Review: Rowdy (#5, Marked Men) by Jay Crownover

My Thoughts

A super hot romance with lots of heart, sexiness and style.
Rowdy and Salem’s love story has got to be one of my favorites
in the Marked Men series!

5stars

Synopsis

RowdyThe New York Times and USA Today bestselling Marked Men series continues with this sizzling, sexy story of love, heartbreak, fate, and second chances.

After the only girl he ever loved told him that he would never be enough, Rowdy St. James knocked the Texas dust off his boots and set out to live up to his nickname. A good ol’ boy looking for good times and good friends, Rowdy refuses to take anything too seriously, especially when it comes to the opposite sex. Burned by love once, he isn’t going to let himself trust a woman again. But that’s before his new co-worker arrives, a ghost from the past who’s suddenly making him question every lesson he ever learned.

Salem Cruz grew up in house with too many rules and too little fun—a world of unhappiness she couldn’t wait to forget. But one nice thing from childhood has stayed with her; the memory of the sweet, blue-eyed boy next door who’d been head over heels in love with her little sister.

Now, fate and an old friend have brought her and Rowdy together, and Salem is determined to show him that once upon a time he picked the wrong sister. A mission that is working perfectly—until the one person that ties them together appears, threatening to tear them apart for good.

My Review

Sizzling. Sexy. Sultry. Super-freakin’ hot. I couldn’t get enough of Rowdy St. James and Salem Cruz. Their story felt so very original and fresh. Their distinctive, individual styles made the entire narrative feel real and vivid, full of tan skin, ruby streaks, slickly styled hair, bloodred lips and bright ink. There was color and style everywhere, making the story come alive in a way that captivated me completely. Their story is one defined by firsts and lasts. Shaped by a past they shared, by the loss they felt, by the hurt they carried and by a future they desperately envisioned and clung to. It was riveting and emotionally charged, full of twists that had my pulse racing and my heart aching.

“For the first time in my entire life I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.”

When Salem uproots her life and heads to Denver to manage the Marked shop, she’s got a certain pair of cerulean eyes in mind. Eyes she’s known since she was a kid, but hasn’t seen in ten years. Salem didn’t have the easiest childhood. Raised under the thumb of her strict, minister father, there were too many rules she had to abide by. Too many rules that stifled the free spirit she really was. When she finally broke free and left the small town of Loveless, Texas, she left not only her family, but also her closest friend, Rowland St. James. They got each other in a way that no one else did. Brought out the best each had to give to the world. They had been inseparable.

Until she left.

“He was a kindred spirit, and he made my heart smile when my day-to-day was so dreary and desolate.”

But Salem knew that Rowdy had feelings for her sister, Poppy, the more perfect and settled of the two Cruz girls. Salem’s wild spirit fought to break free and living under the crushing pressure of constant disappointment and unmet expectations, she had to leave. Over the years, she made a name for herself, found some success, and blossomed into an independent, strong-willed woman. Moving to Denver was an adventure that somehow felt right, particularly since Rowdy was there.

She had never forgotten him.

“That girl had ruined me once when I was young. I would never forget the way I felt when she walked away. I didn’t want Salem anywhere near me. I couldn’t trust myself not to fall back into caring about her, trusting her, being captivated by her, only to have her move on once again, leaving me empty and alone.

When Rowdy sees Salem, a storm of emotions invades him. One thing is clear, however, he wants nothing to do with her. Salem is drudging up past memories he worked so hard to bury. She’s beautiful and unsettling, but she’s a constant reminder of all the pain he’s been through in his life. Not to mention, she’s the sister of the person he believed to be “the one.

“He was something else. Something new and uncertain, something exciting and unexpected in a life that had forever seemed monotonous and bleak. Even though sadness and discontentment bled off of him back then, I could still see the strength and defiance in him that I so longed to have in myself. I wanted to soothe him but I also wanted to watch what happened when someone with that much untapped potential was set free.”

