This is the last of the After Hours erotic romance trilogy, published through the Entangled Brazen digital imprint.
The heroes are three friends who, after a few years fighting in the MMA circuit in Boston, pool their resources and open a nightclub.
Their personalities and skills complement each other, which helps make the club a profitable investment within its first year, and bodes very well for their future.
While we meet all three in “One Night of Sin,” it is very much Gage’s story, with most other characters in their shared world being present for only a handful of pages. And while we see a little bit more of AJ during One Night of Scandal, it is through the eyes of his best friend, Reed, and to a much lesser extent, through those of Darcy, his ex.
Therefore, what we do see of him in the first two installments is just enough to be intriguing, and since I had enjoyed both stories and Ms Kennedy’s writing voice well enough, I purchased One Night of Trouble the week it came out.
Please do keep in mind that this is an erotic romance–there’s plenty of very graphic sex and graphic language. Also, this review is a tad spoilery–my apologies.
Here’s the blurb, from the author’s website:
No More Mr. Nice Guy…
The moment AJ Walsh sees the sexy, tattooed pixie walk up to his bar, it’s lust at first sight. He’s always been labeled the “nice” guy―opening doors, buying flowers, and never, ever having one-night stands. But with this wicked little angel with red lips and unfathomably dark eyes? Oh, yeah. Tonight, “nice” has nothing to do with it…
Brett Conlon is trying to convince her family that she’s put away her reckless wild girl side for good. Nothing―and no one―could be better for her reputation than golden boy AJ Walsh. So they make a deal: if he plays The Good Boyfriend for her family, he can be a very, very bad boy with her. Now their one naughty night is about to turn into a whole lot of trouble…
One Night of Trouble is erotic romance, so there’s a lot of graphic and–sorry, guys–unsafe sex happening in a hurry. So, my standard gripe: you have to pretend that there are no STDs and that condoms work one hundred percent of the time to prevent pregnancy.
Now, I confess that this time around I was a tad bothered by the over abundance of sex scenes. Frankly, only a couple of them did anything for me as a reader, in terms of revealing the characters or furthering their relationship, and in this sense, the story didn’t work as well as the previous two.
Both of the main characters have issues to work through, which at first blush seem to be quite similar, but are in fact opposites.
For a few years, Brett has indulged herself. She hasn’t had a reason not to. She’s the youngest and only girl, and her widowed father and three brothers have always been there, ready to rescue her from any scrapes she might get herself into.
Running with a group of friends who must drink and be wild to have fun, Brett has also fallen into a pattern of unhealthy relationships with guys who are only too willing to take advantage of her–and of her support network.
When the story starts, Brett has finally made a conscious decision to grow up–she wants her family to see her both as a person and as an adult. Her goal is to convince her father to let her manage the soon-to-open third location of Conlon Ink, the tattoo parlors that are her family’s business.
However, after the latest fiasco involving her ex, a bar fight, and a police drunk tank, Brett knows she has to be on her best behaviour and curb any impulses to do the stupid–at least for a while.
She is not particularly thrilled then, to reconnect with AJ Walsh, golden boy and total crush from her high school years; and even less to feel such overwhelming lust for the adult version of the perfect “nice guy.”
She’s even less enthused to realize the attraction is mutual–responsible adults do not have one night stands, do they?
For his part, AJ finds himself at an internal crossroads. For years he has followed the “responsible, decent, mature guy” blueprint for relationships. His girlfriends have always been sweet and nice, inside and out; the type his parents wholeheartedly approve of. The type a respectable man would marry and have babies with.
The problem? He has never felt fulfilled by any of these relationships, which inevitably end with him remaining friends with his exes–he truly is a nice and likable guy. However, after a while, the cycle got old, so that for the past several months, AJ has remained single.
Which has created its own set of problems. One, his parents are more outspoken than ever about the need for AJ to settle down with a nice girl. Second, he is not particularly inclined towards celibacy. A chance encounter with wild girl Brett seems like the perfect opportunity to let out some steam–a last hurrah, of sorts, before giving in permanently to his parents’ perfect picture of his future, at lest in this area of his life.
Because reasons, these two agree to a short term fling. While it’s mostly a sexual arrangement, from the get go they spend enough time together not having sex to become friends and to quickly grow to care for each other.
AJ sees Brett as a talented artist, a responsible adult, and a good person underneath the many tattoos. It actually bothered me a fair bit that the only thing that can be considered ‘wild’ about Brett is the ink. She works hard and doesn’t need to party and drink–she did it before mostly because of who she hung out with, not because she can’t have fun without alcohol and stupidity.
So other than the fact that she had a couple/a few relationships with guys who turned out to be total asswipes, the whole “wild girl” just didn’t ring true for me.
On the other hand, I liked Brett’s realization that her relationship with AJ is balanced because he is not faking his businessman, responsible, decent persona. He is both the guy who doesn’t shy from a physical fight and who enjoys the potential risks inherent to owning a night club called Sin, and the guy who cares about others’ happiness so much.
In other words, she’s finally fallen for a guy who is not a loser, which enables her to realize she doesn’t need to compromise herself to be in a relationship.
AJ’s relationship with his parents–and to a greater extent, his self-acceptance–has been shaped by a tragic accident more than twenty years prior. Since then, he has striven to conform to a rigid ideal of “the good son.”
He feels that he’s failed, because despite his good intentions, he continues to make decisions that belie the label: instead of attending college, he became an MMA fighter. Instead of working for his father’s company, he owns a nightclub. The least he can do is marry ‘well,’ right?
I felt that AJ’s slow realization that his needs and preferences are as important as those of his parents is well done here. It is never easy–regardless of age–to disappoint those you love, and despite feeling that his parents have never seen the real him, AJ loves them. Eventually, though, they all must come to terms with reality and the truth.
With that said, I found the resolution of AJ’s conflict with his parents to be much too quick and too final. It just doesn’t ring true. You cannot have two people who, for over two decades, have shown such utter disapproval for any and all decisions that deviate from their idea of what AJ should do and feel , and who fully expect him to conform sooner or later, come to complete acceptance of a very different truth within a week
The worst part is that that entire scene was unnecessary. It would have worked far better if AJ took charge of changing the dynamics of the relationship, and let them adjust at their own pace.
Despite my gripes, I like this story–and the entire trilogy–very well indeed. The conflict between Brett and AJ is realistic and well written, and the characters well developed.
One Night of Trouble gets 8.00 out 10.