This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Carina Press
Released on December 8, 2014
When I read book two of the series, I remember wanting to pursue a couple guys’ stories. Bracken was one of them so I was thrilled to see that this was his story. It was also very cool to see that the MMA fighter was the heroine just to mix things up a bit. I enjoyed the strong dose of romantic suspense to this one and the sass that was a strong part of the romance.
This is book three in a series that can be read as a standalone though it is directly connected to book two.
The story opens with Huntley Wittaker determined to make her own way in life on her own terms. She left behind her southern roots, her broken and grieving family and now she is here in Reno set to pursue a new path if only she can find a decent trainer. Unfortunately, her choices are slim to none with the obnoxious jerk who sneers and calls her ‘Creampuff’ as her only viable option. But with things back home getting bad and money needed to hold onto the family business, Huntley accepts the dubious help of Bracken.
Bracken has had a rough year. He got pegged as the fall guy for the drug bust gone bad and only the Internal Affairs guy handling him believes in him, he has to go deep undercover with a criminal motorcycle club to pursue what happened with his case, and now the trail leads to an illegal fight club in Reno where he has to take on the training of a woman fighter to get in close and investigate the club for his drug King Pin. Bracken hates using Huntley and he hates his whole situation so he makes things rough and he’s a real jerk. It gets more complicated when his attraction to Huntley threatens to be way more than an itch he can scratch. Meanwhile, he has the Russian mob, a motorcycle club, an Internal Affairs prick and Huntley all riding him to make good.
Oys, this one was tough. I struggled with this book because there were elements I liked, elements I didn’t like and elements that left me skimming. I think the best way I can say it is that it had a strong potential for more, but didn’t quite make it. The pace was good and kept things moving. The worldbuilding was well drawn and took the time describe the MMA training world and cross with the criminal activity going on in the background.
The sporting element was very prevalent which is a good thing since its a sports romance. I really liked that Huntley’s training was emphasized so it made sense that she was able to go from unknown inexperienced amateur to a huge bout in Vegas. There was one thing that did push my credulity. Huntley’s victories against male featherweights was within the realm of possibility, but there was this one big scene when she fights a huge guy that a heavyweight and experienced fighter like Bracken had to work to take down and here little Huntley is not just holding her own, but beats him. Super cool result and I was totally rooting her on, but not very believable. The Ka-Pow factor and it worked for that.
There are suspense elements in both Huntley’s life and Bracken’s. As soon as the situations were laid out, I pegged the villains and sat there waiting- and waiting- for the two to clue in. It was hard because it wasn’t a matter of me as the reader having extra info that they didn’t have. They knew what I knew and yet there we sat until the end when the lightbulbs came on.
In particular, I really found the stuff with Huntley’s past distracting more than anything because it felt like drama for drama’s sake. There was already the conflict caused by her prep for the fight, involvement with Bracken and the trouble at the Warehouse without all that stuff from her past. Seriously the murder of her mom, sabotage of her family business, and conniving to gain control of said business and stealing of all her mom’s stuff pointed only one direction and this had been going on for years. Huntley, her family, the police? Nobody suspects the obvious? Hmm…
The romantic pair had good chemistry, but then again sometimes I felt like I was reading a situation of sibling rivalry. As romantic leads they were drawn with a heavy hand so that the snarls and growls didn’t appeal at times. Bracken antagonized Huntley and she antagonized him. They blew hot and cold and not at the same time so it was really just a matter of them timing it right. Hotness factor was there as they trained together and produced a ton of heat and spice. Bracken in action in the ring and as an undercover cop were lust-worthy scenes and Huntley taking what Bracken taught her and bringing down her opponents were pretty exciting too.
This leads to my take on the characters. Bracken’s character probably made it the closest when it came to favorite though I really wanted to throat punch him a few times. He’s had a rough childhood, he’s been wronged and he’s coming off of a deep undercover gig that ripped into his very soul so his gritty, meanness that coated strong honorable motives made sense and worked.
Huntley took me longer to appreciate. It was one of those things where the book is telling me what sort of character she is, but I didn’t see her that way so it was hard for me to reconcile the two. I could more believe that Huntley grew into the person I was told that she was because the Huntley at the beginning of the book was more potential than actuality. I saw her as young, naive, and determined not strong and independent, but she does get there.
So, while I had some issues, there was enough to keep me going and excited for the finish. I would recommend this book/series to those who like some grit, darkness and spicy heat to their sports romances.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.