How bad do you want it?
The only man within the Brandon empire with a moral compass, Shane Brandon is ready to take his family’s business dealings legitimate. His reckless and ruthless brother, Derek wants to keep Brandon Enterprises cemented in lies, deceit and corruption. But the harder Shane fights to pull the company back into the light, the darker he has to become. Then he meets Emily Stevens, a woman who not only stirs a voracious sexual need in him, but becomes the only thing anchoring him between good and evil.
Emily is consumed by Shane, pushed sexually in ways she never dreamed of, falling deeper into the all-encompassing passion that is this man. She trusts him. He trusts her, but therein lies the danger. Emily has a secret, the very thing that brought her to him in the first place, and that secret that could that destroy them both.. (Goodreads)
With a tag line stating that Hard Rules was a bit like “Son’s of Anarchy meets Wall Street”, I was more than intrigued to read this. Having loved the Pound of Flesh Series by Sophie Jackson, which was also published by this publisher I was looking for another series to fill the gap. So with high expectations I settled down, ready to see what the author has in store.
Hard Rules started off interesting enough and I could see where the comparisons to Sons of Anarchy. The main theme that seemed to run through this book was the power struggle between Shane, the main character of the book, and his brother Derek over their ailing father’s empire. While Shane is looking to mend the tarnished reputation of Brandon Enterprises had gained after some dodgy dealings. Though he prevented his father and brother from spending time behind bars, they are less than thankful and both Derek and their father still have some dodgy deals going on. This part of the book was interesting at times but it did end up feeling very by the numbers, especially with all the backstabbing, double dealings and corporate intriguing.
This was only to be the backdrop of the book and the main focus was on Shane and Emily’s romance. While between the sheets, Shane and Emily really do heat up the pages, outside of them they fell a bit flat. Something was missing from them that made me want to root for the two of them to succeed. Yes, Emily constantly reassures Shane that she is in his corner and that he can trust her, but the hints towards her hidden past frustrated me. They never went anywhere and this constant referral to this other life with little payoff began to grate.
I think one of the issues I had with this book was that it did feel very much like a pilot to a tv series. There is a lot of build-up in the book and you could see the set up for many future plotlines. This wouldn’t bother me normally but because it’s a romance, I expected there to be some type of conclusion at least between Shane and Emily. It is left up in the air but not to the point where I am desperate for the next book.
Out of all the characters, Emily does have the most potential and I do want to find out her back story. I do have a few theories on what her backstory is and it did change as the book continued. I do think it may be tied in with what Shanes family’s company illegal activities, however it is still very up in the air. This may be resolved in the next book.
Hard Rules turned out to be a just an OK read, which is a shame because it had such an interesting synopsis. There is no doubt that Renee Jones can write sizzling sex scenes and she can also construct an interesting family conflict. I just couldn’t see anything that made this stand out from the other books in the genre and it didn’t live up to the hype for me. When push comes to shove, I think I would want to read the next book in the series, if only so I can find out Emily’s real identity and story.