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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book Review: Hard Rules (Book #1 in the Dirty Money series) by Lisa Renee Jones


Given the fact that the romance genre is one of my top favorite genres of books to read, and it’s my #1 favorite genre of books to review for my blog; I’m always looking for new authors who write books that are a part of the romance genre to check out. Hard Rules is the first book by Lisa Renee Jones that I’ve ever read, and I’m thrilled to say that I absolutely loved it. While the romance genre is one of my top favorite genres of books to read, I definitely can’t deny that the romance genre is a genre that tends to be full of clichés, and can oftentimes be rather lacking in originality. That being said, Hard Rules is in many ways unlike any romance novel that I’ve ever read.

The one thing that really sets Hard Rules apart from all of the other books in the romance genre that I’ve read over the years more than anything else is definitely the overall tone of Jones’ writing. The overall tone of Hard Rules is definitely darker than any book in the romance genre that I’ve ever read, and the tone of the book also has a certain level of mystery and intrigue to it that I’m not used to seeing when it comes to books within the romance genre. That definitely made reading Hard Rules a rather refreshing and enjoyable experience for me. While I’ve never watched Sons of Anarchy before, based on what I’ve heard about the show, I’m guessing that people are comparing Hard Rules to that show because of the somewhat dark and mysterious tone of Jones’ writing. Regardless of whether or not I’m right about why people have compared Hard Rules to Sons of Anarchy, reading this book definitely made me want to watch Sons of Anarchy. One thing that I think Jones handled very well throughout the entire book is the way that she maintained the darker, more mysterious tone of the book without ever letting it ruin the romance and steaminess between Shane Brandon and Emily Stevens.

The other thing that makes Hard Rules so unique compared to all of the other books in the romance genre that I’ve read over the years is the fact that the element of mystery and intrigue that’s present throughout the book pretty much revolved entirely around Emily. In the past, whenever I’ve read a book in the romance genre where one of the characters is portrayed as being at least somewhat of a mysterious person who has a secret, it has always been the guy who has filled that role. By having Emily be the one who’s filling that role in this book, I feel like Jones is offering people something new and fresh with Hard Rules.

Jones definitely excels at writing Emily in such a way that she’s a very likable character, despite the fact that she apparently has a dark secret that instead of finally revealing it to the reader at the end of the book; Jones reveals a whole new plot twist that further added to the mystery that surrounds Emily. While I spent pretty much the entire book feeling very anxious and excited to learn what exactly Emily’s secret and actual backstory is, I’m honestly not the least bit upset that Jones doesn’t reveal any of that information in this book. If anything, the way Jones ends the book got me even more excited to read the second book in the Dirty Money series, Damage Control, than I already was before I even finished reading this book.


Aside from really loving the overall tone of Jones’ writing for Hard Rules, I really like the fact that she alternated back and forth between both Shane’s and Emily’s points of view throughout the book. Much like one the main reasons I love Emma Chase’s, Christina Lauren’s, Jennifer Probst’s, and Lauren Blakely’s books so much being because they’re typically written at least partially, if not entirely, from the guy’s point of view, I love that Hard Rules is written partially from Shane’s point of view. That being said, I’m really glad that the book isn’t written entirely from Shane’s point of view; because I think it’s really important that the reader gets to read parts of Hard Rules from Emily’s point of view as well, in order to really develop and flesh both Shane and Emily out as characters throughout the book. The fact that Jones alternates back and forth between Shane’s and Emily’s points of view also helps to maintain the element of mystery that her writing for Hard Rules has.

While I definitely think that Emily is a really intriguing and all around great character, Shane is also a really great and well-written character, in my opinion. I loved reading about all of the family drama that he’s dealing with throughout the book. All of the family drama that Shane is dealing with throughout the book made Hard Rules feel somewhat reminiscent of the first two books in J.R. Ward’s Bourbon Kings series: The Bourbon Kings and The Angels’ Share. I’m a big fan of the Bourbon Kings series, because the series basically comes across as being a soap opera that’s in the form of a book, and I’m a HUGE fan of soap operas. Much like the Bourbon Kings series, Hard Rules also feels somewhat reminiscent of a soap opera, and I absolutely love that about this book. For the record, while I’m a big fan of the Bourbon Kings series, if I’m being honest, I definitely like Hard Rules more than I like both The Bourbon Kings and The Angels’ Share. The reason why I’d say that I like this book more, is because I feel like Shane and Emily are both much more likable and complex characters than pretty much all of the characters in the Bourbon Kings series are. Even the members of Shane’s family, who aren’t exactly the most likable and thoroughly developed characters in the book, are more complex and not entirely despicable characters compared to the characters from the Bourbon Kings series; as far as I’m concerned.

Jones definitely did a fantastic job of writing Shane and Emily’s relationship throughout the course of the entire book. I feel like she handled the evolution and development of their relationship perfectly. The sex scenes between Shane and Emily are all very well written and steamy. Much like I think Emma Chase’s, Christina Lauren’s, Jennifer Probst’s and Lauren Blakely’s books are all steamier and written A LOT better than E.L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy is, I definitely think that Hard Rules is also a lot steamier and better written than the Fifty Shades trilogy is. Even though the book ends with Shane clearly being very upset with Emily, and rightfully so, for not being entirely honest with him about her past, I’m definitely still rooting for them as a couple at the moment.

All things considered, Hard Rules truly is a fantastic book, and it’s definitely unlike any other book in the romance genre that I’ve ever read; which is mostly due to the tone of Lisa Renee Jones’ writing. While this book has a lot great things going for it, the overall tone of Jones’ writing is definitely one of the main things that stands out to me the most, in terms of what I like about this book. Jones really did a fantastic job of writing this book in such a way that it’s definitely a little bit darker than any other book in the romance genre that I’ve ever read; but at the same time, the somewhat dark and mysterious tone of her writing never detracts from the romance between Shane and Emily. The overall tone of Jones’ writing is definitely a rather refreshing change of pace from most of the other books in the romance genre that I’ve read and reviewed for my blog in the past several years.

As for the romance between Shane and Emily, I thought that it was handled perfectly, and I feel like they had a lot of chemistry with each other throughout the entire book. While Shane and Emily are both really great and intriguing characters individually, Emily definitely stands out as being the most intriguing character in the book. I’m very excited to learn more about her backstory, and the secrets that she’s hiding as the series continues. Lisa Renee Jones definitely made a really fantastic first impression on me with Hard Rules, and I’m really looking forward to reading more of her books in the very near future.

That being said, my final score for Hard Rules is 10 out of 10.

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