Monday, April 9, 2018

Double Review: Ivan

Today Jen and I are doing a joint review (*cough* fangirl squee, basically *cough*) for Kit Rocha's latest dystopian romance. We hope you enjoy our little chat!

Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on April 26 for a chance to win an ecopy of your own!

Ivan by Kit Rocha
Publisher: Kit Rocha (March 28, 2018)
Series: Gideon's Riders, 3
Genre: Dystopian Romance

As the sheltered princess of Sector One, Maricela’s life is defined by duty: to her people and to her family. Her wealth and influence have allowed her to build a better world, but they come with a price---the responsibility to secure political stability with a practical marriage. Maricela cherishes the idea of marrying for love, but there’s not much romance in the endless line of suitors interested only in prestige and power.

And her handsome, brooding new bodyguard isn’t helping the situation.

Ivan is the perfect, deadly warrior, a man trained from childhood to be the ultimate protector to the Rios family. His focus on keeping her safe is intense--and a little intoxicating. When the threat of danger cracks his icy control, Maricela realizes she’s not the only one fighting against temptation.

Ivan knows that the blood on his hands makes him unworthy of the pure-hearted princess. But from the first kiss, their forbidden affair feels inevitable. He can give her a glimpse of life outside her gilded cage and a lover who wants the woman instead of the crown. The only thing he can never do is promise her forever.

Because spurning her noble suitors to marry her bodyguard wouldn’t just be a scandal. It could set off a political firestorm that would tear Sector One apart.

Where to Buy*:
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Reviews for Rocha's books:

Our (Fangirl Heavy) Review:

Jen: Is there anything better than a bodyguard and princess story? If so, I don’t know what it is. Let’s talk about Ivan! (squeeeee!)

Jen: Kit Rocha just writes amazing heroines. I mean, obviously I love her heroes, too, but can we talk about Maricela first if that’s okay with you? I was so moved by her struggle to be a princess and a woman. I thought it was such a fascinating look at her character: how she is burdened by the pressure of being the princess, and how Ivan is the only one who realizes how it’s harming her. I have a friend that once said, “Being a princess isn’t so great! It just means you live in a smelly old castle and have to marry one of your Dad’s friends.” Lol. Not quite so bad here, but I was so moved by the “job” of princess.

TBQ: YES! I’m always here for a Rocha heroine, and Marciela is no different. I’m a sucker for a princess/otherwise sheltered heroine who desperately just wants a normal life but has responsibilities and expectations chaining her down.

But she was desperate, tired of being locked up like a child after dark. And she was horny. God above, she was horny.

Also, I fucking loved how her sexuality is no big deal. Like, oh yeah, I had previous lovers of both the male and female variety, so what?

Jen: Can I interrupt for a second? She’d definitely made out with people, but was kind of inexperienced, right? I thought the deal was that she didn’t really know who to trust and was desperate for a lover, but wasn’t having a lot of luck. Hmm.

TBQ: I . . . maybe? I’m not sure how much experience she had, if we’re going with society’s view on virginity, let’s say. But there is one line where she explicitly says she had previous lovers, though she doesn’t say what they did or did not do:

She tried not to fidget under his scrutiny, but none of her previous experiences had ever been this intense. Those men and women had been happy with simple, easy pleasure, and eager to sooth her when it all threatened to overwhelm her. 
They never demanded anything from her. Not the way Ivan would.

TBQ: Regardless, I just loved how casually that's dropped in and it's not a big deal. Hell, I love that Kit Rocha has created this entire culture within their world where sexuality is no big deal. And by that I mean a person fucks who they want to fuck and labels are not really a thing because no one gives a single fuck who you’re screwing, so long as everyone’s happy and orgasming.

My kingdom for that world!

Jen: OMG, Bree (half of Kit Rocha) had an amazing thread about how the sexual freedom is so important to their world-building, and people just think it’s because they want to write books about people have orgies. Like, have some respect for THE WORLD. It was so great.

TBQ: YES! Seriously, how many times can I say I love these two authors/this world they've created before it starts to get weird?

Too late? *shrugs* I JUST LOVE THEM OKAY.

Jen: But on to our hero, IVAN. I am saying it in my shouty voice because I loved him so much. Ohmygod. The longing. I didn’t even know I needed all that pining and longing until it happened. And I am not even ashamed to tell you how much I loved the fact that he is SO INTO HER. 

