Guest Post: Author Christina Mandara reviews Tragic by J.A. Huss (Review & Excerpt)

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Tragic by J.A. Huss

Series: Rook and Ronin #1
Source: Personal Library
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Rook Walsh is TRAGIC

Because life so far – just sucks. Some girls get parents. Rook got the foster care system. Some girls get Prince Charming. Rook got an abusive frog. Some girls get lucky…

Rook got a second chance.

And she took it. Because when fate throws you a bone – you grab it with both hands and run.

Antoine Chaput knows the minute he spies Rook in his photography studio that she’s got The Look. The dark and desperate look he must have to land the exclusive TRAGIC media contract.

Rook is paired up with top model, Ronin, and he’s everything her abusive ex-boyfriend wasn’t. Patient, gentle, happy, attentive, and sexy! He knows exactly what to do to make Rook blush for Antoine’s camera.

Rook’s luck changes in an instant and suddenly she’s the darling of the modeling world. It’s a dream job to go with a dream guy and all she has to do is look pretty and follow directions. But there’s always a price to pay – and Rook is about to get the bill.

Buy The Book:
Recommended – Buy the Omnibus with all three Rook & Ronin books:


Rook is tragic. The girl’s a serious mess and she has problems-a-plenty. Currently living in a homeless shelter after her ex brutally abused her, she now finds herself with no job and, more importantly, no money.

I realize now that lots of abusers look for young girls because they are easier to control and scare into silence, but at the time I just thought it was cool that an older guy liked me. He thought I was sexy, he told me things no boy ever told me. He treated me like a woman even though I was a girl.

The heroine of the story spends her last ten bucks on a ridiculously expensive cup of coffee from Starbucks, even though she’s ravenously hungry and has no panties (someone stole them all – it’s true!) I pretty much fell in love with Rook at that point. It’s the kind of crazy assed thing I would do.

So, when a group of girls enter the (seriously overpriced but yummy) coffee shop, bitching about life in general, they throw away an invite for a modelling shoot. By a sheer twist of fate, she finds herself in Antoine Chaput’s modelling studio auditioning for the role of the ‘Tragic’ campaign. She’s reed thin, drop-dead beautiful, with long ebony hair and a general all-round tragic demeanour – so of course they love her – almost instantly.


This guy is the all-round boy-next-door hottie and when he spies a lost soul, he just wants to wrap his arms around her and make it all better. He’s got one hell of a job on his hands because Rook isn’t going to trust anyone in a hurry.

When Rook spends the afternoon posing for a test shoot only to find out that she’s not getting paid for the experience, she crumples in a heap on the floor and howls her eyes out. Lucky for her, Ronin’s sister takes pity on her and in just a few hours Rook has a job, a place to stay and both clothes and panties (hoorah!). Although I’d say panties were overrated with the dashingly dishy Ronin around.

“She belong to you, Ronin?”

Ronin looks at me with a satisfied grin. “That’s right, Angie. This one belongs to me alright.”

So, problem number one: How do you do a sexy modelling shoot with a girl who can’t be touched?

Ronin has more than a few problems in getting Rook relaxed for the camera, not least the need to fight his burgeoning attraction to her.

Ronin: I don’t want to ruin this girl but I’m not sure I can stop it now.

Rook’s well aware that sexy model Ronin is a player and she has similar anxiety attacks, albeit about different things, mostly how to get rid of his constant presence.

Rook: Ronin is a player, a user, and a control freak. And I want absolutely nothing to do with him.

Problem number two: Rook is not doing anything naked. Except with Ronin, of course 😉 And that’s pretty much where all the trouble starts…

I stop mid sentence because his mouth is nuzzling into my neck, his breath hot as it sweeps up into my ear, making me shudder and let out a little moan. “You OK?”

“Mmmmhmmmm,” is all I can manage, because a chill rockets down my spine and my head involuntarily tips back give him permission to suck on my neck.

Holy shit.

And this is where the story gets interesting. Rook is busy trying her hardest to stay away from bad boy Ronin, and Ronin, conversely, is trying his hardest to get his hardest parts close enough to Rook to do damage.  The tragic campaign is going to give Ronin all kinds of advantages with wooing his lady, because he gets to put his hands on her almost daily, and it’s an impressive female with a hardened heart that can resist a good-looking male model with a cheeky sense of humour.

Problem number three: When Ronin finally manages to work his way into Rook’s good graces, she decides to accept a modelling contract with his best friend, who will be spray-painting her naked body with his body art designs for several weeks.


Verdict: This one’s a page-turner. It’s written in the first person, is full of emotion, and I was immediately drawn into Rook’s plight.  The little insights you get into Rook’s world are not pleasant, but you quickly come to understand why she’s so skittish around men. Whether Ronin will be up to the challenge of helping her face her fears is anybody’s guess – but he’s got quite a job on his hands.


Ronin finding panties for Rook to wear

Ronin teaching Rook how to wash hair

Rook getting even with Ronin after being taught to wash hair

Every single damn sexy modelling shoot with Ronin – DRIBBLE.


