4.5 starsUpdate(Sept. 27, 2012):5 Huge Stars!Because I've re-read this one like 3 times!
Kristen Ashley's craft?
Violet and her daughters are a great trio, having survived the death of husband/father, they come across as valiant survivors who hold on to each in order to move on. The two girls, Keira and Kate, are given unique enough personalities for the reader to appreciate. Violet's point of view is not a stream 100% throughout the plot and this is good as it lends to other perspectives, but she still comes across as less neurotic than some other KA heroines. I liked Vi, her mothering and her helpless penchant for wanting to save the Lone Wolf, Joe Callahan. Joe rocks into Vi's life like a category 5 and his aftermath is even better. He is written as a typical KA alpha male, but IMO this alpha male gets the special head nod that I give to Tate or Hawk (though Tate got head nods, head swooning and head over heals LOL!!).
Joe's point of view is amply given and his back story is definitely enough to give him a dark side. Yet, this alpha male packs a punch with his straight talk, his power and loyalty, not to mention his being half Italian. Hmmmmmm....
Setting: I can see Vi sliding her bedroom glass doors open , stepping outside to creep over for some neighborly-nookie @ 1:47am; the kitchen that smells of pork chops or seafood risotto w/ Cal "Joe" sitting at the table; the deck; the bedroom with Cal holding all his girls together in his arms; Vinnie and Benny's Restaurant,etc. Ashley takes the reader through so many details and when combined with the small surrounding of the 'burg and great characters, it is awesome!
There are so many elements for which KA can really suck a reader in, but the drawbacks are that some readers may not easily "get" or accept her style of writing, i.e. the repetitive use of dialect with the Alpha's straight talk ("You get me?" or "Clue in.." etc. OR the use of the conditional tense (LOL, but I won't get technical, because I could get into punctuation); also, the timeline factor, sometimes the next day is woven into a jump to next week, which then flashbacks to how the plot gets there in the first place (translation-the reader can get confused).
Sometimes the drama and conflict are a bit too trite (but, hey, such as in life as well), and the antagonist's beef might not have as much depth and intricacy as a suspense reader would like.
So, there! I have even outlined what could be negative criticism of some of KA's books. But the "scale crashes" on KA's side because the voice and worlds created by her are so infectious!!:)