Review: Under Locke by Mariana Zapata (2014)

Heat Factor: Well now I’m curious about penis piercings / I didn’t know MZ could write so much, so hot sex

Character Chemistry: All the butterflies

Plot: Jerky, ex-felon, tattoo artist biker with an anger management issue can’t keep his hands off his friend’s little sister who also happens to work in his shop

Overall: I can’t believe how much I liked this book

I honestly feel bad about how much I enjoyed this book, because Dex throws up so many red flags, I feel like I should be horrified. 

But I’m not. I am so not. What is it about Mariana Zapata writing these possessive, paternalistic heroes that just so do not turn me off AT ALL? 

What does Dex do? First, let’s recap:

Iris moves from Florida to Texas to live with her (half) brother because she’s flat broke. Her brother gets her a job at his friend Dex’s tattoo parlor. Dex and brother are friends because they’re in the same motorcycle club (MC), a motorcycle club that used to be into all kinds of shady, illegal stuff when their dads were members but is now on the up and up. Iris is hot but shy. Dex exudes danger and has a hair-trigger temper (hence the jail time).

Dex immediately acts like a total jerk when Iris starts working for him, which causes Iris to be angry and hurt. Then he doesn’t really apologize because she needs to toughen up (she’s like, “nah”), so we’re in a little bit of enemies to lovers territory because this guy needs to be redeemed HARD. As time progresses, the additional forced proximity of them working together plus both frequenting the same MC hot spots slowly reveals to us that Dex Locke has feelings for Iris. 

Iris’s father comes to town and asks her brother for money, and this sets off a whole danger-plot because their father owes money to the wrong sort of people. 

Back to what does Dex do:

  1. He starts calling Iris “babe,” like, the week he meets her. Because that’s totally professional.
  2. He calls her his girl – more than once – before they’re actually an item. And not like, “That’s my girl!” but like, “Don’t you talk like that to my girl. [growl]”
  3. He orders her to button up her cardigan when she’s talking to one of his friends. Because boobs.
  4. He refuses to let her quit because he keeps what’s his.
  5. He tells Iris that she can’t possibly live by herself. Ever. 
  6. He tells another man that Iris can’t date while possessively putting his hands on her shoulders.
  7. He cusses at her for going to another MC headquarters. They are super shady and it was super dangerous, but still.
  8. He rage throws bar stools after Iris was threatened because she stopped him from going out and murdering the guys who threatened her and he needed an outlet. (This is the biggest red flag but also the part that made me the swooniest because I am obviously a messed up person. In fairness to Zapata, heroes caveman like this all the time in historical romance, and that’s apparently fine.)
  9. He generally bosses Iris around. Beyond the scope of an employer/employee relationship.

How I feel I should feel:

How I did feel:

It helps that the story is told from Iris’s point of view, so we can feel when she’s okay with (or not okay with) what’s going on. Whether or not she maybe should be okay with it all is a different question, but my best guess for the reason I’m not grossed out by this romance is that Zapata does a good job of demonstrating how Iris evaluates her feelings and boundaries where Dex’s behavior is concerned. When it comes right down to it, Iris understands Dex with all his failings. It’s that whole woman-tames-man-beast fantasy. 

The way Zapata’s slow burns work is that they follow the heroine’s life just trucking along, trying to figure out what exactly the relationship is with the hero, so there’s very little heat or emotional reward in the beginning, but there is that end-of-the-story happiness explosion that is immensely satisfying. For some reason this also tends to mean that the stories are really long. This one is approaching 500 pages. Saddle up!

P.S. Need more? Iris and Dex (and Slim!) have a cameo appearance in Kulti.

Buy Now: Amazon

Looking for a book with similar attributes? Might we suggest…

Best Friend’s Sibling Books

Books featuring Paternalistic Heroes

Books where the mood is kinda tense

2 thoughts on “Review: Under Locke by Mariana Zapata (2014)”

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