Summary from the back cover:
…It’s hard to trust the future when you’ve been branded by the past
As a walking advertisement for the tattoo shop she’s set up in a small Wyoming town, India Ellison is well acquainted with preconceived notions. Despite the odd looks and off-color comments about her off-color hair, life is good. She’s clean and sober, dotes on her sister’s kids and, best of all, spends most of her free time with her best buddy, cowboy Colt McKay.
Reformed bad boy Colt never expected three years of sobriety to lead to three years of abstinence. Curbing his craving for booze and random sexual encounters is nothing compared to the ever-increasing craving for his hot-tempered, hot-bodied best friend, India. Too bad she’s his A.A. sponsor. Too bad she hasn’t a clue that Colt’s been head-over-bootheels in love with her from day one.
After an unexpected, steamy interlude, all India can think about is riding the sexy cowboy instead of her motorcycle, even when Colt is determined to show her a slower ride is worth the wait.
Or are they risking their friendship for a fling that could burn them both?
Warning: this romp features nekkidness the cowboy way—sex with boots on and with boots off, dirty sex against a dirty pickup truck, bare-assed sex on a bear skin rug, graphic language, unfortunate aim with a nail gun, and improvisational use of whips and whipped cream.
Colt(on) McKay is considered the black sheep of the McKay family. He is the one who fell of the wagon, doing drugs, alcohol and women in all types of combinations. But a tragic event in the family opens his eyes and now he’s gone through rehab and has been clean and sober for over three years. His lifeline turned out to be India “Indy” Ellison, his AA sponsor and best friend. Somewhere along the way he’s fallen in love with her and he isn’t quite sure what to do with those feelings. He knows what he wants but he’s afraid to jeopardize the friendship with the complication of love and his sordid past. Indy is no goodie two-shoes herself. She too has known the dark side of life and substance addiction. But like Colt, she has overcome it and is living taking it day by day, making the best of it. When she starts seeing Colt as more than her buddy and feelings come to the surface she tries to fight it, afraid of the intense emotions that are taking her by surprise.
After an embarrassing sexual moment between them for Colt, he tries to avoid contact with her. He lasts a few days but then realizes he needs her in his life, not only as his buddy and sponsor but also as his lover. They decide to embark on a relationship that entails more than friendship and start to date but take it slow. No sex. For two weeks which is a compromise between Colt’s two months and India’s two days. After these two weeks and considering the long periods of abstinence for both of them their first encounter is explosive. Colt’s dominating side surfaces and India relishes in it despite the fact that she is normally the one in control in her sexual relationships.
Colt is very masculine. Even though he has left his bad-boy days behind him there is still plenty of wicked in him to entice. But he is also sweet, smart and insightful. Underneath his outward persona is a vulnerable man who is longing to fit in and be accepted.
India is feisty and an in-your-face kind of woman. She is not used to compromising. She’s rebellious, bold, hot tempered, smart-mouthed. But she’s also honest, thoughtful and caring. And deep down she isn’t the carefree rebel she wants everyone to believe she is. She may seem very confident and sure of herself but she has her insecurities about her place in society and in relationships. She craves order and logic and wants to know what to expect from people, Colt included. Planning ahead, knowing what to expect are things that are very important to her and when she looses her grip on them she panics and lashes out.
Both Colt and India aren’t your average clean-cut people. With their pasts as addicts they carry quite some baggage with them. They’ve both come a long way in turning their life around. This made them both characters that were far from uncomplicated and very three-dimensional. The fact that they would become good friends is something that is obvious from the start but it’s also clear that something very passionate is brewing beneath the surface of their friendship. A tumultuous, heated and complicated relationship develops between them that left me with an utter feeling of satisfaction. India and Colt are experts in verbal sparring and this led to some heated arguments, which in turn led to some incredibly hot scenes.
In the supporting cast of characters it is in the line of expectation that Colt’s brothers and their wives and India’s sister play a big part. This expectation was met with Cam, Colt’s younger brother, playing a crucial secondary part. But I’ve said it before. In the Rough Rider series Lorelei James writes more than just the love story between hero and heroine. To me her Rough Rider books are parts of a family saga. In this installment next to Colt and India’s story I got a lot of background on the McKay family, especially on Carson and Carolyn, the parents. This provided another great addition to the saga Lorelei James is creating. I also loved the peeks into the previous couples lives and much to my pleasure, the McKay family is expanding rapidly with all the kids, babies and pregnancies.
As much as I loved the emotional and passionate story of India and Colt, I was most impressed by the intense family dynamics in this book. Things were brewing in the McKay family, with Colt and Cam on one side and Cord, Colby and their father, Carson on the other side. I won’t go into specifics because readers of these books should experience those dynamics on their own without spoilers but for me it was a welcome and realistic turn of events since in all families there are the occasional fights and tension but I must admit I was hoping everything would be cleared up because Colt wasn’t being treated fairly. It was mostly the family stuff that pulled on my heartstrings this time. I literally choked up and cried at the scene where Cam stands up for Colt and berates his father and brothers for not appreciating Colt and their skepticism of Colt and when I thought I was through with the emotional break downs, I totally lost it at the “apologize-and-talk-it-out” scenes between Colt and his father and brothers.
I can’t begin to tell how much I loved this book! I have love for every Rough Rider book and all the McKay men but Colt is my favorite so far. I was intrigued by him from the moment I met him in TIED UP, TIED DOWN, as messed up as he was in that book, I knew he had the potential to blow me away in his own story and he did. His story is one of trust, friendship, overcoming insecurities, redemption, strength and resilience.
It’s a beautiful story that fitted into the series perfectly and drew me deeper into the enticing world of the Rough Riders. It’s no secret I love Lorelei James’ writing and for me this series enthralled me from the first book but it also seems to get better with each consecutive book. The eroticism is good beyond question, but she also expands the world of the Rough Riders with each book, incorporating more and heavier emotional issues and she does this without compromising the steaminess of the books. This combination is what draws me into her books and makes me crave the next book like an addict.
For each book and each couple Lorelei James finds the right tone, both emotionally and sexually. And don’t get me started on the sex scenes. Like with the other aspects of her books in this series, she keeps them fresh and original. There is no repetitiveness whatsoever. In every book she surprises me with things I haven’t encountered before in her or any other books. Let’s face it no one but Lorelei James can make watching a porn movie turn into a hot and beautiful love scene and only a McKay (to be honest I’d like to think only Colt…) would be able to turn washing hands into something erotic!
Lorelei James does this to me every time; she gets to me with the mix of true to life writing combined with hot sensuality and powerful characters and heartbreaking emotions. BRANDED AS TROUBLE was no exception.
“I’m fine. Just a little tired. You kept me up way too late last night.”
“Was that an objection?”
She flashed back to how thoroughly he’d claimed her, tamed her, proven to her his mastery over her body, proven he trusted her by showing her his dark, commanding, rough side without apology.
“So show me. I’m a big girl. Maybe I like it rough.”
“You don’t know what you’re askin’.”
“Maybe you don’t know what you’re denying me. Or yourself.”
He snarled. “Don’t push me.”
India raised her chin. “Even if I do, I know you won’t hurt me.”
“I’ll use you. Hard.”
“It’s not using me if I’m a willing participant.”
“A willing participant? In rough sex? You’re sure?” Colt stalked her. “I’ll have you any way I want, as many times as I want, until I’ve had my fill of your hot little body. You understand, once I start, I won’t stop. Not even if you beg me.”
“But I am begging you to let me be what you need. I don’t know what that is unless you show me.”
Just like that…Colt lost it. He didn’t kiss her; he inhaled her.
Rating: 9.2 out of 10