ARC Review: Hardcore by Dakota Gray

Series: Filth #3
Release Date: January 24, 2017
Rating: 5/5
I voluntarily reviewed an ARC.
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I am an Alexander. Our last name is an institution in legal circles. You’re raised to be an apex predator in the courtroom and outside of it. Being weak or losing at anything is not an option.

To paint the picture, most fathers sit their sons down to have “the talk” about what it means to be a man in the world. My father handed me a proverbial rusty knife, and said, “Cut out anything but ambition and loyalty.”

Don’t confuse these statements as woe-is-me. I made myself in my father’s image for many years. Didn’t matter if I liked the man who looked back.

I’m just giving you the facts.

So when Kennedy Mclane caught sight of this ruthless man after we had sex, she ran. I had a rare moment of…chivalry? Humanity? I don’t know. I decided to be the good guy, and ignore the fact we feel unfinished. Or the way she looks at me. Or that she gets jealous.

She didn’t want me to slip into my predator skin and do my own version of the wild hunt. It stayed that way for three years until she climbed back into my bed. Whether she’s ready for me this time or not is a moot point. I’ve been more than fair and patient.

She’s probably going to hate me by the end of all this.

I don’t care.

The game has begun and I never lose. I cut that part out of me.

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I sampled reading Perv (Filth #1) last year and boy was I in for such a surprise. That book was the most interesting I read last year and from there I told myself I have to read everything this author publishes. (Well, at least the M/F ones. I’m too chicken to read anything else.)

Hardcore has exceeded my expectation of a good-time read earning itself the best one yet after the 5-star drought I was having which started this year. It’s the third in this standalone series featuring Nate’s (from Perv) friend who’s a lawyer, Duke Alexander, and the woman who brought him to his knees (literally and figuratively), Kennedy Mclane.

So get this: man is an asshole, woman is not but said woman still wants him despite of that, not because she thinks she could change him but believes the man is nothing but a sham. Both are not perfect from their own misgivings and failure in judgment. But the story digs deep and nothing could’ve prepared me from the truth bombs that exploded and the satisfaction that followed thereafter.

Duke Alexander is the epitome of tall, dark, handsome and very dangerous. Dangerous in a way that’s intimidating. Dangerous in a way that when he comes near you, you better run. And fast. Dangerous in a way you wouldn’t want to mess with him in the court room because the guy is one damn fine lawyer. Heartless and cold might be his middle name. Control is like air for him–he practically breathes it. And he’s unapologetic about it. Also, very ambitious.

I didn’t like him from the get go. To be honest, I was scared of what he might do to Kennedy. (Predator, remember?) The guy’s been in to hell because of his hard ass attitude towards his father’s decisions and how he seemed to think he’s wired that way, too. (He’s an Alexander. Alexanders are known for brutal and ruthless.) His relationship with him was so twisted I wasn’t sure if he treated him as his own son or whatever. He made sure to cut Duke off his will because the guy wouldn’t bend to his every whim then as payback, pass down their own law firm empire to his mediocre cousin. What parent does that? But Duke doesn’t back down on any challenge. So he made sure to work twice as hard for him to get where he is now. Now you know where Duke got that hardshell of a man that he is? He truly believed that but seriously while I saw Duke the lawyer in all his cold-hearted glory, the story perfectly blended the gooey part of him in very subtle of ways.

Then there’s Kennedy Mclane. Kennedy who sees through Duke’s bullshit. Kennedy whose vibes is I’m sexy and I fucking know it. Kennedy who’s confident, can stand her ground with Duke and has a good heart. She believed in the good, in hope. Also the woman was a goddamn flirt and liked to test Duke’s limits. God, I love her! She’s such a tease! Her characterization was a blur in the beginning which made sense because they weren’t in that level of understanding yet. But from Duke’s POV as I go along, I found out she was nothing short of amazing. She dealt with a lot of things in the past and had to work hard as well to get her career stabilized. Sometimes, I just wanted to scream at her to run the fuck away because Duke, really? Of all people?! Why him! But I learned she’s the perfect match to Duke. She loves people, he doesn’t. She doesn’t have trouble showing her feelings, he does. Kennedy can set him straight and I always love a woman who knows how to knock her man down on his ass. That’s Kennedy. Kennedy whose ass jiggles and has cushiony stomach–which Duke prefers and loves, thank you very much.