There was a rather large story flaw for me in this book. Would a girl who was running away from an abusive ex really be stupid enough to put her face all over billboards everywhere? If she were running, surely she’d be hiding and lying low. I cannot imagine why Rook would want to wave a red flag at her ex and say come find me here.  I appreciate she needs money, but modelling? Hmm…

In any case, it’s a moot point – I loved the book from start to finish and devoured it. J A Huss is very talented with her suspenseful story telling and I’m looking forward to seeing Rook spray painted by Spencer (and tormenting the hell out of Ronin) in book two 🙂

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The girl catches me staring and I hold my breath. But neither of us turns away. We stare, unabashed, until Antoine’s direction pulls her back into the shoot and she’s lost again—guarded and unhappy, frowning and resigned. She’s a blackbird sitting in a tree staring out at the world, daring the wind to come and knock her off the swaying bough.

She is wrecked, Elise is right. But she’s not down yet. The look on her face is defiant.

When I look over at the clock it’s well past five. Antoine has been shooting her for almost two hours. Elise left a while back but whether she’s still here in the studio or up in her apartment, I have no idea. I lost track of her because my eyes are only on the girl.

Antoine does pretty well until the end. It’s clear he’s finished shooting and the girl is starting to look uncomfortable when he asks her what she was thinking about during the shoot.

I cringe. No, you don’t ask them! You make them want to tell you, you idiot! I want to pull him aside and stop the crash and burn that’s coming, but it’s too late. She snaps at him and he pulls back when he realizes his mistake.

He turns the conversation to business and this is where it really gets interesting. She tells him she’s not a model and has no portfolio. I’m just about to laugh when she starts yelling about pictures as payment.

I look back towards Elise’s station and realize she forgot to explain the terms to her.

We are so off our game today. One tragic girl has disrupted all the carefully laid plans and protocols we’ve had in place for years.

The tragic girl storms off yelling. Antoine walks over to me and we wait together as she rants to Elise.

“You better fix this, Antoine,” I say calmly, but inside I’m screaming too. “Pay the fucking girl, she needs the money.”

He snorts like a fucking Frenchman. “I do not pay for test shoots.”

“This,” I say, turning to face him, “was no test shoot and you know it. You’ve got hundreds of shots in that camera. Pay her and make sure she comes back or I won’t do the contract. I want her. I’ve put up with hundreds of stupid girls over the years for you and I’ve never asked you for a favor like this. I want this one, or I won’t do it.”

He fishes through his pocket and pulls out the cash that Clare never earned.

The studio door slams and we are all reminded that two models have walked out on us today.

“Elise!” Antoine calls, thrusting the bills out at her. “Catch her, pay her, and invite her back on Monday.”

Elise grabs the money and flies out the door.

“We’re in trouble, Ronin. She is trouble.” He turns a little to look me in the eye, something he rarely does unless he’s serious and wants me to consider his advice. “You should stay away from her, keep it professional. Or it might get messy.”

I shrug. “I’ll do what I want. And staying away from her isn’t even in the top million things I want to do with that girl.”

“Elise will hurt you if you ruin this one, Ronin. She won’t tolerate another Mardee.”

Fuck you, is what I think. But I don’t say it, I just sigh and we wait in silence for Elise to come back.

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About JA Huss:

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J. A. Huss likes to write new adult books that make you think and keep you guessing. Her favorite genre to read is space opera, but since practically no one reads those books, she writes new adult science fiction, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, urban fantasy, and books about Junco (who refuses to be saddled with a label).

She has an undergraduate degree in horses, (yes, really–Thank you, Colorado State University) and a master’s degree in forensic toxicology from the University of Florida. She used to have a job driving around Colorado doing pretty much nothing but shooting the breeze with farmers, but now she just writes, runs the New Adult Addiction and Clean Teen Reads Book Blogs, and runs an online science classroom for homeschoolers.

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About our Guest Reviewer:
Author C.P. Mandara

Blog | GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook 

Christina Mandara was born in the UK, but has spent most of her life travelling the world. She speaks three languages and has been chiefly employed in the fields of finance and travel. Her favourite city is Sydney and her favourite holiday destination is the south of France.
She loves keeping fit and enjoys running, cycling and water sports. No, not those kinds of water sports; think surfing or sailing. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t enjoy BDSM in all of its glorious forms, be that pony girls, bondage, edge play, orgasm denial or a damn good spanking. Her favourite item in the toy closet (a box simply isn’t big enough) is her riding crop.
In her spare time she’s usually cuddled up with a good book, exploring the countryside or baking in the kitchen. In fact, she loves her kitchen so much she’s one of few woman who wouldn’t mind being tied to it! Her first and foremost love is writing, however, and more often than not you’ll find her on a laptop spinning tales of romance, erotica or dark, paranormal fantasies.
Those in the BDSM world might wonder whether Ms Mandara is a top or a bottom. Is she currently training a herd of pony boys or is she stabled up, in full leather tack, with the pony girls? It’s a good question. Answers on a postcard please…
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