My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review
MINE TO TAKE is the first in a new romantic suspense series by Jackie Ashenden, one of my favorite writers. It introduces us to the world of the Nine Circles club (aka the “bleeped-up billionaires club”) and tells the story of how its hero found the love of his life while trying to use her as an instrument of vengeance against those who had wronged his mother. Along the way we meet the other club members and discover the extent of the criminal enterprise they seek to expose, providing an ongoing plot that will presumably continue through the rest of the series.
Gabriel Woolf’s whole life has been defined by an event that occurred before he was born, and the hardships resulting from a single woman raising her son in an unforgiving world. After pulling his mother out of poverty by any means necessary, Gabriel is mostly on the straight and narrow with his successful construction firm, and has found a twisted camaraderie with the other members of the Nine Circles club. But he still seeks to destroy the man who ruined his mother’s life and when that man’s stepdaughter is thrown into his path, it doesn’t matter to Gabriel that she’s the sister of his childhood friend. All that matters to Gabriel is revenge.
Honor St. James is living the good life now, but she still remembers what it was like after her father’s suicide when the debt collectors took everything she and her mother owned. Now that her beloved stepfather needs help to save his company, Honor must keep that fate from happening a second time. Even if it means spending a week with Gabriel Woolf, a man who both fascinates and frightens her. But will it be worse to lose everything she’s worked for, or lose her heart to Gabriel instead?
Although there was a lot of world building going on in this initial Nine Circles book, for me the strength of MINE TO TAKE was in its intimate scenes between Gabriel and Honor. What I love best about Jackie Ashenden romances is her tortured alpha heroes and the whip-smart heroines who see beyond the defensiveness and aggression to the hurting soul within. And when this particular hero and heroine finally come together, the result is a romance between equals both in and out of the bedroom. Once they were fully a couple, I wasn’t as interested in the suspense elements as I was with their love story, though I did find the ending to be enough to make me want to find out what will happen in the next book. But for me, Gabriel and Honor are what made MINE TO TAKE a great romance, and a must-read for any fans of Jackie Ashenden.