and his children, also in grief over the loss. Josephine has no idea who he is, why he is there. She only knows they share her pain.
Josephine, (Josie) is not the average woman. She lives a life of a personal assistant to some hot-shot photographer named Henry, travels world wide, has kick ass clothes - seems like the ideal life, right? What she doesn't have is any real emotional connection to anyone. She has friends, people that are in her life that she considers work friends, but no one to really call family. It's all superficial. Then you learn why.
As with many of our grandmothers, Josephine's grandmother Lydia wants more for her granddaughter. In order to achieve that, she makes one final move to hand her granddaughter her world.
“My most precious possession, the thing I treasure above anything else in this world … I hereby bequeath to …”
The man at the funeral with his children.
Wait, WHAT? Yes, that's right. She wills her granddaughter to Jake: former boxer, thrice divorced, father of three, owns a gym and a strip club. Yup. The polar opposite of Josephine. Gramma's request is strange. You can bet she's mettling. We have to trust that she knows what she's doing.
It takes some time to discover just how Jake and his children were involved in Lydia's life. Jake knows all about Josie and knows exactly how to "handle" her. He knows about her past, and how that impacts who she is now. He knows what she needs and gives it to her throughout the story. He works his way into her life, as a friend. Someone to be there when she needs it. Slowly. Methodically. He's working his way in there. And he does get in. You know when it happens - she tells you:
"...my world combusted.
Everything I was
Everything I knew
Everything I worked so long and hard to make real"
This is when you see Josephine start to change herself, who she is, and what she believes is necessary for her own happiness.
Here's what I love about the story: You get to know these people. Their circles. For Josie, it's her boss Henry, a rap-star named Dee-Amond, her connection to a make-up artist, the front man for another band, and even a bit about her father, uncle, her first love, and her college boyfriend. For Jake, it's his kids - Conner, Connor's girlfriends, Amber (and her friends the Taylors), and Ethan, Jake's ex-wife Donna, his friends Mickey, Alyssa and Junior, and a few more people in town. You want them as people you know. Personally. As part of your family. All of them. Maybe except Donna.
Here's what some people won't love: The dialogue early on. Josephine is a straight shooter. Lets it all out. Josephine is refined. Sophisticated. Traveled. And she speaks with sophistication and flair. She uses what I call "my PhD voice" which includes vocabulary and phrases I would never use in daily life. I speak like that when I need to -- when presenting at conferences, in academic writing, and sometimes at work. Atypical vocabulary, sometimes with not only big 25-cent words, but vocabulary that will make you question Kristen Ashley's word selections while writing. Now don't get me wrong, I get it. She (Josephine) uses her vocabulary to shield her from being "human" and interacting with others. To make her different. It's her wall. But with all good Kristen Ashley books, those walls come down. Hang with it. I promise. She gives you normalcy and beauty in the end.
If you've read her other books, you'll naturally want to connect Josephine and Jake with other characters. Let me help you out here:
Josephine has the sophistication and vocabulary of Nina, broken qualities of Sadie and the shield from Sylvie, a little bit of that independent strength from Dusty, and the wonderful relationship with her grandmother like Hanna.
Jake is a bit of Mike (and even Layne) with the bad ex-wife, the sweetness of Max, the protectiveness of Hector in knowing how to care for a broken woman, and the hotness of well, all her men!
Henry is just like Reece, and misses his chance. Like Reece, he needs his own story and since this is advertised as the first in a new series (Magdalene) I'm sure KA will give it to us when she's ready.
Mickey is like Mike, chasing after the girl and going against his best friend for her. He's going to appear again as well.
Bottom line, they are the best of all her characters, yet they are completely unique.
Read this book, but be ready for an emotional book hangover. It's a happy one, but getting there will require some tissues, some pauses as you process all of it and some time, as this is one of her self-published books which means it's long. Love that!
If you haven't been sucked in to the Kristen Ashley world - go now. I personally wouldn't recommend reading this one first, as you need to get Kristen Ashley, her women and bossy men, her writing style, her men that at times cannot form a complete sentence while speaking. You get me? This is a great book, but babe, start with her other works, yah?
Having said that - there is a reading order that must be followed. Just don't even try to jump around and read out of sequence. Don't. Really, don't.
Here's my recommended reading order, so that you can see all the cross-overs and story twists:
Rock Chick Series: Rock Chick, RC Rescue, RC Redemption, RC Renegade, RC Revenge, RC Reckoning, RC Regret, then STOP. There is one more but you need a diversion first. Trust me.
THEN, read the Colorado Mountain series: The Gamble, Sweet Dreams, Lady Luck, Breathe.
After Breathe, you have permission to immediately read Rock Chick Revolution, the final book.
Next read Dream Man series: Mystery Man, Wild Man, Law Man, and Motorcycle Man. You'll see RC people here throughout.
Then you are free to pick up where you left off with Colorado Mountain series. DO NOT miss the Fantasyland series. You must read these in order.
There are more and if you fall in to the KA world you will end up reading them all. If you're an avid reader and can't wait for what happens next, I suspect it'll take you about a month to barrel through all of the above. :)
Want more Kristen Ashley Goodness? Visit her website at www.kristenashley.net and find her on Facebook. Her daily updates and real life antics are hilarious!
From the author:
Early in her life, Josephine Malone learned the hard way that there was only one person she could love and trust: her grandmother, Lydia Malone. Out of necessity, unconsciously and very successfully, Josephine donned a disguise to keep all others at bay. She led a globetrotting lifestyle on the fringes of the fashion and music elite, but she kept herself distant.
While Josephine was trotting the globe, retired boxer Jake Spear was living in the same small town as Lydia. There was nothing disguised about Jake. Including the fact he made a habit of making very bad decisions about who to give his love.
But for Josephine and Jake, there was one person who adored them. One person who knew how to lead them to happiness. And one person who was intent on doing it.
Even if she had to do it as her final wish on this earth.