Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 2nd December 2016
Hard Hitter by Sarina BowenHard Hitter by Sarina Bowen
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers #2
Published by Berkley Books on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 336
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four-stars

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...

I had a good feeling about this one and it isn’t often I get smug to be about my own book choices.

Reading Sarina Bowen’s Brooklyn Bruisers series is akin to entering the very glitzy world of sports, sponsorship and high-profile celebrity management—or at least Ms. Bowen’s perspective of the sport—and I find myself awed by the whole mechanism of it in here that I don’t find in other sports romances. It’s also very trendy in a way, and a perfect representation of how modern team sports have evolved: a billionaire owner whose money comes from some other source, a team of publicists and physical therapists on standby to support the lineup of players. My unfamiliarity with hockey obviously contributes to this wide-eyed wonder but thankfully, being a fan of the sport isn’t necessary; merely being a fan of human relationships is sufficient for anyone to enjoy this read. ‘Hard Hitter’ is told with good pacing, characterisation and a healthy dose of smexy times with great depth and all it takes is a difficult ex-boyfriend, a past drug issue and the hockey play-offs in waiting (should the fictional Bruisers win most of their games) for two key members in the team to have their lives upended and changed.

A series of events and a persistent injury have set Patrick O’Doul on a collision course with Ariana Bettini’s, but there’s more than just tender loving care in waiting for this pairing. O’Doul’s and Ari’s newfound connection is threatened by past decisions that blow up in their faces and make them question their place in the team, but learning to trust each other is perhaps one of the hardest things to do once again.

I found O’Doul very special somehow, memorable in that broody, tortured way, whose a heartbreaking, tragic backstory that made my own chest ache for him. Like Ari however, I found it difficult to see Patrick stuck in a role that was impossible to get out of simply because he grew into it—or perhaps that kind of open, accepted violence in hockey was hard to read about, let alone have a romantic lead doing it—and I was happy to see Ms. Bowen address this issue in a meta way, even if it is only a projection of a trend that will eventually lead Patrick away from being the hockey goon.

There’s a little of everything in ‘Hard Hitter’ that made it so enjoyable: the bit of suspense, the humour, the work drama and the cast of secondary characters (Hartley and Corey return!) who padded and enriched the story—which kept it all quite exciting up to the end.

The rest of the series can’t come fast enough.

four-stars

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