Below the Belt by Jeanette Murray #Review

Below the Belt by Jeanette Murray #ReviewBelow the Belt by Jeanette Murray

Series: #1 First to Fight
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Berkley on April 7, 2015
Pages: 296
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars  

A squad of Marines trying out for a boxing team? Who cares about a story! Haha! Just teasing! I do have a review here for real. I enjoyed the author’s previous trio of romances set on a Marine base and was tickled to death that she tackled the double punch of a sports and military romance. The tone is sassy and light, but has sustenance and a strong romance. I loved to see a determined Marine who has a compelling reason why he needs to make the boxing team, get sidetracked by a feisty athletic trainer and the athletic trainer who has big ambitions and doesn’t want anything to block her chance including a headstrong male hiding an injury. A boxing gym as love’s battlefield? Why not!

The story opens with Lt. Brad Costa arriving on base to join the tryouts for the Marine boxing team. He’s older than his counterparts and this is probably his last chance. His dad died before achieving his dream so Brad wants to do it for him. He focuses on the goal not letting a wise-cracking teammate or the antics of the younger guys draw him in. Not even an injury must get in his way. The hot, sassy trainer mustn’t know or there’s a chance she’ll sideline him before he can make the team. At first, his motives are merely to distract her from his injury, but then time with Marianne becomes so much more. His secret is looming over any chance of a relationship, but his need to make the team makes coming clean with the truth a problem.

Marianne Cook, athletic trainer, is back home with two things on her mind. She will make a success of getting the Marine team through their camp and tryouts as injury free and fit as possible and she will avoid any entanglements with Marines knowing the disaster that can bring after growing up in the shadow of the base. Unfortunately her hormones have other ideas. She can ‘Bad Marianne!’ herself all she wants, but when Brad Costa is in sight she finds him irresistible. As a result of her scrutiny, she notices him favoring his knee. Not wanting to jump the gun, she takes a wait and see. He won’t talk to her about it and even when she agrees to try out dating, he stays closed mouth about his injury. Against her better judgment, she holds back, but in the end- dating or not- if he is injured, she will make that call.

It was an interesting backdrop for a story and I loved it. Sports medicine and training for a sport provide a good base, but add in a romance along with a bit of suspense from the mysterious sabotage going on, and I was hooked. The well-developed characters are flirty and playful. Brad tries to be the loner, curmudgeonly type, but Marianne and the other Marines won’t let him.

“Where are you from?” Her heels thudded gently against the wooden leg of the table.
“Illinois.”
She waited a moment. “Me? I grew up in Jacksonville. Moved away for college and my first training gig, then came back for this job specifically. Thanks for asking, chatterbox.”
His lips twitched before he could catch them.
“Jeez, you really ask a lot of questions. I’m an only child and that was my mom sitting with me the other night at the bar, though you likely already figured that out. Got any siblings over there in Illinois?”
He raised a brow.
“If you don’t shut up, I’ll never get a word in edgewise,” she said with mock seriousness.
He turned to look at the wall for a while before she caught the smile.
She grinned, totally onto him. “You can’t resist forever. Eventually you’ll crack under the pressure…”
p. 44 Marianne from Below the Belt

I loved the story that was much more than an isolated romance. Brad learns to be a part of a team and the interaction within the group of guys was great.

“And the group didn’t go out tonight anywhere. I know, since I would have been invited before you,” Higgs continued…”So I’m left to conclude that you had a date.”
That one word had all his hackles rising. No, not a date. Not dating the trainer. “Wasn’t a date.”
“Ah, he speaks.” As if that were an invitation, Higgs sat at the edge of his bed, within kicking distance. Brave SOB.
“And as you didn’t feel the need to denounce the other options”-
“You did for me,” he pointed out.
“-I am left to conclude”-
“Again”
“That it was a date, and that you are embarrassed by her. Which makes this all the more interesting.” Flopping back, he laced his hands behind his head. His elbow bumped Brad’s. “So tell me more.”
“Hold on, I forgot to put on my nightgown and grab my curlers. Do you want to do my hair or should I do yours first?” Brad asked with as much of a sneer as he could work up.
“You got curlers? Go for it. No judgment.” Higgs shrugged. “She a stripper? Married? Ugly as sin?”
“What? No!” Brad sat up and shoved his roommate. The man didn’t budge.
“So there is a woman. Damn! You’re bad at this.” Rolling to his feet, Higgs chuckled as Brad threw his second pillow- this time with perfect aim- at his back.