Salem is fascinated by the grown-up version of Rowdy. She’s determined to make him talk to her. So much had been left unsettled between them… so much she still didn’t know about. He seemed angry, not just in general, but at her and she couldn’t understand why. Rowdy definitely wasn’t known for being ornery. He was the charmer. The easy-going flirt. He was a love ’em and leave ’em, one-night-stand kind of guy, but everyone loved him nonetheless. He never let anyone in because the last time he did, he was left behind. His mother left him when she was brutally murdered. Salem left him at a time where they were inseparable. Poppy let him go when he offered her the world. Phil, his mentor, left him when he succumbed to cancer. It was too much and Salem awakened that pain all over again.

“You always saw me, Salem. You understood me when I didn’t even get myself. You were my best friend and then you left. I can’t care about someone, attach myself to someone, when they’re just going to leave me in the end.”

Salem is one of my favorite female characters in the Marked Men series. She’s strong, yet vulnerable. Super sexy and stylish, with a great deal of heart and compassion. She felt deeply, but she wasn’t the type to be broken by affairs of the heart. Spending time with Rowdy intensified the feelings she had felt for him for so long, but insecurities about what he still felt for Poppy plagued her. As walls begin to fall between them and they spend more time together, they find they have something amazing between them. They still have that closeness, that familiar affinity, and now, all that fueled by a scorching hot chemistry, well, it was way more than they ever imagined.

“You always made me really happy, Rowdy. I’m sort of infatuated with all the different ways you make me happy now that we’re all grown up.”

The story really centers around making their relationship work by overcoming the past and all the insecurities they both have. Salem needs to believe his feelings for her are indeed real, while Rowdy needs to process his lingering feelings for Poppy and believe that Salem won’t bolt at the first sign of trouble. Together they are super hot… a perfect match. But just as their relationship settles into a happy calm, things happen around them that shoves the ugly past back into the present in all its painful glory.

“No one had ever said relationships were easy, but somehow I didn’t think they would be this hard or this heartbreaking either.”

Every Marked Men novel has been a 5-star read for me. I absolutely adore this series and every female and male character in it. I love seeing the other relationships evolve as I continue with the series, I love feeling how strong a family these people have come to be. Each person is distinctive and unique, but each love passionately. I can’t get enough of Jay Crownover’s gritty, bold storytelling and already I anxiously await more. Asa is next and I can tell you it’s one hell of a story!

“You are the last person I want to kiss. The last woman I want in my bed. I want you to be the last girl that touches any and all parts of me, Salem, and that means so much more than a first.”

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Excerpt

“I always thought it was the firsts that matter, but now I know that it’s the lasts that stay with you.”

Her mouth puckered into a little frown of confusion and I bent down to kiss that ruby above her lip. She shivered again and this time I knew it didn’t have anything to do with the chill in the air.

“I believed for a long time that I was never going to get past the first girl that made me feel like I was in love. I used it as an excuse to keep other women at an arm’s length because I was terrified of being hurt again. I was afraid, I still am, but I realize that that fact I want to be with you, that I care so much about you means so much more than the fear.”

She sighed and moved one of her hands to rest in on my cheek. “I don’t want you to be afraid of me, Rowdy.”

“You were and have been the source of a lot of firsts for me, Salem. The first girl I kissed. The first girl I ever cried in front of. The first girl I ever gave a present to. The first I never forgot. You’re the first girl that has ever kept me up at night and the first girl that that makes me hurt badly with the way I want you. Looking back I think when you drove away that day you took a piece of me with you that I didn’t get back until I saw you at the shop. All of those firsts are important and made me see things more clearly without the filter of time and resentment in the way, but what really matters is the lasts.”

I bent down so I could kiss her. I just pressed my lips lightly against her parted mouth and whispered to her, “You are the last person I want to kiss. The last woman I want in my bed. I want you to be the last girl that touches any and all parts of me, Salem, and that means so much more than a first. Who cares if Poppy was there first or if there were nameless people in-between? All that matters is that at the end of it all there is just you, only you and no one else.”

She didn’t say anything for a long time, her dark eyes were also so deep and fathomless. It made it hard to read what was going on inside her head. She rubbed her thumb up and down along one of my sideburns and then leaned forward to return the same kind of soft and sweet kiss I had just given her.

“It took me a long time to get here, Rowdy. It’s where I was always supposed to be. This is my final destination so at the end there is just you and only you as well. The journey in the middle shaped both of us, there is no denying it, but I like being your last- just as long as I can keep surprising you with some firsts along the way.”

