Review: Jackson's Justice

Jackson's Justice audiobook cover. A ruggedly handsome man embraces a seductive readheaded woman above a backdrop of the American outback.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars  ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 14 hrs 46 mins.
🔥Steamy content!🔥

Jackson's Justice is the second audiobook of a trilogy that is part romance, part family saga, and part science fiction adventure - all set against the rugged, unyielding backdrop of the American midwest. The wild, uncompromising landscape is echoed in the strapping, steadfast Jackson men, especially so in Heath whose desire to remain untamed equals that of the most recalcitrant colt on the ranch.

Unusually, even for a raunchy romance, the explicit descriptions in this audiobook begin almost immediately. I'm no prude, but I prefer it when the author 'earns' the steamier scenes, having built up the characters' anticipation a little and allowed us to get to know them before revealing their most intimate desires. However, as the story unfolded and I grew more familiar with the character whose observations prompted such vivid descriptions, it made much more sense that he would dive in with no holds barred, as he does with everything else!

Much as I enjoyed the book, it did feel as though there were two distinct parts, which could have been split into two books. There was a natural conclusion to the plot around halfway through and, at a total of almost 15 hours long, it could easily have been split into two volumes without either feeling insubstantial.

I found the Jackson family very endearing, with each character developed enough to feel integral to the balance of humour, warmth, and strength that kept them together. Despite my reservations regarding one particular angle, I would still gladly listen to the other books in the trilogy just to spend a little more time with this funny, loyal family.

Though mostly a standalone novel, I'd recommend listening to the previous book in the trilogy first, as this book contains spoilers for the previous story. I wish I'd had the opportunity to listen to book one, Marshal's Law, first, but very much hope to add it to my library soon. I have enjoyed getting to know the characters and am intrigued by the underlying sci-fi element which seems rather out of place in this novel without the proper history. Even if I hadn't liked the characters so much I might have been tempted to listen to book one just for the narrator, and I'm sure he will be a determining factor in my pursuit of the full series.

The narrator in question, Gideon Welles, was possibly my favourite part of this audiobook. His voice is rich, deep, and velvety, with a throaty, southern drawl; like melted chocolate with a shot of whiskey. He was perfect for this audiobook, and is very easy to listen to. I usually keep away from American narrators for romances, especially historical ones, because I don't find the accent very relaxing and and I listen to this genre when I need to rest and allow my mind to wander. Welles' voice was soothing but also kept me engaged in the story and willing to forgive the characters almost anything, nearly as eager to hear more from Heath as Jenny was!

I loved curling up in bed and unwinding with his sonorous, reassuring voice, whose intimacy was pitched just right for the steamier scenes between the couple. We have just had our first days of snow this winter, and I was very glad that Welles' voice radiates such enticing warmth.

There is a content warning for this book on Audible, which didn't dissuade me from listening but which I now think ought to be worded differently.

As well as a physical assault this book contains repeated instances of humiliation and 'corporal punishment' which are often unnecessary and are unhealthily dressed up as a strong, stable man 'taming' an unruly woman 'for her own good'. I felt there were far better ways this could have been achieved, and that the book mistakenly conflates harmless consensual activities with harmful non-consensual ones when exploring this otherwise-innocuous kink. If you're sensitive to historical themes which would today be considered abusive then their repeated occurrence and patronising justification would likely make this book uncomfortable and render the romantic lead wholly unlikeable.

It wasn't a deal-breaker for me, but I did feel that it was handled irresponsibly and that the author could have included similar themes in a much more realistic and far more empowering fashion. Jenny is not a woman typical of her era, and accepts her early 'punishments' far too meekly for someone so spirited. That she simply submits to the degradation and impropriety of being forcibly put over the knee of a man who has no claim on her feels out of character, and at odds with her reaction to other events. I felt that Heath's powerful masculinity and suitability to complement Jenny's stubbornness could have been demonstrated in a way that did him more credit. (Especially given his later assertion that "nothing is out of bounds as long as it feels good".) A truly powerful, desirable man doesn't need to 'control' a headstrong woman so bluntly, and would certainly be swiftly disabused of the notion that it could ever be effective. Had Jenny's character been a willing participant rather than an embarrassed girl who was begging him to stop, I wouldn't have found the scenes uncomfortable. As it is, even when she came to appreciate the dominance it was ruined by a sentence that has been the downfall of many women in real relationships. While contemplating the imminent physical reprimand, Jenny says to herself, "she wanted Heath, which meant taking the good with the bad".

I am aware that there is a sub-genre of erotica in which spanking is a central theme, but I still feel that we have an obligation to acknowledge the difference that consent (or the lack thereof) makes to the character's experience. Repeatedly referring to Heath as a 'good man' and a 'hero' despite him continually punishing a vulnerable young woman against her wishes is not a healthy expression of a BDSM fantasy. I don't object to the depiction of non-consensual spanking, but excusing it as the price of loving an attractive alpha-male - and exonerating him from any wrongdoing or flaw in his character - hit a spot as sore as Jenny's behind.

When all is said and done none of the above ruined the story. The plot still captured my interest, I was satisfied with the ending, and I adored the narrator. I'm already intrigued by the set-up to the next book in the series, and hope it comes to Audible soon. In the meantime I hope to listen to the first book to learn more about Aaron and Janelle's story, while awaiting the audio recording of Luke's.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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