Erin really wanted to rant about this book, but while Ingrid might not enthusiastically recommend it, she isn’t about to agree with Erin that it’s rant-worthy. Clearly, we needed to review this book together.
Heat Factor: It’s a slowish burn but hooo boy, it gets steamy.
Character Chemistry: It’s pretty instantaneous but there are SO MANY WALLS
Plot: Julien’s bike breaks down in Eliza’s small town at the exact moment she desperately needs help to keep her flower farm going–it’s like kismet. But both Julien and Eliza have so many legitimate barriers to being together (and surviving!) that it’s hard to see how they’re going to make it work.
Overall: Such a fantastically written book, just expertly knit together.
My number one takeaway for biker heroes is that they rock some saucy hair. Especially facial hair. Hair like this:
I’ll tell you what – the hero described with mutton chops straight up made my jaw drop. I feel like interesting hair or facial hair is a bold move on the part of an author (though, to be honest, I would be fine with no more heroes who have hair “short on the sides and longer on top” considering that’s apparently what all contemporary heroes have), even if it totally resonates in context. Because, let’s be honest, even if that guy with mutton chops above doesn’t look half bad, what I think of when I think of mutton chops is more like this:
Biker heroes are also covered in tattoos, which are always described as totally awesome and sexy (obvi), and they are more likely than most to have piercings (I keep track of peen piercings in my Goodreads reading tags (doesn’t everyone?), and 4 of 5 are MC heroes). Especially if they’re young-ish with the piercings. Also they wear jewelry, which, let’s admit, most heroes don’t (unless they’re aristocrats with super cool signet rings, because are you even an aristocratic hero if you don’t have a signet ring?).
All right, okay, we can get serious now.
If I were going to universally describe MC heroes with three words, they would be: domineering, macho, and individualistic. In other words, these books are definitely not for readers who dislike paternalistic heroes who unquestionably demonstrate red flag traits like controlling behavior and jealousy. If you can’t get behind the idea of an alpha hero, just don’t even wander over here, because these guys range from basic macho alpha-ish to straight up dark bully (depending on what author you’re dealing with). Cinnamon rolls who are emotionally engaged need not apply.
Here’s how this whole situation tends to go down:
Pussy is pussy, and I can get pussy easily because I’m a badass patched biker dude and there are biker groupies wandering mostly naked around the clubhouse just looking for some wild biker banging
I see a woman who isn’t just club tail, and she’s also kind of sassy, and maybe a little bit sweet, and I like sassy and sweet, so she’s mine now
I’m going to get a little caveman on that woman and tell her she’s mine and have her “protected” constantly by one of my club brothers, while I run around banging my chest, declaring that nobody can tell me what to do
Except that I really like this woman, and I want her to be my woman, so I guess I’ll stop being quite such a caveman and acknowledge that I have no interest in other women, and yes, she needs to be respected, I was just trying to make it clear that nobody owns me
Okay, fine, she’s my woman and I’m her man. But I’m still the boss
So, obviously, different stories have different relationship experiences, but if I were going to boil down this experience overall, that would be it. As I was reading, it occurred to me that one reason these books might be as popular as they are is that they combine the bad boy hero with the classic wish fulfillment aspect of the alpha hero who sees one woman as special when he hasn’t done that before.
This is especially demonstrated because the vast majority of heroes are not only bossy and independent to a fault, they are also super slutty (or there are orgiastic parties at the clubhouse where public sex is NBD at the very least, which implies slutty), but the heroine manages to break through and have enough everything to get the monogamy. (I’ll say this: I find most man-slag heroes tiresome, and the only reason I can think why that’s not automatically the case with bikers is that it seems to be built into the generic culture of MC romance, so it gets a mental pass from me that men in suits do not.)
I think my favorite conversation that illuminates this idea is from Own the Wind by Kristen Ashley. To recap the plot: Tabby is the Prez’s daughter, Shy is a patched member of the club. Shy is called Shy because he is such a womanizer (he has two threesome scenes in this book pre-Tabby), so when the relationship is exposed, everyone loses their minds. Tabby gets so pissed, she lays into her step-mom (please see Motorcycle Man) because, having grown up in the MC life, she knows perfectly well that her dad was also pretty slutty before he married Tyra:
“You know, I’m not pissed because you worry about me and you’d act on that even if you do it judgmentally. I know you’re in the middle. You love me but you’re Dad’s old lady and your loyalty is with him, you have to take his back in what he’s feeling and stand at his side when he does what he feels he has to do. That said, you should know the reason I’m pissed is because you and Dad and even the guys, you didn’t even give him a chance.” Her face paled, I knew my aim was true but I still drove that home. “You didn’t give him a chance.”
I saw her face soften when that sunk in then I went in for the kill.
“You know you’re Dad’s one-and-only, Tyra, and if you don’t know this, seeing as he had kids before he met you, I’m sorry to tell you but even though you’re his one-and-only now, you weren’t his one-and-only.”
Her head jerked, she flinched, and I finally saw it.
“You feel me,” I said softly. “I get I’m not Shy’s one-and-only but I still… fucking… am.”
Isn’t that exactly what the dream of a hero like this is? Being the one person with the special sauce who can lasso the wind? Captivating the uncaptivatable? Cracking the uncrackable nut? So that’s a bigtime aspect of the biker hero.
The other aspect that I enjoy about this hero is that, even if it’s not about insta-love, there’s typically a pretty instant recognition on the hero’s part that he knows he’s found something and he wants to claim it.
While a nice, emotionally angsty romance might scratch an itch, there is also something satisfying about the paternalistic hero + one-sided courtship. Decision made, get on board please, this is happening, please stop arguing. I find it quite enjoyable, usually.
So basically MC smut is like a super combo of hero tropes, I guess is what I’m saying.
(I feel I should take this moment to say that the second chance MC romances can be super angsty, because it’s like a combo of all of the above plus I-don’t-even-like-you-why-can’t-I-stay-away on top of that. But mostly if we’re dealing with a new romance, the primary drama is about the citizen heroine figuring out the club or the external threat.)
Now, I already mentioned that there is some super toxic stuff going on with these heroes. And that’s, like, a lot.
Really, no matter how the author tries to put a certain shine on it, there is a lack of equality between the hero and heroine in these books. This is also where we tend to see a lot of the toxic masculinity come out to play.
First, as I mentioned last week, if the heroine didn’t somehow originate from the MC (either daughter or widow or the like), then the heroine must acquiesce to becoming part of the MC lifestyle. Being a patched member of the club is so important to the hero that the club is everything, and those books that involve a dispute – Own the Wind, above, being one example or Crossroads by Chantal Fernando being another – demonstrate how big a deal it is for a brother to leave the club. They get the patches tattooed on their backs, for crying out loud!
Another good example that illustrates this lack of equality is found in Ravage Me by Ryan Michele. In that book, the heroine grew up in the club and refuses to date brothers because she knows that if the relationship goes south, he won’t be the one to lose all his family – even though he patched in and didn’t grow up in the club – she’ll be the one who can’t come back, because after she becomes an old lady, she can’t go back to being her father’s daughter.
So we begin with a lack of equality just right off the bat in terms of who is going to have to adjust or give things up for whom. But I also mentioned last week – and above – that protection factors in, as does jealousy and controlling behavior.
There’s usually some kind of external, suspenseful plot that makes the protection issue seem less problematic, but let’s all be honest here – having a member of the club follow the old ladies around all the time is super duper controlling behavior. Some authors tend to lean toward having brothers protect women only when there’s a situation happening, which has less ick factor than, say, the biker on duty getting in men’s faces when other men talk to old ladies out at the bar one evening just for fun, which is what happens in Reaper’s Property by Joanna Wylde. But it’s always the men protecting the women and keeping the other non-MC riff-raff away. Men wanting to talk to women are always men wanting to get into women’s pants. Please cool your possessive jets, gentlemen.
Don’t even get me started on “Why do you need to work? I’ll give you money if you need it.” (Legit, Reaper’s Property, which includes exactly that conversation by Horse, is a ride, but it’s not by any stretch the only biker book with a financially vulnerable heroine.)
In addition, not to pile on or anything, but biker dudes are bossy. Heroines need to get on board, and they have to listen and follow orders without necessarily being privy to what is universally referred to as “club business”. Or sometimes it’s not really club business, it’s just the hero being all kinds of macho, which is…not cute. Sometimes the heroines are good at listening, and sometimes they are not, but we can get into all that when we talk about the women of MC smut next week. And we can talk more about some of these dynamics when we talk about relationships in two weeks.
Bottom line: scary, bossy, badass biker dudes are like:
Need more MC Smut analysis in your life? Here are Erin’s previous posts in the series: