Riding Temptation, by Jaci Burton
Second installment in Ms Burton’s Wild Riders series, published by Berkley Heat, Riding Temptation follows Díaz Delgado and Jessie Matthews during an undercover investigation in weapon smuggling.
The Wild Riders are a number of bikers—dudes and dudettes *tip o’ the helmet to Ms Burton*—who are in fact undercover federal agents working in tandem with other federal agencies (ATF in this case) by penetrating different bike gangs wherever illegal activities are suspected.
The usual warning: this series is considered erotic romance, which means that there’s graphic language and sexual behaviour. Minors and those who are bothered by either should skip these.
He’s a biker working undercover for the Feds. She joined the Wild Riders for reasons of her own. Together, they’re burning up the asphalt and tearing headlong into danger and passion…
Naked under leather.
Ever since runaway Jessie Matthews teamed up with the gang of special ops bikers, the Wild Riders have thought of her as their kid sister. Except for Diaz Delgado. Over the past few years he’s been watching the budding of a ripe young woman. Jessie’s glad somebody finally sees her for who she is—and she’s thrilled it’s Diaz. His dark good looks and killer body have tempted her since day one.
Diaz’s unbrotherly urges have been hard to fight but the last thing he’d want to do is hurt Jessie and break up the gang. But when they both go undercover to infiltrate a group of killer survivalists, he knows it’ll be hard to keep his distance—especially when the mission takes a risky turn. Now Diaz has no choice but to open himself up to the one woman who may be strong enough to take him on.
This is Jessie Matthews’ first mission—long overdue, since she’s now 23 and has spent the last eight years around the Wild Riders. About time she both earned her keep and popped her professional cherry… along with the other one. Good thing she has long since selected the man for that job.
For his part, Díaz has been a Wild Rider several years longer than Jessie has been around, and has his own personal issues to deal with—mainly, an abusive father and bouts of rage that he considers both dangerous and incontrollable. He is determined not to become romantically attached so as not to endanger any woman—most especially not Jessie, since he already cares about her.
I found the characters quite engaging, despite some issues that irked me (huge peeve: Díaz telling Jessie what she wants. Repeatedly. Worse, Jessie not chopping his head off the second time he did—let alone the third, fourth, etc. True, eventually she does shut him up, but I would have been happier if it had been earlier than it was.)
Erm… where was I? Oh yes. I liked the characters—not just Jessie and Díaz. There were a couple of secondary characters with some significant screen time, such as Spencer, the third Wild Rider assigned to the mission, and Crush, the leader of the gang they are investigating.
The relationship issues worked well for me within the constraints of an erotic romance novel, even though there were some scenes where I cringed because of personal hang ups—exhibitionism and voyeurism being automatic turn offs for me meant that two key scenes completely lost me. On the other hand, Jessie lecturing Díaz on her habit of “borrowing” and watching the other Wild Riders’ porn was both hilarious and awesome. Talk about turnabout being fair play!
I also liked the fact that Jessie knew what and who she wanted and went for it/him—it would have been completely unrealistic for her to behave as a passive aggressive wilting flower who is quiet and self effacing. I mean, considering her history both before and after getting “adopted” by the Wild Riders, her take-no-prisoners attitude was spot on.
And I could completely relate to her overwhelming enthusiasm at finally! being sent on a mission. After all, it’s been implied that the other guys have been riding undercover probably since they turned 18, while she has been forced to wait an extra five years. Her joy at finally being considered an adult, as well as her chagrin at letting her enthusiasm get the better of her, were very well written, I could sympathize with her completely.
In contrast, Díaz struggle with the traumas of his childhood felt a bit sketchier to me until near the end. The main confrontation during the mission’s climactic scene, and the later one with Jessie, brought home his insecurities in a big way.
However, I have a bit of an issue on how these operatives work. I would definitely have expected them to discuss strategy before leaving on a mission and not during the mission itself. Yes, some things have to be decided depending on circumstances (Jessie and Díaz ‘pretending” to be a couple, for example) but most others should have been talked about before getting on their bikes—such as Jessie being the lookout for Crush’s gang, online research on said gang, etc.
Frankly, it seemed inefficient for a successful covert operations team to fly by the seat of their pants so much.
In the end, while the relationship aspect of the story worked well for me, the mission part just didn’t gel for me at all, so the novel gets a 7.25 out of 10 from me.