All Jacked Up: Rough Riders Series, Book 8

All Jacked Up - Lorelei James The eighth offering in James' popular Rough Riders series, All Jacked Up pits wild child Keely McKay against the buttoned-up Jack Donaghue in an explosive battle of wills. I would argue it's James' strongest offering to date.Keely, looking to shed her wild child status, bought a derelict historic building she's looking to renovate and turn into a health clinic. Historic preservation rules require a certified restoration specialist to oversee the project, and Jack's the man for the job. Despite a history of antagonism between them, Jack agrees to take on the job, with a small caveat - that they get engaged. Jack needs to play the part of a family man to get a large contract in conservative Utah, and Keely needs a restoration specialist. Thusly, a sham engagement is born, and hijinks ensue.All Jacked Up is a treat to read from start to finish. James builds sexual tension up slowly and stretches the emotional conflict to span the entire book. There are no superfluous sex scenes here like in some previous books. Each scene peels another layer of their defenses away, revealing the happy couple buried far beneath.Each character maintains their personalities. They begin the book two hot heads and they end the book as hot heads. James avoided turning one or the other into an acquiescent limp rag. Instead, they continue to bicker, but the bickering changes in tone and the make up sex gets hotter as their attachment grows. These two are that couple you know who love to argue all the time, but are unequivocally devoted to each other, even if they'd never admit it out loud. James has them work through their insecurities to get what they both want, but aren't brave enough to ask for.Like previous books in the series, All Jacked up does suffer from a Parade of Past Protagonists. Anyone picking this up as a standalone would be dizzy trying to keep track of the secondary characters and their army of offspring, who truthfully add little to the story beyond fan service (not that kind.) If James had focused on a smaller circle of her family and friends, rather than inundating the book with every relation she's created, it would have made for a much tighter narrative.All told, I found this to be the strongest book in the series. The focus on the hero and heroine was refreshing and their issues were worked through thoroughly, slowly and believably.