Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen

Title: Hard Hitter
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers #2
Author: Sarina Bowen
Release date: January 3, 2017
Cliffhanger: No
Rating: 3.5 stars


He’s a fighter in the rink, but he’s about to learn that playing nice can help you score...

As team captain and enforcer, Patrick O'Doul puts the bruise in the Brooklyn Bruisers. But after years of hard hits, O'Doul is feeling the burn, both physically and mentally. He conceals his pain from his coach and trainers, but when his chronic hip injury becomes too obvious to ignore, they send him for sessions with the team’s massage therapist.

After breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, Ari Bettini is in need of peace of mind. For now, she’s decided to focus on her work: rehabilitating the Bruisers’ MVP. O'Doul is easy on the eyes, but his reaction to her touch is ice cold. Ari is determined to help O'Doul heal, but as the tension between them turns red hot, they both learn that a little TLC does the body good...

Hard Hitter is the story of Patrick O'Doul, the team captain/enforcer. O'Doul has always been perceived as grumpy and standoffish, but in this book, we get to see a whole new vulnerable and softer side to him. Honestly, I didn't even really feel as if he was that grumpy, to me he seemed simply like a quiet loner. He was just waiting for the right person to come into his life and bring some sunshine into his drab world and Ari was just the woman to deliver.

Ari Bettini is the team massage therapist and yoga instructor. At a quick glance, I think just about anyone would say that her personality is the polar opposite of Patrick. She's bright, outgoing, and people are almost drawn to her. While he's friendly enough with the team, he doesn't go out of his way to be sociable or allow others into his personal space. It goes beyond aversion, it causes him real anxiety and he avoids it at all costs.

His problem with people touching him stems from a violent childhood in the group home he lived in. Being forced to fight for food and defend himself against constant, unprovoked attacks was a double-edged sword. On one hand, his struggle made him stronger, and eventually learned the skills to make a successful career for himself on the team. On the other, the lack of love and a real family pushed him away from making close connections with people. This causes a real problem when he's ordered to see Ari for therapeutic massages for his injured hip.

Their sessions start out awkward, but her patience and sensitivity to his anxiety have him slowly giving her his trust. He's a little rough around the edges, but after you get him to open up a little, under the surface he's one of the most protective and loyal guys you'll ever find. Once he discovers that Ari's ex is harassing her, he does everything he can to make sure she's safe and protected. And when his sights are finally set on making her his? Nothing can deter him.

You’re everything that I want, and everything I need. You already have my heart, and I don’t want it back. You understand?”

Ari was a little more difficult to love. I didn't dislike her, but I just didn't love her either. She had a massive amount of baggage from her recent breakup, and she wasn't in the best place to even consider seeing anyone new. I did understand her need to keep her distance, yet it stretched on too long for my personal taste. I felt like he was pushing for her to let him in over and over, and she refused to give him an inch. She kept coming up with reasons why they would never work instead of taking that leap of faith-even after he proved himself over and beyond.

“You are a tough sell, Ariana.” He removed her hand from his face and kissed her palm. “I don’t know what I have to do to win you over. But I’m gonna keep trying. You hear me?”

This book was difficult for me to get into initially, but once I did, I enjoyed spending time with the team again. I'm hoping the Bruisers' owner Nate could eventually get his own book, maybe a standalone. He intrigued me so much and his story would be amazing to read.

Book three, Pipe Dreams is Beacon's book and will be out in May.


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