p. 67 Brad and Higgs from Below the Belt

Marianne’s time with her friend and her mom were a blast too. But that romance was an incredibly fun time. Marianne is such a sass and she loves to have fun when its sexy times. And these two were sexy together. Even as I waited for the other shoe to fall with Brad’s lying about his injury to Marianne, I had a really good time reading along. There is the feel that this book is setting up the series, but that was just a very small part which left me eager for more.

Wrapping it up, this one was engaging and fun, asking the reader to laugh along and wink with it. There was an exciting, sexy couple and a good plot to draw one in and keep them reading. The story involves Marines, but I would rate it more as a sports romance because of the focus. Contemporary lovers who like hot and spicy fun romances should give this one a try.

My thanks to Penguin Group and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Romance Roundabout #143 CR

New to Me #74 series

Cliché Klatch #68 ‘hustled like his pants were on fire’

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Everyone is reading this book, I really need to hurry up and grab a copy before everyone moves on, lol.

    • I feel that way sometimes too, but I’ve gotten so behind on so many series that I’m getting used to feeling that way. No sweat, Lanie! It will be there when you have time for it. 😉
      This was a cute and fun story.

      • This is true, I’ll just have to add it to the mountain of books needing to be read. One day, I’m expecting to see a book troll pop outta those books and tell me he’s takin them for himself.

  • Marines trying out for a boxing team I think they should make that into a movie. I’d watch it. lol Thanks for the review, it sounds great.

  • I’m not much into military romances, but damn, those quotes are good ! OK, if you say it’s that good, I’m adding it to my list 😉

    • Ah, Iza! So glad I could tempt you. 😉 Honestly, the military part is pretty minimal. The boxing training and romance are the big parts.

  • Like Iza I am not really a fan of military romances and I haven’t read a lot of sports romances, but I did enjoy the few I did. Although boxing doesn’t really appeal to me, either as a sport or as topic for a book. I do like the sound of it having a light tone but with a strong romance. And it sounds like a well written book with interetsign characters. I am not a fan of characters lying about things, aIthough I hope he eventually did tell her the truth. Great review!

    • Well, yes, he eventually came clean, but he did stretch it out a long time and still messed it up. LOL! There wasn’t any mention of guys bashing each other mostly about training for it so no squeemish stuff.

  • RO

    Yay! Give ma a good Marine story any day, and i particularly like that he’s older with a story to tell. Great review! hugs…

    • I loved those things about the story too, Ro. It was a light, playful story too.

  • oh boy….I gotta have this one now. I do love a sexy marine and this sounds like such a fun story, I love the bantering and it definitely sounds like a story I would love especially since I am reading more sports based romances now. Fab review hun.

    • I think you’ll like her writing, Renee. Lots of fun bantering and sexy Marines! 😉

  • Yes please…yum a sexy ex-military guy. You have me drooling and adding it to my unbelievably large tbr pile

    • No kidding! I saw this one and couldn’t click the request for it fast enough. 😉

  • Great! First in the series 🙂 I love that, get on it right away. Sounds
    wonderful Sophia. I don’t think I’ve read or listened to story
    featuring boxing. Great combo Military+ sports!

    • Yep, this combo caught my eye right away, Loupe. It focuses more on the gym work and conditioning in this one rather than actual boxing, but I suspect further into the series there will be some actual boxing.

  • Lindy Gomez

    I love Sports Romance, and enjoyed this one as well 😉 The interaction that Brad had with his team was one of my favorite parts of the story. I agree that this was an engaging and fun read! Excellent Review Sophia!

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape

    • The guys were great together. Looking forward to more from this series.