Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen

Hard Hitter by Sarina BowenHard Hitter by Sarina Bowen

Series: #2 Brooklyn Bruisers
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance
Published by Berkley on January 3, 2017
Pages: 331
Format: eARC
Buy: Amazon
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Somehow I missed the release of the first book in the Brooklyn Bruisers series, but my blogging pal at Delighted Reader left a fantastic review for it and brought it to my attention.  Naturally, when Hard Hitter came along, I was all over it.  Hockey and romance with solid in-depth characters was not to be missed.

I didn’t read this in order, but found it quite easy to pick it up as a standalone or out of order.

The story opens with Bruisers’ team captain, Patrick O’Doul, near the end of the season and his team in the play-off picture.  Patrick is the hardened veteran enforcer of the team meaning it’s his job to deal with the side-ring fights that are all part of the hockey game experience.  Secretly, Patrick dreads the moment when the gloves come off and he must go a round with the other team’s enforcer.  He’s just not into it and his aging body is taking a pounding, but he does what he has to do.  And this means that if the training staff insist on yoga and massage, then he must comply.

Ari loves her job as the yoga teacher and massage therapist for the Bruisers even if she only has a general idea about the sport of hockey.  The camaraderie of the team and the mood of the organization under the leadership of Nate, the owner is perfect.  If only her private life were the same.  Eight years with a guy before she finally did something about her mistake when he gives her a scary wake up call.  And he’s still not gone.

Ari and Patrick get to know each other better as she works to get him to relax on her massage table and he comes to her rescue from her abusive and dangerous ex.  Ari hates relying on others now that she has wrested control back of her life and is still bruised from being a victim.  Patrick has a past and a secret that may get in the way of anything with Ari just as much as her own fears and need to hold him at a distance.

Alright, yes, I was eager to try this series after seeing all the love for book one and I found that the early enthusiasm did not lead to disappointment.  I found the author balanced the world of pro hockey and the large cast of characters associated with the club well with her story of Patrick and Ari.  There’s a good build to the conflict and resolution with a nice blend of humor, drama, and spicy passion (hey, fit hockey player and limber yogi, need I say more).

There was actually a lot going on in this story behind the main romance including the character’s individual stories.   I liked seeing that the romance is not told in isolation.  The surrounding cast of characters have smaller storylines going on.  I was actually pretty intrigued by the characters from the front office as much as the hockey players surrounding Patrick.  There is a love interest between the owner and his assistant that is cute because he’s crushing on her and she’s oblivious.  Then there is this fun moment in the story when Patrick asks his team for advice about courtship and gets several ideas with the youngest guy having some good instinct about the ladies.

A suspense element is dropped in due to Ari’s stalker ex who keeps trying to get back into her apartment building and is making threats to her and Patrick.  It was interesting, but I preferred the romance and the time spent around the hockey team to this plot thread.

But, for all the other things going on, the romance was the central focus and it was a good one.  It’s a daring rebound romance for Ari and a first time for Patrick.  They were great together as they worked into a cautious friendship and then he starts to openly court her with the ideas he got from the other guys.  He didn’t let her push him away and he was upfront with her while respecting her boundaries.  Patrick was shaped by his past, but he was also keeping a big secret that I just knew was going to spring into the open at the worst time- and it did.  Ari is healing from a bad relationship and the timing of meeting Patrick leaves her wary of trying again.  Her fears and reluctance made sense even if I was silently begging her to stop holding a really good guy at arm’s length and just say yes.

All in all, I had a great outing with this book and can’t wait to get ice queen Lauren’s story in the next book.  I definitely want to go back for Leo and Georgia’s book.  Those who enjoy spicy sports romance need look no further.  Give this book/series a go.

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

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #5 CR
New Release #2
Books N Tunes #3 Pearl Jam’s Better Man
Literary Pickers #6 shellfish
COYER #43

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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 keep hearing how fantastic this series is. I so need to give it a try. I do love a good sports romance.

    • And see, that’s what hooked me in. I saw three enthusiastic reviews and had to have it. 🙂 Hope you like it if you get the chance, Quinn.

  • First I’ve heard of this series but I agree, it does sound good.

    • I somehow missed it at first too and then saw Shari’s review of the first one. I can tell this one was different from that one, but still very good. I like the promise of variety in the romance, but still a good hockey team romance series.

  • Ive been a fussy reader lately, especially with romance, but I definitely want to eventually read this series. I know Bowen is a loved author.

    • It’s tough for a genre not to go stale so I don’t blame you for being fussy. This was my first by Bowen and I had a good time with it.

  • I do need to read more sports themed romances and have been curious about picking this author up!! I do like that the romance was the central focus. Glad you liked this one.

    • I thought this was a great balance between the sports scenes and the romance. I liked that she was athletic with her yoga and massage therapy as much as he with his hockey. The plot was a strong romance that included friends and suspense so I had a good time.

  • Oh, a sports romance. I’ll definitely need to read this one this year.

    • This was definitely one of the better ones I’ve read. Hope you get the chance, Vanessa!

  • While the suspense angle wasn’t your favorite, this does sound good. I like the friendships, team vibe you mentioned.

    • Oh yes! I thought the sports aspects, their romance and even their pasts made up for any druthers about the mild suspense element. So glad I grabbed this one. 🙂

  • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Sophia! Now to go back to book one. It was pretty fun, too. I loved that scene with him asking the other guys for advice 😀

    • I do plan to go back for book one. I am pretty intrigued by what will come in book three.

      Oh man, that scene just made me laugh. I loved that he had his moments with his teammates. It was great how her girlfriends kept Ari from being her own worst enemy, too.

  • I think I have two or so books by this author, I actually bought one of her books this week as it was on sale. I haven’t read any of her books yet though. I like the sound of this one with her being a masseur and him playing hockey. Good to hear the balance between the sport element and romance is well done. Oh I like it when the side characters have their own lives as well and it sounds very well done here with how they have their own stories too. Great review! You make me curious about this book now!

    • This was my first book I read by her and when I enjoyed it, I discovered that I have one other book (not from this series) already on my shelf. Guess I need to read more off my Kindle. LOL

      It was a nice balance of story threads so it felt so much more than just the romance. It was fun about their different careers that brought them together.
      Hope you get the chance to read one of your books to try her stuff.

  • Sounds like a good one. I want to read that advice segment 😉

    • That was one of my favorite scenes in the book, Velvet. Those guys were really hard at work coming up with ideas to court a woman and some of the ideas were a hoot. And they were really trying which was what made it more funny.

  • Shari Delighted Read

    I loved this story! I need to get my review written as I think this series rocks!

    • Yes, I agree. I look forward to your review. 🙂