TITLE: Running Wild
AUTHOR: S.E. Jakes
YEAR: June 2014
LENGTH: 270 pages
GENRE: M/M contemporary romance
HEAT LEVEL: Adult only, erotic
RATING: 4 out of 5
I’m not a fan of books about motorcycle clubs. It’s not that I think all bikers are thugs, because I’ve met quite a few of them, and I know that many of them are very active in charity work in their communities. I’m pretty sure it has more to do with how vulnerable a motorcycle rider is to grievous bodily harm. Their appeal is undeniable, but I’ve seen how dire the consequences of even a mild accident can be.
But the trend toward MC (motorcycle club) romantic fiction is strong – and growing. It’s so strong that any reviewer of romantic fiction is bound to have to read some of it, eventually. I’m no exception. I’ve read a few of them, which ones I will not say. I won’t publish a review of a book if I can’t find something positive to say about it. Unfortunately, every MC book I’ve read so far has treated the bikers in the story like there’s a cookie cutter out there labelled “Biker,” and you can just change some of the colors to make each one individual.
Not so with S.E. Jakes’ new Havoc series, of which Running Wild is the first. The characters here are more like the real people I’ve met, more interested in running their businesses and protecting their members than raising hell and causing misery in the surrounding community. That’s not to say that the bikers in this book are treated as if they’re angels with slightly tarnished halos. They’re real men who have seen a lot of the bad that the world has to offer, and who have built themselves a safe haven. They are neither saint nor sinner, but a believable mixture of both.
The narrator is not a biker, but a car thief. And an adrenaline junkie. Not too long out of military service, Rush is just trying to stay out of trouble, and trying to help his friend Noah do the same. They’ve been looking out for each other since juvie, and their relationship is the focus of one of the book’s subplots.
The real story is the delicate balance of the relationship between Rush and Ryker, a member of the Havoc MC. I love Ryker. He’s had Rush’s number from the beginning. Tough, fierce, and “angrily beautiful,” Ryker is everything a biker doubling as a romantic hero should be.
As always, Jakes’ writing is raw and visceral, grabbing you by the collar (and by the heart) and dragging you along on the ride of your life. The line between right and wrong gets a bit blurry along the way, and it’s hard to know who to trust at times. As for the sex, Jakes writes some of the hottest sex scenes out there. It’s difficult to write really top shelf erotica, keeping the sex vibrant and exciting while avoiding the innumerable traps that lie in wait for the erotic writer. You know the ones I mean – the ones that turn a potentially good book into porn without plot.
A touchingly sweet thread of romance runs through the plot of Running Wild, involving red roses and a shared love of The Grateful Dead. And there’s humor, mostly at poor Rush’s expense when he realizes he’s prone to speaking his thoughts out loud in Ryker’s presence. That was a sweet trait that made me smile every time.
With so much done right in this book, why not give it the full five stars? Well, I’m a devoted fan of Prophet and Tommy, the main characters from Jakes’ Hell or High Water series, which means I’ve seen just how good Jakes is. This book is really good. Those books are off the charts. It’s very difficult to define, but somehow Jakes didn’t quite reach the excellence of Long Time Gone, or Daylight Again, books two and three of the Hell or High Water series.
What does all this mean, in terms of recommending this book? It means you should read it. For me, it’s head and shoulders above the rest of the MC romances out there. And give some serious thought to reading some of Jakes’ other work, especially the Hell or High Water series. But be warned, that series is part of a greater universe, which I like to call the EEverse, but which the author calls Extreme Escapes, Ltd. Running Wild is a good start to a new series, one which I’m looking forward to continuing. So do read it. If you like MC romances, you should love this book. If you don’t like them, Running Wild might change your mind.
You won’t even mind having to take the bitch seat.