Fight to the Finish by Jeanette Murray #Review

Fight to the Finish by Jeanette Murray #ReviewFight to the Finish by Jeanette Murray

Series: #3 First to Fight
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Berkley on March 1, 2016
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
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With book three in the series, we arrive at Graham and Kara’s story.  I have enjoyed watching them secretly crush on each other from the beginning and get to know them through the series.  Graham is one of the older boxers on the Marine boxing team with a steady head and easy going nature.  Kara is the friend of Marianne the PT and the yoga instructor hired to work on flexibility with the team.  Kara has a son with severe food allergies and carries the burden of single parenting while dealing with her selfish ex’s shenanigans.  While she is happy to see the way Graham has connected with her son and doesn’t seem to mind all that comes with him, she is gunshy of any relationship knowing the issues that come with dating her.  So she attempts to keep Graham at arm’s length even as the determined Marine has no intentions of letting the woman of his dreams push him away.

As noted, this is book three in the series.  The stories are connected even if the main couple has changed.  The ongoing issue of the saboteur and training for the All-Military tournament have progressed plus this couple was introduced in book one and their story is tangled with the others.

Kara has a lousy ex who got her pregnant while she was still in high school and then walked away because he was just sleeping with the young, naive girl.  Her parents threw her out of the house when they found out and it was only by her own tough, hard work and a few loyal friends including Marianne’s family that she survived and made it to where she is.  She had the work of building up her yoga business and also working with her son’s severe food allergies.  Now things are more stable, but her ex is making noises to reduce his already piddling child support.  Along with this, she meets a decent guy who seems open to dating a single mom with a complex kid, but how can she when her ex won’t sign off on his parental rights which forces her to be tied to the state until Zach is eighteen?  Graham is military and he will have to move so a long-term and long-distance relationship would be like trapping him.  So no, it is best that she push him away.  Only Graham won’t take the hint.

Graham is a solid JAG lawyer for the military, has a supportive family, and loves being on the Marine Boxing Team, but what really has his interest is beautiful, strong and independent Kara.  He has gone gently with her knowing that she has a past that includes a loser who took advantage of her and Graham is also careful to cultivate a relationship with her son.  He wants them both.  Now if only he can convince Kara that he doesn’t care about the complications and it’s alright to allow someone to help her.  His focus is divided between Kara and the escalating acts of sabotage to the boxing team.  He and the other leaders have decided that enough is enough.  The MPs can’t give it their entire focus so it is time for the team to step up and work on it.  It has to be someone close to the team and if they are vigilant they can catch him or her in the act.

So, this was book three.  Like the others, it is more focused on the relationship with the training time and issues with the saboteur taking a back seat though happily the big reveal on the saboteur does finally come to a conclusion in this book.  Unlike some books that feature military heroes and military settings this one really isn’t about that.  It’s more along the lines of a typical, gently-paced heartwarming Contemporary Romance.  The barriers are not tension or passion-laden and the conflict is more internal though yes, there is a spike near the end when things got exciting with the sabotage part.  I was glad to see that the author brought that to a close.  I smugly nodded to see that the culprit was the one I chose from back in book one.

As to the characters, Graham is a likable hero.  He was steady, understanding, fun-loving and good for Kara.  He was romantic.  My only niggle was that he is not as developed as Kara.  His backstory is touched on, but not spotlighted.  He gets narration time, but his thoughts and dialogue are mostly in the here and now.  I would have enjoyed learning more about him especially as he was a military lawyer.  Not to say that he didn’t have a strong presence because he did, but he came as a put together person unlike his heroine who had a lot of growing to do.

It is Kara that the focus settles on.  I was a little leery going in because I knew Kara was pushing Graham away when there is nothing wrong with Graham.  I was worried that her issues would be piddly things and then I’d get annoyed at her for dinking around with a good guy.  But as it turned out, even if her issues were built up more in her mind than in reality, she had a legit reason to be off putting about a relationship.

Her ex liked his power trips so he had her convinced that if she rocked the boat and tried to change the status quo that he would go for more custody and pay less support.  I see this sort of blackmail all the time with my job so I know how it works and unfortunately the responsible parent does have to take it seriously because it does work.  This guy wanted nothing to do with his son, but to make Kara pay and feel the thrill of controlling her, he would take her through the cost of court that she couldn’t afford and the fear that if he got more time with his son then she would have the stress of knowing that while he had Zach that her son’s food allergies would be a matter of concern.  So yeah, the barrier in this one was frustrating, but real.

Fortunately for Kara, Graham is a lawyer and has some knowledge of family law so the biggest barrier is her learning to let others help.  Her pride gets in her way.  And the pride is understandable, too.  She had to face the shame of being a teen mom, parents that turned their back on her, and living on state assistance before learning yoga and building her own business so her pride and gumption was all she had.  It’s hard for her to change now, but she has to do it if she stands a chance of freeing herself from her ex and getting a chance with Graham.

In the end, I loved how the author made it about Kara’s triumph and the reward of a family with Graham.  I don’t know if this is the last book in the series since it feels like it could be with a few story arcs finishing with this one.  It was a gentler series than I expected since it featured military guys and boxing, but I still enjoyed curling up with each book and engaging with the characters.  I would recommend this to those who like the easy going heartwarming and slightly spicy Contemporary Romances.

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

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #80 CR
Literary Pickers #78 sports equipment

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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.
  • I nitpick when it comes to characters of contemporary romance. The theme is usually their soulmate changes them for the better so if the development isn’t there, it doesn’t resonate as much.

    Still it doesn’t seem like the unbalanced character growth was a deterrent. These two have interesting backgrounds and their worlds colliding seems like it was intense

    • Yes, this one has a bit more substance than the soulmate hitch. His backstory is not as developed, but his current situation and character were and off course the issues made sense as did how they tackled the conflict. One of the better Contemporary Romance stories, I think.

  • This is very much a series I wouldn’t mind trying.

    • Yep! You really should. These Marine Boxers and their gals are fun and each situation is different.

  • I like stories that have real life problems like the ex that won’t let her leave the state and is wanting to pay less child support. Sounds like a great story and series.

    • Yes, that is what is good about this author’s stories. I’ve read two of her series and I was struck by how her conflicts are real life stuff and not contrived.

  • New look, nice 🙂

    • You should see the covers for the first two books. 🙂 Hubba hubba!

  • Ah yes. You know I’m with you on this one and we chatted over on GR but *sigh* I really loved it so gonna say it again. lol

    You’re right about Graham. I really loved his character but I would have liked more backstory for him and to hear more about his career other than just the little they talked about her case. I’ve never read a JAG military lawyer before so that would have been interesting.

    • Yes, I was very curious about his JAG work, too. I know he was boxing, but it would have been cool to have him have to pop into the office now and then though I tried to be happy with his lawyer mode when he confronted her ex.

      • Or a little more once the culprit was found out there could have been some lawyerly things coming into play. Still good book. Good book 😀

        And I totally loved him going all alpha this is how it is with the ex. Rawr!

        • Oh yeah, that would have been a good way to work it in, too, with the saboteur culprit.