Series: Hard Play

Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh

Rebel Hard by Nalini SinghRebel Hard by Nalini Singh
Series: Hard Play #2
Published by TKA Distribution on 18th September 2018
Pages: 409
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two-half-stars

Nayna Sharma agreed to an arranged marriage in the hope it would heal the fractures in her beloved family… only to realize too late that a traditional marriage is her personal nightmare. Panicked, she throws caution to the winds, puts on the tiniest dress she can find, and ends up in the arms of a tall, rough-edged hunk of a man who has abs of steel—and who she manages to mortally insult between one kiss and the next.

Abandoned as a child, then adopted into a loving family, Raj Sen believes in tradition, in continuity. Some might call him stiff and old-fashioned, but he knows what he wants—and it’s a life defined by rules… yet he can’t stop thinking about the infuriating and sexy woman who kissed him in the moonlight then disappeared. When his parents spring an introduction on him, the last woman he expects is her.

Beautiful. Maddening. A rulebreaker in the making.

He’s all wrong for her. She’s all wrong for him. And love is about to make rebels of them both.

Nalini Singh gives us a slice of the unique Fijian/Kiwi Indian culture in ‘Rebel Hard’ where strongly-held Indian traditions grudgingly meet the modern (and supposedly declining) standards of modern dating.

And for many who love diversity and the cultural spotlight Singh shines here, ‘Rebel Hard’ is the book to go to.

The weight of family expectations is pushed hard on Nayna Sharma’s shoulders, more so after her rebellious sister broke her parents’ hearts but Raj Sen—the chosen one and the very one she rebels against even though her body says otherwise—is determined to woo her until she caves. The rest really, are just the details…and there are tons of those to soak in, like a visual feast that after a while, did get a bit too much.

Yet getting down to ‘Rebel Hard’ turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag for me. Some parts read like a documentary almost and others, like a perfectly choreographed Bollywood show, of a culture that stands so differently on its own: the blindingly colourful saris and the vibrant multicolours that I associate with the big weddings, to the arranged marriages and the rom-com that Singh writes into the gaps of these dearly-held institutions.

There’s a strange mix I guess, of the fine lines drawn, the boundaries that can be overstepped and those that can’t (or shouldn’t) in the world of arranged marriages—something so foreign to me—but a whole lot of repetitiveness as well, of saris and cooking and talking about all and naught, of beading nipples and soaked panties.

In short, I suspect this would have worked better as a novella for me: it started out sparkling and fun, then flattened out somewhat near the middle onwards, where the forward momentum just got lost in the tangle of yet more colourful clothing, indecision and the two-steps-forward-one-step-back type of dance.

two-half-stars

Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

Cherish Hard by Nalini SinghCherish Hard by Nalini Singh
Series: Hard Play #1
Published by TKA Distribution on November 14th 2017
Pages: 297
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four-stars

Sailor Bishop has only one goal for his future – to create a successful landscaping business. No distractions allowed. Then he comes face-to-face and lips-to-lips with a woman who blushes like an innocent… and kisses like pure sin.

Ísa Rain craves a man who will cherish her, aches to create a loving family of her own. Trading steamy kisses with a hot gardener in a parking lot? Not the way to true love. Then a deal with the devil (aka her CEO-mother) makes Ísa a corporate VP for the summer. Her main task? Working closely with a certain hot gardener.

And Sailor Bishop has wickedness on his mind.

As Ísa starts to fall for a man who makes her want to throttle and pounce on him at the same time, she knows she has to choose – play it safe and steady, or risk all her dreams and hope Sailor doesn’t destroy her heart.

‘Cherish Hard’ is my first venture into Nalini Singh contemporary romance and I hadn’t known at all what to expect, being familiar as I am only with her psy-changeling series. Having also not read ‘Rock Hard’, of which ‘Cherish Hard’ is an off-shoot or spin-off or at least a prequel to Gabriel Bishop’s story, Sailor’s and Ísa’s story is nevertheless a standalone, which takes place a few years prior Gabe’s book.

What I hadn’t expected was a quirky style that’s unlike Singh’s driving, more epic world-building style found in the psy-changeling series, set in a cosy corner of Auckland as a ambitious landscaper pursues the woman he has in mind to the very end, with a whole lot of charm and sweetness. That younger man/older woman dynamic (or at least the stigma associated with it) is thankfully not drawn out too much; what Singh chooses to expand upon is that their ages put them at different points in their life—Sailor is busy building on his ambitions and his business and presumably has no time for anything else, while Ísa is looking for stability and a family.

But while this is the main conflict that the whole narrative seems to be moving towards, the inevitability of a large blow-up and a temporary break-up as found in too many romances is actually staved off by ‘adulting’ behaviour: Sailor and Ísa confide their fears in each other, talk it out and stick together on the road ahead of them.

‘Cherish Hard’ has made me want to check out Singh’s other contemporary romances but this spin-off that she is doing of the Bishop brothers is one that I know I want more of already.

four-stars