DARE TO STAY – Jen McLaughlin
The Sons of Steel Row – Book 2
Signet Eclipse
ISBN 10: 978-0-451-47760-5
August 2016
Contemporary Romance

Boston – The Present

Chris O'Brien is a lieutenant in the Sons of Steel Row. This gang, located in a slum area of Boston, sells guns and is currently involved in a war with a rival gang. He admits he has killed men, but only those who deserved to die, and only when his own life was threatened. In the first chapter he lays in an alley, shot by his best friend, Lucas Donahue (DARE TO RUN, book 1). He knows he deserved it because he tried to kill Lucas to move up in the gang's hierarchy. But Lucas didn't kill him, even knowing what he had done. Now, if he lives, he will bear the guilt of his actions. He knows Lucas will be declared dead, but Chris knows he is alive. When his gang's leader calls to tell him the details of the death, he knows Scotty (DARE TO LIE, book 3), Lucas's younger brother, is a cop and arranged the ‘death.' He decides he will keep Scotty's secret as repayment for his own betrayal of Lucas. In his attempt to escape the alley and reach a drug store so he can sew and bandage himself up, a member from the rival gang finds him and orders two of his men to finish Chris off. Shortly, two bodies lie in the alley.

Molly Lachlan is a kindergarten teacher. It is Saturday, the fifth anniversary of her father's murder by a gang-banger robbing the place where he stopped to pick up milk. Working on Saturday is nothing new for Molly, but she is alone leaving the building and has a small accident—slicing open her hand. She goes to the local pharmacy to get bandages, but it is closed, and she runs into a tall, muscular, tattooed man. She recognizes him as the neighbor boy who intrigued her years ago, Chris O'Brien. Since her father's death, he has showed up at her house to do small odd jobs which she appreciated, yet she knew not to encourage him in any way. When he refuses her offer to take him to the hospital, she instead takes him to her house where he can stay until he recovers.

So starts the beginning of an unfulfilled longing-don't go there-start-stop-start again romance between Molly and Chris, who both have had strong, unexpressed feelings for one another since their youth. Each knows the other is an impossible match because of Chris's background. It was hard, too, for me to get over Chris's self-proclaimed killer status. He has suffered physical abuse from his father with tacit approval of this abuse by his mother. His 29th birthday is close and he has never had a birthday or Christmas present, which tips Molly off to his home background. Yet, despite his rough language and behavior, he has always been kind and thoughtful to her. She suspects he is the anonymous person dropping gifts, including her cat Buttons, and poetry off at her door. She learns he is a gifted artist; still, a paring between a known killer and a kindergarten teacher? This is an uphill battle. Can behaviors ingrained since childhood be overcome? Can love truly redeem a person? I won't tell you the conclusion I came to, but urge you to make your own decision while you enjoy the journey of DARE TO STAY.

Robin Lee