The romance was magnified every time Good Guy Duke (the man) took over Bad Guy Duke (the lawyer). It was beautiful. And funny. I liked how Bad Guy Duke wanted to murder Good Guy Duke because he despised him so much. Now I’m not saying he’s changed. It’s just that his character development was solid and well thought out that he didn’t do a 180. He did, however, reveal The Duke, not the lawyer but the man behind it. The Duke who can be a lawyer and a man all at once. He was still the shark I thought he was but he’s now a feeling shark, if that makes sense. LOL. It was beautiful. It was also very satisfying to watch him fall down, suffer because of his own doing. You know how in most romance books the redemption of hero after the conflict was so abrupt? Like the guy kissed the girl and poof–all’s right in the world again? Like the guy shows his hand once, falls to his feet once and the girl forgives him–just. like. that? Yeah, no, sorry I am tired of that. Duke didn’t just grovel. He grovelled hard–pain, sweat and all–and more than once (ha take that!) to earn Kennedy’s trust back. It. Was. So. Beautiful. (Hey, Duke was a hard shell to crack. He had to do the grandest gesture.)

Well, aside from that?

The male POV was accurate AF and if I may say, almost like Emma Chase’s (Queen of Male POVs). And while it was purely from Duke’s perspective, I couldn’t help but to be amazed at how significant the roles of the female characters played in the story and how absolutely extraordinary they were. I marvelled at these not-so little things because I really think they’re necessary to point out.

Case #1: This was when Duke’s mom confronted (to put it nicely) him about his feelings for Kennedy.

She is smart, merciless and knows where to hit you where it hurts.
– Madison Heather Alexander, Duke’s mom

Case #2: From Duke’s friends’ (Nate and Tarek) POV when he started spacing out at the gym that Tarek owns.

(Nate to Tarek)
How do you know it’s this Kennedy?
The frown lines. She’s the only woman who makes him emote.

Case #3: Hurt (or turned heartless–you decide) Kennedy during a brunch at Heather’s house.

I take the way she ignores me for an hour after that. I suck it up when she announces she hast to go and gives air kisses to Robyn, shit even Keisha. Nate and Tarek get pats on the shoulder. My mother gets her laugh and smiles.

Me, she walks right past.

I tell myself it doesn’t gut me.

Case #4: Gwen, Duke’s paralegal, taking the upper hand.

(Duke) I’m ill.
(Gwen) Your heart’s broken. Stop being a drama queen. And it’s your own fault.

Case #5: Kennedy being Kennedy after Duke practically grovelled… and failed. I love her with all my cold heart.

“Now what?” she yells. “I fall into your arms?”

Have you noticed how I basically skinned the characters in this book? HAHA. It’s what I do–I examine people and their actions. Sorry not sorry. Moving on!

The tug-of-war of feelings and attraction between Duke and Kennedy was so much fun to watch. (Because I got to see Duke lose most of the time. HAHA!) They bantered like real adults but with so much chemistry, intensity and intent to ravage each other. Duke was still Duke for believing that’s all there is to Duke Alexander–nothing good, at all. While Kennedy believed he’s something more. The sex scenes were hot AF. Like holy-shit-that’s-so-hot hot. The interaction between the secondary characters didn’t come out to be just fillers. If anything, that’s another layer of the story that I totally loved. Gabriel, the additional character whose case was being handled by Duke, was a delight as well. Him being there added a bit of suspense in the story and he didn’t just become a passer-by character. He became a part of it, a part of Duke and Kennedy. And while the case was something outside the romance, the whole premise was skilfully weaved in to the story adding more dimension to it. It was brilliant.

Now let’s take a quick recap. Characters? Not perfect. (I’m sure you’d hate Duke haha! I did.) Their actions and choices? So not perfect. Narration? Perfect. Pacing and progress? Perfect. Overall impact? Standing ovation.

Hardcore falls under the not-sweet-but-sprinkled-with-a-little-of-it romance that’s heart-stopping, heartbreaking and consuming. I wouldn’t have any thing any other way. Just wonderful in every way. Hell, I’m grateful it put me out of my 5-star reads dry spell!

Overall, I’m so happy how Hardcore turned out for me and I’d definitely be looking out for more Dakota Gray books in the future!

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PS. Okay okay I admit to being scared as shit because OW and OM were mentioned but thankfully there wasn’t any fucking that happened between those people and our (anti) hero and heroine.

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