TBQ: Ivan’s pining gave me all the damn feels. ALL OF THEM. As did his battle with feeling like he wasn’t good enough because of his family’s history. *sobs* But I’m getting ahead of myself there because right now we’re focusing on the sexy times, not the angsty times. 

Jen: I think the angsty times were so important to his character. They were both struggling with emotional baggage from their family of origin. Even though they were so different, I think that’s why their romance works. That sense of duty they feel is the same, and it’s a huge foundational belief they have in common--do right because it is right. 

TBQ: Agreed! Angst and pining, ahoy:

He curled his fingers toward his palm, but it wasn’t enough. She was staring at him with those big brown eyes, all open and earnest, and he had never wanted so much to be someone else. Someone who could envision a future with her. A family with her. Someone without treason and shadows and who knew what else running through his veins. 
Hell, he’d settle for being worthy to reach out and brush that hair from her forehead. 
He wasn’t, but he did it anyway. Her skin was so soft under his fingertips, and he hated how big and rough his hand looked next to her face. He was a weapon, a tool shaped for one purpose, and it sure as hell wasn’t touching precious princesses.

Okay, now that I got us slightly off topic, back to the original comment about their chemistry and mutual longing. Because those sexy times -- and the tension-filled lead up to them? A+++.

“We can’t,” he whispered. 
“I know,” she agreed instantly. But she was leaning toward him anyway, and if he didn’t stop her she’d sway close enough for his mouth to find hers. It was inevitable. Impossible, reckless, blasphemous. A violation of the oath he’d sworn to Gideon. 
And inevitable.

Jen: As a teacher, I am confident with grading. A+++++ sexy times is the correct grade. Any time the hero’s MO in bed is “LET ME ADORE YOU.” That is very sexy. I have used sexy at least nine times in here.

TBQ: Listen, can you possibly talk about ANY Rocha book without using “sexy”, or a variation of it, at least a dozen times? You’re just fine.

As much as I loved his longing for her, I also loved that she fucking owned her desire for him, and just her sexuality, period. (Again, this is a common thing with Rocha’s books, but I will NEVER GROW TIRED OF IT GIVE ME MORE.) I loved when she’d tell him point blank that she needed sex and orgasms. GET IT GIRL, GET IT. And of course she wanted those things from him, but the aforementioned pining and longing meant she couldn’t so she was ready to just get it however -- except, damn it, why can’t I get him out of my head? Classic romancelandia struggle, of course, and I loved it.

Jen: When there is that much pining and longing, I feel like the sex is just super-charged and awesome. 


She didn’t realize she was pulling him up until he loomed over her, his eyes burning with hunger and one finger still deep inside her. “Tell me what you need.”
Always so ready to give her what she asked, everything else in the world be damned. Her heart thudded painfully as she stroked his cheek. “Your fingers,” she whispered.
“You want more?” He watched her face intently as he slipped his finger free. For a moment she was left alone, bereft, and then his touch returned with two broad fingers pressing slowly into her. His jaw clenched as he rocked them back and forth. “They’re big. Is it too much?” 
No. She tried to say it, but all that came out was a tight whimper, and she gripped his shoulders in case he tried to pull away. 
“Shh,” he soothed, pressing his temple to hers. His lips hovered over her ear as he eased his fingers deeper, filling her a fraction of an inch at a time. “Move your hips. Take me as deep as you can.” 
The hoarse command left her trembling, and she obeyed without thinking, arching up. He moaned his encouragement, curling his hand so the base of his palm pressed down on her clit. “Yes. Ride it.”

I’m a bit spoiled by the early Beyond books, where the sex was in your face from the start. Now, with Ivan, and really the last few releases, I’m always a bit surprised by how long it takes for the couple to start boning. As in, "Damn, the tension lasted THIS LONG without sex? Well that was fucking delicious, but yay! Time to turn up the heat!" surprised -- but NOT upset by it, I might add. Because the tension building up to the boning is exquisite and just adds to their finale. Literally. ;)

Jen: Luckily I read on Twitter to expect a slow burn, so I was ready for delayed kissing. Heh.

But to change topics again, I am always so impressed with how they build the on-ramp for future books in this series. (HELLO THE MYSTERIOUS NEW NARRATOR IN THE MIDDLE!) They do such an excellent job of bringing upcoming characters into focus, but still giving me little glimpses of my past favorites. For example, Ana walks into a big fancy party wearing a “slinky, glittering dress. The fabric looked like the midnight sky with a dreamy scattering of stars across it--but the slit in the front was high enough to flash the knives on Ana’s thigh.” I don’t know why, but this whole scene made me unreasonably happy. 

