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.
Romance Roundabout #5 CR
New Release #2
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Literary Pickers #6 shellfish
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