Asher Peterson is a self-made man, owner of the Electric Tunnel, Sin City’s hottest adult entertainment spot. Brazen and formidable in designer T-shirts and motorcycle boots, he seems unflappable whether he’s making his rounds through the decadent decor of the Tunnel, or whipping through the desert heat on his bike. But inside he is a shattered man, desperate to understand what unconditional love from a woman feels like.
Hiding the effects of his emotionally stunted youth behind a gritty persona, and keeping his fractured soul buried deep while seeking out his baser instincts, Asher is convinced he is man enough to leave the past in the past. The only clue to his broken soul is his deep-seated need to provide safety and a good life for emotionally damaged women within the glamorous walls of his strip club.
Fooling himself that he deserves little in life, Asher keeps his big heart tightly guarded with everyone but Sienna Flower, his friend, business partner, and headliner. Until, that is, the night he runs into his childhood friend, Natalie Parker. While trolling a rival strip club, perusing their offerings for his own personal pleasure, he collides with his past. Coming face-to-face with a woman he only knew as a girl, he’s shaken when he finds the dark-haired beauty in a precarious position. Now all grown up, she’s a hardened soul who reminds him of where he came from, and stirs within him the need to protect yet another woman.
Known as Nat to most everyone, Natalie is a single mom to Quinn. But when she’s under the bright spotlights in a thong, she’s known as Natasha or Nataleigh Dallas. A girl who once had everything going for her, she’s now a jaded stripper with only room for her son in her life, and has erected impenetrable barriers around her heart. The strength of those walls is challenged the night a man she has known since childhood steamrolls his way back into her life, flashing those smoky-gray eyes that have always melted her.
A man she has loved from afar since she was a young girl, one who lights fire to her walls, burning deeper, setting everything ablaze––smoldering her.
Asher and Natalie, two people who are equally tormented by their own demons, set out to rescue each other as part-time lovers in a torrid, desperate workplace affair. Thinking they can remain friends while keeping their hearts at a safe distance, they find themselves at odds when their situation morphs into a messy, tangled mess.
Ripping free of each other proves impossible as they learn that the very web that connects them goes much deeper than they ever expected.
At this point, the moon was waning, the sun about to burst over the horizon, and I began to dread what I would look like in the orange glow of daylight. Not really how I looked, but I feared in the light of day I’d be seen for the traitorous asshole I was.
I wanted to hide in the shadows of the night, to make amends wrapped in the warm glow of the moon and stars against a background of awe, mystery, and suspense. Forgiveness seemed so much more attainable in the shadows, and now brightness was chasing me away, bringing me back to reality where I was meant to live a life without the unconditional support of a woman.
Wasn’t that what my mom taught me?
I was in a mental fight with the sun when I heard Natalie speak.
“This is it, Ash. I’m leaving. I know you came here to try and stop me, but you can’t. You can’t always be my protector, boss, friend, and sometimes lover. It’s all too much. Together—separate—it doesn’t matter. It’s too consuming. You’re both my salve and my kryptonite, and I have to get out on my own.”
I wanted to roar, but then remembered the sleeping kid behind her slightly ajar door and her neighbors, who more than likely worked hard at getting a good night’s sleep.
And, my pride.
I stood up, kissed her on the cheek, and walked away. The sun was coming, and I wouldn’t, couldn’t, refused to be exposed in the light of day.
I had laid my heart on the line.
I would be damned if I stood with the hot desert rays burning down on me and begged.
We have a lot of choices to make when it comes to books these days. There are so many released every day and honestly it’s hard to keep up with the up and coming releases anymore. But sometimes you find that true diamond in the rough, someone that writes a story that grips your heart and soul and sends your emotions soaring and your left wanting the next book. Rachel had that effect on me. I fell in love with her characters in Electrified and couldn’t wait to devour Smoldered.
When I first met Asher as the club owner of the Electric Tunnel I knew that this man had deep rooted issues and secrets from his past. He was sort of an enigma. His story was truly intriguing, the tidbits that we got during the first book so I couldn’t wait to have his full story. Especially when it came to the sneaking around he seemed to do with Natalie. Their story just simply blew me away! There were so many things that I didn’t see coming throughout this book. Ash is hot and sexy but vulnerable at the same time, he doesn’t like hearing “no” and he has no problem letting you know it either.
Natalie is holding some things from the past that she doesn’t want Asher or anyone else to know so she keeps everyone at an arms length. She doesn’t trust anyone even in her closest inner circle of friends. But even in her most vulnerable of times she shows a strong front as a single mom fighting for her child and her independence. I truly loved her character and though I didn’t always agree her strength and conviction in her choices made it easier to understand.
Smoldered is hot and sexy, sad and frustrating and all around just a fantastic read! I went through all the emotions in this book, from extreme elation to ugly tears. If you like a well rounded read with a hot and sassy female lead and a sexy won’t take NO for an answer hero then this is a book I would highly recommend. Nat and Ash’s highs and lows will have you cresting and falling like the waves of the ocean and in the end you will be left with fantastic story that will stick with you. I gave Smoldered 5 stars. I think this 2nd book from Rachel was brilliantly written and highly entertaining from beginning to end. Once I started I didn’t want to put it down.
About Rachel Blaufeld:
Rachel Blaufeld is a social worker/entrepreneur/blogger turned author. Fearless about sharing her opinion, Rachel captured the ear of stay-at-home and working moms on her blog, BacknGrooveMom, chronicling her adventures in parenting tweens and inventing a product, often at the same time. She has also blogged for The Huffington Post, Modern Mom, and StartupNation.
Turning her focus on her sometimes wild-and-crazy creative side, it only took Rachel two decades to do exactly what she wanted to do—write a fiction novel. Now she spends way too many hours in local coffee shops plotting her ideas. Her tales may all come with a side of angst and naughtiness, but end lusciously.
Rachel lives around the corner from her childhood home in Pennsylvania with her family and two dogs. Her obsessions include running, coffee, icing-filled doughnuts, antiheroes, and mighty fine epilogues.