TBQ: Same! I’m not sure what I loved more -- the teases about future characters and couples or the peeks into previous characters/couples. CAN I JUST SAY ALL OF IT? BECAUSE ACCURATE.

Also, I loved the scenes when the Riders would give each other shit. I’m always here for that brotherhood bonding and joking.

“Cool,” Zeke supplied. “You were going to say I look cool, I’m sure.” 
Laurel didn’t look up from the magazine she was browsing. “My money’s on, ‘less like you just pawed your way through a city sewer grate.’” 
“Takes one to know one, baby.” 
Laurel arched one eyebrow. “So is this a bad time to tell you I’m wearing your girlfriend to the party?” 
“Which one?” Zeke rested his chin in his palm and studied her. “Lusira would look cute on you.” 
“Only in your wildest dreams, son.” 
“Stop bantering.” Reyes sat up with a grumble. “This is no time for banter. This is a serious goddamn situation.”

Jen: SAME. Oh! And all of the hilarious asides about how totally overprotective Ashwin is about Kora. I honestly think he is going to have a meltdown when she goes into labor. I love those callbacks to older, beloved characters. More importantly, as much as I love the brotherhood bonding, I LOVE THAT we also get the sisterhood bonding. I loved when they were all getting ready for the fancy dinner, and they’re sitting around sewing and talking about what they’re going to wear and gossiping about who is going to be there. Bree and Donna do such a fantastic job with the characters as people, as friends, as siblings...and as lovers.  

TBQ: YES! I can’t believe I almost forgot to bring up that scene. Which means it’s time for my weekly romancelandia request: More of that, and more strong female friendships, please.

If we don’t get a scene or short story or something showing Kora’s delivery -- AKA, Ashwin’s reaction to it all -- I will be very disappointed. Just sayin’!

Oh! You know what else I loved? I loved seeing Ivan go in for therapy. I know we’ve both talked about this before: how romancelandia has this thing against discussing mental health (positively!) and instead of therapy, characters with major trauma or problems are instead magically cured by the hero’s dick or heroine’s pussy or, IDK, true love. And that’s just not the case. (Sure, a good relationship can *help* a person, but it’s not a cure.) Anyway, it was such a small thing, in the scheme of this book, but I loved that he went to talk things over with Minako (who trained as a therapist) about the things in his past. THAT’S SEXY RIGHT THERE, FIGHT ME.

Jen: I’m a lover not a fighter, I totally agree with you! Being in love didn’t magically fix him! Kora could test for depression, but there’s no easy fix. He needed to go home and be with his Mom and get help. So important. So sexy. Kit Rocha books are just my happy place. Nothing can work for everyone, but I LLLLLLOOOOOOVVVVEEEEE them and they give me all the feels. In fact, we didn’t even really write a review, did we? We just fangirled. 

TBQ: Accurate, and I’m fine with that. 

Any final thoughts before we turn down the fangirl squee? 

Jen: I am honestly embarrassed not only by how much of this review is me SHOUTING, but also by the ridiculous number of exclamation points I used. There has to be some sort of Exclamation Point Factor, and when you use too many, you’ve crossed over from reviewing into fangirling. I DON’T EVEN CARE. IVAN AND MARICELA FOREVER!!!! MORE KNIVES STRAPPED TO ANA’S THIGHS. 


And also: Yessssss to the knives. That is all.

Dear readers, I’m going to leave you with this: there’s dry humping on the dance floor and I was entirely THERE FOR IT. *nods* Yes, that’s the most important information you need about this book. Now go, dive into the Sectors and enjoy all the strong heroines, filthy goodness, and fantastic world building. You can thank us later! :)

One last quote, because I have no control:

Ivan: "Making you happy for the rest of my life is the best legacy I can imagine."

Final rating:

Jen: Eh, knock off half a star for making me wait so long for the kissing. Hahaha


4 1/2 STARS! 

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Jen had an ARC, I bought a copy.

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If you want to read even more quotes that I highlighted, check out my Twitter feed! 

Sorrynotsorry for the fangirling there. But come on, it's Kit fucking Rocha. I don't think we could have done it any other way!


Until Next Time,

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