I laughed because that was typical Salem. Nothing could ever be just good enough. We could be together, would love each other, end up together but she was always going to want it to be new, challenging and surprising. That was one of the main reasons I had never been able to get past her and never would.

“I’ve been around the block. Not too many firsts left.” It was the truth but she had managed to pull one or two out in the months we had been together.

One of her jet black eyebrows shot up and she smiled impishly up at me. “Is that a challenge?”

I laughed again because I was happy. Really, truly happy for the first time since she left when I was fifteen. “It can be.”

I almost melted when her dark gaze switched to something sizzling and hot. The arm she had wrapped around my neck tightened, pulling me closer to her and she traced her fingertip across the outside edge of my mouth.

Reading Order and Links

Each book in the Marked Men series can be read as a standalone, but best enjoyed as a series.

 Rule Jet rome Nash Rowdy cover asa blank cover

My Reviews: Rule | Rome | Nash

Connect with Jay

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Comments

  1. I have three tattoos! One behind both ears, and one on my lower back on the right side. I want more. I want to fill my entire back.

  2. Arijana Pejic says:

    No i don’t have one, but i hope i will, a tattoo of my child’s name 🙂 inside my wrist 🙂

  3. Jodie Larson says:

    No tattoos yet for me, but I have one planned. An ankle bracelet type with flowers, one flower for each of my kids and my husband and a butterfly settling on top of his for the one we lost.

  4. i don’t have one but i would love, on my leg

  5. Christina R. in the rafflecopter

    I’d love one on my wrist, with a little heart 🙂

    thank you so very much 🙂

  6. Jennifer O'Connell says:

    I don’t have any tattoos, always been afraid that it wouldn’t come out like I planned!

  7. Vidhi Joshi says:

    No tattoos yet, but i would get one on my wrist, no exactly sure what design i would get.

  8. Charlene E says:

    I do, two on my lower abdomen. I’d like one more at some point.

  9. Kristen Gray says:

    I’ve got 3 tattoos so far. One on my back, one on my arm and one on my leg. I’m definitely not done, but my wallet has me holding off for now

  10. no tattoos…. Too skeered

  11. Leslie Coppola says:

    I have three…on the inside of my left wrist, the back of my neck & on my lower back. I want more lol!

  12. I don’t have a tattoo yet, but I do want to get one on my wrist and on my foot.

  13. I don’t have any and I’m not sure what kind I’d like…

  14. I do not have any tattoos and I was even in the Navy! I never thought about it back then. I think if I was to get one it would look good down around the ankle area, maybe looking like an ankle bracelet.

  15. No I don’t have a tattoo and not sure how one would look on me but I’m jealous when they look so cool on other people.

  16. michelle kettler says:

    I have a beautiful bunch of flowers on my back , and this summer in honor of my son who joined the Navy i had a beautiful anchor put on the top of my foot.

  17. I have 4! They are totally addicting. I have my ankle, both my sholders on my back and my lower back done. I keep thinking about my next…

  18. Nancy L.R. says:

    I don’t currently have any, but I do plan on getting a few! Most of what I have planned are pretty much book related. Of course. 🙂

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  19. Nop! but I get one pretty soon on my arm :3

  20. I have two, one on my foot and one on my wrist. I definitely have plans for more!

  21. Bonnie Hilligoss says:

    I don’t have any and probably never will, but I’ve seen some pretty neat ones on other people.

  22. I have five tattoos. One on each wrist, each ankle, and a hummingbird on my pelvis. I want another one on my right thumb.

  23. Stephanie Duno says:

    I would like to get one maybe on my leg or my back. Maybe a dreamcatcher.

  24. No tattoos. If I got one, it’d be on my inside wrist. But I think I’m too wishy washy to ever commit to something permanently!

  25. I don’t have a tatttoo, but I’ve thought about getting an owl or butterfly — not sure where though.

  26. I have one tattoo, a yellow rose, on my stomach. I got it when pre kids. I would like a couple more, but haven’t figured out exactly what I want.

  27. No Tattoos here! I always wanted one though…

  28. I have a nautical star right side lower back

  29. Anita Yancey says:

    I don’t have any tatoos. I hate needles.

