Author: K.A. Merikan
Pages/Word Count: 307 Pages
At a Glance: As the square peg in the round hole of this series, No Matter What didn’t work for me for a number of reasons.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Ghost. Not a member of the Coffin Nails MC. Not a doctor anymore. Not gay.
Luca. Bent, not broken. Will not let go of Ghost. No matter what.
Ghost finds out the hard way that people you meet online aren’t always who they seem to be. When he met ‘Zara’ five years ago, they became inseparable. She’s been with him through the rough and the smooth. He’s been there for her when her abusive boyfriend had her in tears.
She is The One, and despite all his friends considering him crazy, Ghost is about to propose.
But ‘Zara’ turns out to be Luca, and Luca is most definitely a guy. Yet Luca is the same person with big dark eyes, so desperate to be saved that Ghost can’t help but fall head first.
Luca’s so-called boyfriend is not just abusive. He is a Sicilian drug lord, a man dangerous and ruthless. If Ghost is to ever save the person who wreaked havoc on his heart, he has to make a deal with the Coffin Nails MC. But being a member is a destiny he’s always tried to avoid. And when a life of violence becomes too much to bear, he might be the one needing Luca to catch him when he falls.
Review: I’ve now read three of the four novels in K.A. Merikan’s Sex & Mayhem series (book three is M/F), and I have to say my thoughts on this series are all over the place. Although none of these books are without their flaws, I liked Stitch and Zak well enough in Road of No Return, I absolutely loved Tooth and Luci in The Devil’s Ride, and now I’m on the backswing to feeling just south of lukewarm toward Ghost and Luca in No Matter What.
This installment of the series revisits the Coffin Nails MC’s Detroit chapter, where we were first, and briefly, introduced to Ghost, the fair haired and pale (though not albino) doctor who lost his license to practice medicine after a hospital incident where he’d helped Tooth rescue Luci. From his introduction in The Devil’s Ride, Ghost is described as “confident and calm”, but his confidence has gone AWOL in No Matter What.
By the time “Ride” ends, Ghost has withdrawn socially and spends most of his time online, which is where this novel picks up, though the virtual relationship he’s developed with a woman he knows only as Zara began some two and a half years before the end of “Ride”, according to the timeline, when Zara was just sixteen years old. Over the course of those five years, Ghost has fallen in love with Zara while playing the game Age of Endless, to the point he’s arranged a surprise siege at a restaurant, armed with a ring and a marriage proposal, and is prepared to rescue her from her abusive boyfriend. At which point, Ghost quickly realizes Zara isn’t who he thought she was, and he’s been the victim of catfishing.
This is where the story’s conflict is introduced, when Ghost discovers Zara is actually Luca, very much not the woman Ghost had dreamed of marrying. Conflict, however, ends up being too strong a word to describe the way the events that follow play out. Ghost doesn’t really seem to have all that much trouble adapting to the idea of Luca being a man, or accepting his attraction to the man when it came right down to it, nor did he seem to have that much trouble coming to terms with the realization he’s bisexual (or, at least, Luca-sexual). This was all more a subtextual conflict as opposed to providing any real friction in the story or in the relationship Ghost was building with Luca, which made it difficult for me to buy into as a dramatic element of the plot, and therefore felt a bit forced, all for the sake of creating a storyline for this side character who has no real defined role in the MC and seems out of place within the framework of the series. What does work, though, is that we end up seeing how much Luca needed and deserved someone like Ghost in his life, someone patient and kind.
The angst in this relationship, that of the external variety, lies with Luca’s ex-lover, Frederico Villani (a name you may or may not recognize from Guns n’ Boys), and his henchman Antonio, both of whom abuse and violate Luca and seem resigned to making his life hell until he’s either shattered or dead. This leads Luca to the ultimate sacrifice a man can make in the name of love, and finally allows Ghost the chance to reclaim some of the backbone he lacked for the majority of this book. K.A. Merikan never shy away from pushing the envelope when it comes to writing their deviant characters, nor do they pull any punches when it comes to torture and revenge, though I do believe the theme of “the big rescue from his abuser” was written to much better effect in The Devil’s Ride
One of the things I feel continues to plague this series is the lack of a strong editorial presence, leading to repetitive content and awkward narrative passages/dialogue that often come across as stilted and sometimes even overly florid, which leaves those passages feeling ill-suited to the characters and the setting; though, of the three books to date, Ghost is admittedly the most educated and by far the least intimidating of any of the men introduced so far. He was so meek in instances where he truly just needed to step up and be his own hero, never mind being Luca’s that it was frustrating to witness. The disappearance of the “confident and calm” Ghost made him a rather weak protagonist within the context of this series, and leaves No Matter What the square peg to the round hole in terms of its overall fit. It was difficult at times to find much reason to root for Ghost or for his and Luca’s relationship because of this dichotomy.
Apart from the Guns n’ Boys crossover, there wasn’t much new or original dealt with here. The issue of being gay, or in this case, bisexual within the context of a motorcycle club, and the inherent problems this creates, are conflicts that’ve already been addressed in the first two books, so if you’re interested in checking out the MC setting, I would recommend reading The Devil’s Ride to get the best overall feel for this world, as it covers the tropes the series is built on with two characters it was almost impossible not to love.
You can buy No Matter What here: