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    4.5 stars- Well, this was a nice surprise

    A few years back, I read a lot of motorcycle club/professional criminal romances. I would seek out those that had a realistic level of grit to the story as opposed to the overdramatized plots primarily known for their shock value. Bleeding Like Me reminded me a lot of those books I so enjoyed. There was violence, drug use, rough and offensive slang, and a good amount of criminal activity- but it never felt gratuitous. Rather, it gave this story about two rival gang members who fall in love an appreciable level of authenticity. While there were definitely hints of Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story to the plotline, it wasn’t a tired rehashing of those stories. Bleeding Like Me offered up quite a few unexpected twists along the way, and I was honestly surprised at how caught up I became in Evan and Jackson’s story. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book this gritty, and I’ll admit some of those opening scenes made me a bit uncomfortable, thinking that this wasn’t going to be the book for me. However, I found the characters to have a quietly compelling vulnerability I couldn’t look away from. I loved how the heroes were able to truly be themselves with one another, exposing sides of their personalities and dreams nobody else in their lives got to see. Not only did this enhance the palpable emotional and physical connection between Evan and Jackson, but it also added depth to their personalities and let the reader in enough to become invested in the couple. Though this wasn’t an easy, breezy romance and Evan and Jackson’s journey was rocky, the resolutions were befitting of the couple’s unerring love and the ending was perfect. As far as I can tell, this is a debut novel for the author and, at times, that was evident in the flow and transitions. That said, Bleeding Like Me ended up being a wonderful surprise, so much so that I wouldn’t be shocked if it ends up on my “best of 2018” list come December. I’m definitely excited to see what’s up next for this author because this was a really good debut. *Reviewed for Alpha Book Club*
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    Passionate and gritty...a sexy love story

    An awesome debut for Riley Parks. We meet Evan and Jackson, two street tough gang members, forced to live in a world where they can never feel free. Equal parts sexy and serious, you will find yourself enamored by this not so typical love affair. Can't wait to see what Ms. Parks writes next, the voice she gives her characters makes it easy to become invested in their emotional and physical well being.
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    Interesting storyline

    3.5 stars Bleeding Like Me wasn't quite what I expected, but it is quite good. The author certainly shows a talent for drawing a reader in with an interesting storyline and characters. In many cases, characters with flaws are the best kind, and that's the case here as I found myself liking them more and more. The story is emotional and a bit dark as Jackson and Evan get deeper into a relationship that has to be kept secret. As with any forbidden romance, someone is bound to find out. I would've expected that part, especially considering what happened, to have been given more attention than it was, but it felt like the story just rushed past it. The biggest drawback in this one for me was the sheer amount of steam. I appreciate a steamy tale as much as the next person, and I get that this pair's relationship started with a hookup, but as things progressed, I would've liked to have seen more development as their feelings grew. That aside, I still liked Jackson and Evan together and I did enjoy the conclusion to their story.
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