  30. Karina G. says:

    I currently don’t have any tattoos, but I’ve been wanting one so badly! I honestly have a clue as to what I would get done, and where it would go. But, I think a guy with tattoos just makes him that much hotter!

  31. I have 7 tattoos and really want an 8th on my inner left wrist. My favorite, and most painful, was on my left foot. My celtic knot.

  32. Jenny Dauksa Schaber says:

    I do not have a tat. If I were to get one, it would probably be on my hip or side.

  33. I don’t have one but I want one of a Celtic knot (Irish symbol). Not sure that will ever happen, I am deadly affraid of needles, so who knows 🙂

  34. Ashleigh Downes says:

    I don’t have a tattoo yet but I really want to get one when I get enough money. I already have it all picked out and everything. It’ll be on my shoulder blade.

  35. No I still don’t, but I’d want to have one by my wrist and another probably by my pelvis.

  36. 1006penguins says:

    I want one on my ankle

  37. Maria Vicuna says:

    I don’t have any tattoos

  38. I don´t have a tattoo but I will love to have one on my wrist or my back.

  39. Merelyn Reads says:

    I really want one near my collar bone 🙂

  40. I do not have one but my husband has a bunch 🙂 Thanks!

  41. Amanda White says:

    I have 2 tattoos , on above my right ankle its a memorial tattoo for my best friend who commited suicide nov 7th 2001 its a dagger with a rose and his initials, and i have an uncompleted dragon on my upper left thigh, the guys two tattoo guns broke while working on it , then a couple years later i went to a different person and that gun broke so i took it as a sign to just leave it alone…..I would love to get something on my forearm or calf

  42. Anita Powers says:

    I already have one, it is a butterfly with flowers and hearts on my back. I want one on my forearm and one on my foot yet, I love tattoos

  43. joeysammyk says:

    I have 4! Roses on my left thigh that I got 17yrs ago. Flowers on my right ankle that I got 12yrs ago My bff’s initials in Japanese (or so I was told) on the back of my neck that I got 11yrs ago. My latest one is a celtic motherhood knot with my boys’ names around it that I got last year for Mother’s Day! Love tats!

  44. I have two, one on ankle and one on shoulder blade, Which are kanji’s for wisdom and to love. I would like to get some more.

  45. Lucille Jeanne Lanuza says:

    I don’t have one but i would like to have something on my ankle.

  46. Robbie Bauldree says:

    I don’t have a tattoo but my son has one on each arm

  47. margay1122 says:

    I don’t have a tattoo – I have an aversion to needles, so I will probably never get one. If I was going to, though, I might get something like a crescent moon on a shoulder blade.

  48. Viviana Varona says:

    I don’t have one, but since I’ve become an avid reader I have thought more and more about doing one. Thank you for the chance to win.

  49. Christine LaCombe says:

    No I don’t have one and I don’t really want one but if I was forced to get one it would be a crawfish on my ankle. I am from Louisiana and that is one of the things we are known for. 🙂 Thanks for the giveaway.

  50. María Isabel says:

    I don’t have one but I want one behind my ear 😀

  51. Yes I have 5. One on my right hand near my thumb…it’s a treble clef and bass clef into a heart because of how much I love music; an infinity/heart symbol behind my ear; my grandmother’s name in her signature on my left ankle; a Japanese symbol for talented on my right should blade; and the LEO star constellation on my inner left arm near my elbow. Thanks for the chance to win

  52. Filia Oktarina says:

    No, i don’t have tattoo, but when i go to Bali for vacation, i place tattoo on my hand

  53. Kelly Scroggins says:

    I do not have any tattoos. I can’t think of anything that I would want permanent on my body. Thanks for the giveaway.

  54. rocio barrio says:

    I have no tattoos and I want to make one. I love them more in boys <3

  55. Whitney Danielle says:

    I don’t have one but I like to admire them!! Xoxo

  56. Nope . i no tattoos but i want to have one ! with a cool logo on my chest bone i guess 😀 (but my parents will kill me ! lol!)

  57. Did someone already have itt????? Plase send it to meee mel_15a@hotmail.com
    Cant wait to read i… pleaseeeee

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