I received Chase & Chloe by Simone Elise as an Advance Read Copy (ARC) and was asked to read and review it by 12 July 2017. With about four days to read it, I thought this would be easy but not so. It took me four days because it was a unique reading experience for me. I haven’t previously read a novel I both liked and disliked so much. The parts I liked, I liked a lot. The parts I disliked grated on all kinds of sensibilities. This would be a good novel for a book club discussion but might require a referee when discussions became heated. There was a disclaimer that is probably standard on ARC that there might be typos or grammar errors that would be corrected before final printing. I only found one error, a typo, in which the word “one” was used when the word “own” was needed. I was impressed with the mechanical accuracy of my copy. I divided the content into three parts as far as my interest. These divisions are mine, not the authors. Part I sets parameters, introduces characters, and hints at overall plot. Part II bored and sometimes offended me. Once I started Part III this turned into an I-can’t-put-it-down story and continued until the final two chapters. Then it returned to its Part II style but at that point, I didn’t care. I was happy with what I had read
The novel is divided into 67 chapters. Sometimes the chapters are divided into parts labeled Chloe’s Point of View and Chase’s point of View. Minimal reader effort is required to remember who is doing what to whom. Sometimes one chapter will be only one point of view, sometimes it will be a point of view of a supporting character. For me, Part I stops at chapter eight. Up to this point, I wanted to read this novel. Chase is a 30-year-old bad boy biker gang leader. He takes what he wants when he wants it; his word is absolute law within his crew of five brothers, two sisters, and mom. This core group leads a biker chapter which is usually traveling on the road to keep order among competing biker chapters. They are enforcers; murder is their ultimate sanction. Chloe is an innocent 19-year-old virgin who has car trouble, is rescued by Chase, and accepts an offer from Chase to stay temporarily at the biker family compound. Part of her car trouble stems from the fact that she stole a car from her abusive stepfather to run away from home. She is sure that Dad, a preacher on weekends and a police detective on weekdays, will come to reclaim her and force her to return home.
GOOD Part I is intriguing because we have a couple of struggles between good and evil. There are eight siblings at the head of this biker gang. Each one has a personality and set of skills. I expected lots of good stories here. We know that Chloe has an abusive stepdad. What kind of abuse? Biker gang enforcers are not known for gentle and subtle behavior. What kind of stories will we get from this? I was interested and would buy the book after the first eight chapters. Parts of these might appear in a Kindle Sample.
NOT SO GOOD In Part I we learn that Chase is the definition of male perfection; he is Adonis. Except for the tattoos perhaps; I am not sure Adonis had tattoos. All the brothers are only a shade less handsome or beautiful. The two sisters, Jess and Sammie, are also perfect and could have been models. Even sixty-year-old mom is perfect (for her years) and gets admiring looks wherever she goes. To match this, Chloe is also perfect, heartrendingly beautiful, innocent, and virginal. Chase immediately thinks about all the bad life choices he has ever made and how he can change his behavior to impress Chloe and cause her to fall in love with him. Chloe, of course, despite no experiences in life other than serving as a punching bag for dad, falls in lust with Chase. She resists her unfamiliar lustful feelings by reminding herself that all love is betrayed and she will not give in to Chase. These two paragons of physical perfection will chase each other through Part II. I have no problems with a genre that might be called Romance FANTASY (capitals intended) but the fantasy should have a small chance of morphing into reality.
TOO MUCH FANTASY As we leave chapter eight, sister Jess had a complaint about her boyfriend. The brothers, led by Chase, decided to teach the boyfriend proper behavior. The lesson did not take, probably because of the chainsaw. Police would probably not accept suicide at the hands of (or lack) the armless corpse. But that is not why it was too much fantasy. Returning from their work covered in blood, the innocent Chloe calmly accepts the task of cleaning the gang’s bloody clothes.
Part II is a series of conflicts between Chase and Chloe. He obviously wants to bed Chloe but he wants her to fall in love with him; he wants it to be meaningful, something he has never experienced. Chloe wants to fall in love with Chase. She has never in her nineteen years been seen nude by a man. She has only ever kissed one man but she has lots of lustful thoughts about the physically perfect Chase. While living in Chase’s guesthouse, she also is being honed to physical perfection as a weightlifter, boxer, and long distance runner. Each romantic conflict has a teasing almost-resolution. All of these are in the context of perfection in the world outside the relationship of the two. Chase and his family have unlimited wealth. Each of the sons has his own guesthouse on the family compound. Chase allows the two sisters unlimited use of his platinum credit card. The world is perfect outside of the continual rebuffs by Chloe of Chase’s attempts to bed her. These attempts are boring in their repetition and outcomes. The perfection of everything else in the world is cloying in its syrupy sweetness. To borrow a valley girl phrase of old, “Gag me with a spoon.”
This boring section ends, figuratively, with a bang. The sex is graphic but not offensive or unduly salacious. It is also unbelievable. Chase’s descriptive actions during sex are believable but not so with Chloe. This reads as if the author is unfamiliar with writing soft porn so read a lot of it in preparation for writing. Nineteen-year-old inexperienced virgins don’t react like described. And her final comment, “I had never been with another man. I knew it didn’t get much better than that.” (loc 3711-3712) was so logically absurd that I wanted to abandon the novel. But I had promised to read and review it. I continued and was glad I did.
Part III begins with a content event that shatters the direction the novel was going. I won’t describe the event because that would be a spoiler. To describe anything stemming from it would be a spoiler. Part III begins at about chapter 32 and from then on I was completely caught up in the story. Characters were finally emerging with their own personalities. There were complex character interactions. The characters told the story except in one paragraph. One of the brothers described to Chloe the role of each of the brothers. It was as if the author was saying to the reader “If you didn’t get it, here’s the deal.” But that is OK, it was only one paragraph, other than that this part III, which continues to the last two chapters, holds reader interest. If this author’s other writing is in the style of this part, I will read more of her work.
Although I am an opponent of political correctness, the attitudes expressed by Chase bothered me a lot and will set a feminist’s teeth on edge. That is one reason this would be a good book for book club discussion. Did the author overdo it in the exposition of Chase’s character or was the language necessary to fully explain Chase?
As might be obvious, this is not my favorite genre. I am sure there is a niche for readers who want to retreat to an area of fantasy that can never become reality, where perfection reigns. As this writer has demonstrated, there can be good writing and a story well told in this niche. Part III of this novel proves that. I could only give it three stars on Amazon because of part II. If I were to rate the novel on Part III alone, I would give it a four plus star rating.