This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Entangled Select
Released on December 31, 2013
The idea of a friends-to-lovers romance between an MMA Cage Fighter and the girl next door had me all kinds of eager for this one. Knowing that he was oblivious and she was pining away, should have prepared me for what was to come. I have to tell you. These two…they drove me nuts for much of the book.
The story opens with ex-MMA fighter, Tommy the Lightning Sparks, coming home to his house burned to the ground with everything he owned save the few possessions he had on him along with his dog. He hesitates to take his best friend, Julie, up on her offer to stay with her because he still feels pretty raw about the barfight after his loss in the cage that ended his career and blocked him from his coach and the gym. Julie bailed him out of jail and gave him that disappointed look before telling him to grow up. She’s his only option though and besides, he wants to prove to her that he took her words to heart and had started the road to change from the arrogant party boy caught up by his first taste of fame.
Julie couldn’t not make the offer to Tommy and yet she agonizes over having him living with her. His very presence inflames her, but he only thinks of her as his best friend. For years, she stood off to the side waiting for him to notice her. He is so oblivious that he confronts her about being too caught up in work, not having a life and specifically not having a relationship. In reaction, she takes up with one of his fellow MMA fighters and discovers that this brings out a whole new side to Tommy. He gets protective and seemingly jealous. He even seems to have some pretty intense looks her direction, but he still won’t act on them. She really needs to get over him.
About the time Julie decides she needs to get over Tommy is exactly when he figures out that he is attracted to his best friend and its also about the time when he gets a second chance at his career. A tension-filled time ensues and they tentatively enter a relationship of sorts. Julie holds her breath that Tommy won’t get caught up in being that other arrogant Tommy Sparks who neglected her and Tommy worries that he will be able to prove to Julie that he is boyfriend material. Its a struggle to the end over who will prove whom right or will they both surprise each other.
Whew! This one definitely engaged the emotions for me, but not always necessarily the ones I was in the mood to have engaged. Parts were sweet and hot, but parts were irritating. The plot is strongly focused on the romance with Tommy’s MMA career taking up a distant second. I was grateful for this other plot line just to get away from the drama for a while. Truthfully, I wanted more of a balance so that Tommy’s fights and training were more a part of the story because his comeback was a big attraction for me in the story. It represented more than just his career. He’d hit rock bottom and a success in the cage showed that he’d proved himself worthy. So yeah, I wanted more of that.
Now as to the dominant thread of the story- the romance. I honestly had trouble staying engaged with a lot of the unnecessary crap these two got themselves into. Literally half the book is taken up with them sorting out what was going on with their relationship and feelings. There are no true conflicts for them to overcome. They whipped up conflict where it didn’t need to exist. I just wanted to grab them and make them sit down and talk it out even knowing that plan is a lost cause with the personalities of these two.
I think part of the problem was I struggled with the personality of this heroine, Julie. She’s lacking in confidence, she doesn’t say what she thinks and feels and she stays in the shadows yet she expects to be understood and noticed. She is one of those hand-wringing types who constantly needs others to tell her what to do. She knew what she wanted, but she was too scared to go out and get it.
And Tommy? He has his issues too that make him all over the place. He tends to not notice subtlety and he has trouble figuring other people out including himself so it takes him an awful long time to realize what he is feeling for Julie. Then he doesn’t think he deserves her so he keeps pulling back which really hurts her though he thinks he’s doing her a favor. He can be rather self-centered which is the biggest problem that affected his career and his chance with Julie.
Alright, so that is what frustrated me about the story. Now here’s the thing, I liked these two. I love romance, but I confess that the friendship in this one is what I found the most appealing. When Tommy was just being fun and affectionate with his friend whether it was that great Valentine’s Day surprise or his little date to the aquarium, it worked. They might be lousy as lovers for most of the story, but they were great as friends. No matter how confused or hurt they were with the other, they had each other’s back. Everyone could see how tight they are and perfect for each other. This was what kept me reading and hoping. And it paid off with that tender scene at the end.
So all in all, it was not an easy story for me to read, but it was still enjoyable once it all came together in the end. I definitely want to see more of the author’s stuff. I’m going to recommend this one for those who enjoy a more dramatic romance in their contemporary romance.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read the book in exchange for my honest review thoughts.