The Magdalene Series by Kristen Ashley
Overall Series Rating: 5 (sXe)
I love this series. It has so many things going for it. There is emotional depth. There is character development. There is heartache and deep, deep love. I know there will be at least one more novel. Coert’s story has been hinted at, but not much has been revealed and I can’t wait. That, and he is originally from Colorado, so I know he is connected to one of Ashley’s other Colorado series. One of Ashley’s signature moves is all of her series are interconnected. The last novel of the Rock Chick series was the fourth book in the Colorado Mountain series. So please be prepared for this blog post to be updated once the third book is released (it does not have a date yet).
The other great thing about these books is the characters are not 25. They aren’t even 35. They are 45. This isn’t their first time in love, but it is their last. They have a lifetime of experiences and they have a lifetime of heartache that they are bringing to the table. Ashley has done a great job of depicting men and women in the prime of their lives and making it exciting, sexy and oh so wonderful. I recommend these books to everyone, but especially women in their 30s and 40s. Romance doesn’t end once you are out of your 20s and Ashley makes that very clear.
One bad thing about these novels and most of Ashley’s other novels is the men are very similar. They are all alpha males who are buff, badass and sexy. Now I don’t have a problem with this. They are romance novels and I can’t think of a better fantasy than strong, handsome men who know a good woman when they see one. But the male characters can blend together a little bit. Especially if you have read more than one Ashley series, which I have. Despite that, the female characters are all distinct. They have unique histories, unique physical appearances, and unique quirks. Ashley is so imaginative in her plots and she makes the mundane situations come alive as love blooms between people. Her novels, especially this series, depict how relationships are built. They aren’t perfect because people aren’t perfect, but there is beauty in small, everyday moments. Sublime!
In fact, this series might beat out the Rock Chick series in my top 3. But the Rock Chicks are so funny, so I haven’t changed the list yet… I need more Magdalene books first.
The Will (5)
Josephine Malone has just lost the most important person in the world to her–her grandmother Lydia. Lydia also happens to be the last of her family and the only person she could trust. Josie is surprised when her grandmother’s will includes a provision to Jake, a former professional boxer and current owner of a strip club. Jake’s inheritance is Josie (yes, Lydia gives Jake her granddaughter). Josie is shocked, not because she doubts her grandmother’s sanity, but because she has never heard of Jake or his three kids. But as Jake and Josie develop a relationship, Josie begins to realize that the mask she has donned to protect herself has also kept a lot of great friends at arm’s length. As Josie sees how much she can give to other people, she begins to be happy for the first time in her life. Jake, too, begins to see how much he can give a woman, when a woman is willing to give so much to him freely and lovingly.
This book is so beautiful. There is deep heartache, but there is a wonderful journey to love. I absolutely loved every character in the novel (except the bad guys). Jake, his kids, Josie, Mickey, Tom, Alyssa, Amon–there are so awesome and I love reading about them and following their lives. One small thing that annoyed me was how Alyssa and Jake speak. It’s like they are caricatures of 20 year old gangsters in the hood. There is a ton of swearing (which is fine, as an adult I have many friends who swear) and copious use of slang. Indeed, characters in the novel are surprised when proper English and multisyllabic words are used by Josie. As a person who tries to use a broad vocabulary in everyday life, I find this odd. But I haven’t lived in Maine, so maybe people in Maine speak like this? I don’t know. Regardless, I love this book and if I thought long and hard about it, it would be right up there in my top favorite books of all time.
Amelia Hathaway has made some mistakes. In order to rectify them, she moves across the country to be closer to her two kids. She is surprised to find her neighbor is the handsome Mickey Donovan who is struggling to raise his own two kids, while shielding them from their alcoholic mother. Amelia’s quest to heal her family is also a process of self-discovery as she tries to figure out who she is if she is no longer defined by her parents or her (ex)husband. Mickey’s struggles revolve around his job and his children, but they are no less difficult and he is no more perfect.
Amelia’s story is a beautiful extension of what Jake and Josie go through as they try to lead Donna to a better relationship with their kids. It isn’t easy to make mistakes, perhaps less easy to admit them, but everyone in this novel discovers ways to do this in order to be good examples for their children, to be an “adult.” The overarching metaphor of “soaring” is profound. What, or who, can make you feel like you are flying in this world is a difficult thing to discover–indeed, the quest for happiness is almost always pitted with mirages of wealth and self-delusion. But this novel draws clear lines in the sand: family is forever, character is defined by what you do after you’ve made a mistake, and love is acted out on a daily basis.
Mickey, and Jake too, struggle with insecurities. Not with how they look, but with what it means to provide for their families. Whether it is money or whether it is emotional support, these men need to be needed. I think this is insightful and it’s another aspect of this series that makes it so interesting to read. The characters are all beautifully drawn, the supporting characters are alive and distinct, and the scenes are described vividly and candidly. My complaints about the way characters talk still stand, but it’s less noticeable in this novel. Just as I felt after finishing The Will, Soaring could easily be my favorite novel yet.