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Holy Joe Manganiello!

The Gamble  - Kristen Ashley

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Holy schnikey this was a long-ass damn book!!! Six hundred twenty-nine pages! Yeah, I wrote that out because 629 doesn't look as freaking long and this. Book. Was. Long. But... I loved it. I think I must be a hopeless romantic! My gosh, don't TELL anyone!!

Because this book is so long, I was able to get a feel for all of the characters, primary and secondary. Heck, even tertiary! Maybe not... I just wanted to use tertiary since, hello, when do you EVER get to use tertiary in a sentence?! Anyway, the story takes place in the fictional town of Gnaw Bone, Colorado. Yes, I even checked Google Maps (just for you!) and although there IS a Gnaw Bone, Indiana, there is no Gnaw Bone, Colorado, unfortunately. One of my favorite things about this book is the author's ability to transport me to this town. The sunrises, sunsets, amazing views from the mountain and of the mountain...I believed it all. It felt very real. In fact, authorKristen Ashley actually had me ALMOST missing snow!!! Can you believe it?! I mean, I grew up in Northeast Ohio and I know ALL ABOUT "lake effect snow" and let me tell you... it SUCKS! But they way she described the snow and the scenery...ugh, it made me want to see snow and to go buy snowboots and cute coats and all kinds of things that a girl in South Carolina has ZERO use for!! LOL!

But it's not just the scenery that makes this book so great. It's, of course, the characters. The main two characters, Nina and Max, are pretty great. Well, Max is amazing and Nina is so-so which, if you average it out, makes them pretty great. First, let's start with Max. The way the author described him IMMEDIATELY brought these images to my mind:
Lotsa photos...

No beard, like Max, I think?


The top one is Max in all of his Mountain Man glory, the second, I had to throw in because the author did NOT describe Max as having a beard and the third is just because I love you. But feel free to Google your own images of Joe Manganiello and make him the screensaver on your computer because these are by far not the BEST photos of him and he's so damn hot that no one would mind if he was the screensaver. Anyway, that's who I imaged Max to be with his perfect hair, strong jaw and long legs... sigh... What was I saying? Oh right, Max. I thought Max was a bit too domineering and he occasionally ran roughshod over Nine but everything he does, is because he cares about her. He doesn't do anything "just because"; he always has a reason. I loved how smart he was and how he was able to read Nina so clearly. He's, of course, kind and sweet and generous to his friends and family and what's not to love about that??

Nina wasn't too bad and she was something of a little badass. She stood up for herself and for her newly found friends which I found really admirable. I really liked her! But I found she used "Uh...", "Umm...", and "Max..." WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY too often. I don't know if it's because Max didn't let her get a word in when they would talk/argue or if she couldn't say what she really wanted to say to him. On many occasions, I wanted to smack her in the back of the head and scream "SPIT IT OUT GODDAMN IT!" at her. She found out some information about Max's history which he hadn't told her about and it really caused her a lot of heartache and doubt. It SEEMED like she made an attempt to talk about it several times but she only got as far as, "Max..." and it drove me bat-shit crazy! For someone who is so quick to throw down and to throw down with a man twice her size, she can't seem to pick out ACTUAL words to use. I found that to be extremely irritating, not least of all because she's supposed to be a lawyer.

Once Nina and Max are seen around town together, she makes friends with pretty much most of the town. I found that to be wholly unbelievable. The author talks about what a small, mountain town it is and mentions something about residents vs. tourists. For a town that doesn't necessarily shun tourists but certainly doesn't really welcome them with open arms, I found it highly unlikely that SO MANY of them would take such an immediate liking to Nina, no matter how admired Max was. It felt a little ingenuine after a while, especially when she makes friends with a elderly couple staying in a rental cabin one night. I mean, come on.

There is so much going on in this book, though, that much of my complaints were short lived and/or easily brushed aside. Max and Nina have great chemistry and I found myself laughing out loud at Nina's antics and at Max and Nina's mini arguments. They are clearly perfect for each other and it was such fun to watch them grow into a couple. I also found myself crying several times throughout the book and I have to tell you, I didn't mind it one bit.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves long romances, terribly sexy alpha male mountain men, hot and sexy Sexy Time scenes and plenty of laughs and tears. The characters may not be perfect but I dare you not to fall in love with ALL of them!