Review: Free by Kristen Ashley

Reviewed by Sara

I will be the first to admit that I’m a pretty big Kristen Ashley fan and have a huge place in my heart (and library) for her Chaos motorcycle club series. Free is the seventh and final novel in the series, and while I was sad to have the series end, I was excited to see how she would wrap things up.

Through the Chaos series, the club has been in conflict with various baddies, but the baddest of them all is Valenzula, a drug dealing pimp, a misogynistic murderer and a porn producer. His empire has taken out a number of innocents including Rebel Stapleton’s best friend Diane. To collect evidence to incarcerate Valenzula, Rebel puts her skills behind the camera to use and is deep undercover as the new director for Valenzula’s high-end pornos. Not only is she digging up dirt on Valenzula, Rebel is also looking into disgraced Chaos member and uber bad guy Arthur Lannigan, AKA Chew. Rebel knows everyday she walks a dangerous tightrope, but is completely committed to see that neither Valenzula or Chew is able to hurt or exploit another woman again.

As the son of Chaos’ leader, Rush has been involved in the fight against Valenzula and Chew since his late teens and has seen first hand the heartbreak and havoc these two have doled out. When the work Rebel is doing undercover is brought to his attention, he wants her out, but not just so that she doesn’t end up raped, maimed or killed, Rush feels an instant connection to the ballsy and badass director.

Once a member of Chaos has found his “Old Lady,” there’s little that will keep the two of them apart, but can Rush protect Rebel without destroying the very thing about her that makes her great, her willingness to go balls to the wall for the people she loves?

Normally, I like to provide a synopsis with a little more information, but there’s a lot going on in Free and a ton of potential spoilers. This is both a good and bad thing, final books need to provide closure for the reader and Chaos has a huge list of characters who most fans of the series love and want to see properly situated in their happily ever after. Free is full of redemption and reconciliation for the Chaos crew and the characters in their periphery and I loved it. There are storylines that I didn’t even think I needed that I was pleasantly surprised to see resolved. On the other hand, there were a couple times that too much time in the story was spent giving HEA’S to really minor characters. This is probably something hard for authors to balance, especially in a finale. Personally, I felt Kristen Ashley struggled with this balance in Free.

One of the things I’ve always liked about the Chaos books was that while it was an MC series, it didn’t focus on the truly gritty aspects of outlaw MC life; a kind of MC lite if you will. For me, this book took some very dark turns and, while some of this has to do with the characters of Valenzula and Chew and their personal predilection for violence, the other books in the Chaos series had violent characters and somehow managed not to be as dark and violent. Two particular issues kind of put a pall on Free. The first is the sheer amount of violence, especially sexual violence. The body count is high, graphic and most notably female. There are also at least 4 rapes. I like a little bit of danger in my Chaos novels, but I’m mostly here for the love stories and definitely not here for scenes of anal rape. No thank you.

I also really disliked the end of Valenzula. This guy is bad, I get that, but the lengths he is brought low seemed less about karma or “what goes around comes around” and more about gleefully showing how much he could be hurt, how degraded he could be and how utterly devoid of hope his life could be made. There was just something about how so much time was spent utterly destroying Valenzula, and the way he is destroyed that just didn’t sit right with me.

Kristen Ashley’s novels are usually very character driven with the romance of the 2 main characters making up the majority of the story. Rush and Rebel are great characters with fun and exciting back stories, great dialogue and fantastic chemistry. Unfortunately, I felt like their story got lost while Kristen Ashley focused on ensuring that every single minor character got their HEA. There were even two brand new characters who had a ton of time spent on them when the story could have been focusing on Rush and Rebel.

While I would definitely not recommend Free to readers unfamiliar with the Chaos series, I think most Kristen Ashley fans will be at least pleased with Free. Personally, I didn’t love Free, but I didn’t hate it either. For me, the romance of Rush and Rebel had so much potential, but was overpowered by a too large ensemble cast and a darker and more violent storyline that I was not expecting.

Rating: C

Click to purchase: Amazon

by Kristen Ashley
Release Date: January 29, 2019

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