Series: Hard to

Hard to Hold by Incy Black

Hard to Hold by Incy BlackHard to Hold by Incy Black
Series: Hard To #1
Published by Entangled: Ignite on April 28th 2014
Pages: 268
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Anna Key Marshall is about to get what she's always wanted: a baby. Granted, it's through a sperm donor instead of her ex-husband, but you can't have everything. She has no idea why someone wants her dead, but she'll do whatever it takes to protect her unborn child—even if it means turning to her ex, the Black Ops specialist who broke her heart.
Five years ago, British Intelligence agent Nick Marshall slammed the door on the woman who betrayed him. But now Anna's back in his life with a vengeance, pregnant and full of attitude. He'd like nothing better than to walk away, but with her life on the line, he has no choice but to do what he does best—protect her at all costs.
As old wounds resurface, Nick begins to doubt his version of what went down with Anna so long ago. And he begins to believe they might have a second chance together. But with Anna's would-be killer on the loose—it will take the full force and fury of his protective instincts, fueled by a powerful love he can't leave behind, to hold on to the woman he still loves.

‘Hard to Hold’ is a difficult book to review, not least because of what I’d initially expected and what I’d gotten.

There were too many times when I wondered if I was reading about adults imprisoned in their past and consequently only knew how to be children (perhaps that is really Incy Black’s point). My head was pounding with the outpouring of emotions from Anna and Nick and if I hadn’t already gotten an idea of their dysfunctional relationship by the first chapter, it had certainly been hammered deep by page 45. The sheer screaming, yelling and emotional manipulation, while detracting from the chemistry that the characters could have had, seemed better suited to an opera and left me exhausted, helped along by prose that’s a little too dramatic and perhaps indirect for what I’d initially assumed to be a suspense/thriller novel.

The ending hadn’t sufficiently explained Nick’s sudden personality transplant and while I loved Anna’s spunk and her HEA, I was left more baffled than satisfied as I turned the last page. I also hadn’t managed to get a solid foothold of the context of the novel; granted, it’s Brit Intelligence and London here, but I went through the book with the disconcerting feeling of ‘rootlessness’ because there aren’t any memorable markers that make both place and location stand out.

There are sufficient hints however, of Fortress and the secret service that I’d love to read more about and now that I’ve just found out this could well become a series, I’d be more than willing to see how and where Incy Black takes this story arc.


Hard to Forget by Incy Black

Hard to Forget by Incy BlackHard to Forget by Incy Black
Series: Hard to #2
Published by Entangled: Ignite on October 6th 2014
Pages: 258
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Four years ago, Commander Jack Ballantyne followed Special Agent Lowry Fisk into a death trap. Fortunately, both of them lived to tell the tale, but when he had Lowry drummed out of the British Intelligence Service for her own safety—and his own peace of mind—he knew she’d never forgive him.
Lowry Fisk knew, she just knew, that the Assassins, the secret black-ops unit of the Service she and Jack belonged to, had a mole. And as the Assassins Commander, Jack should have believed her, even though she had little evidence beyond a gut feeling. But when he hadn’t, she’d taken it upon herself to find the traitor—and ended up assaulted, shot, and left for dead. Jack had come to her rescue, but it had been too little, too late. Now all she wants to do is forget the attack, the Service, and the sexy, steely-eyed Commander with the power to make her feel weak.
But the mole is on the move, and he’s coming for Lowry to finish what he started. Jack has to get the stubborn, dangerously gorgeous woman to let him back into her life and allow him the Assassins to protect her—without allowing her to worm her way into his heart.

I read ‘Hard to Forget’ straight on the heels of ‘Hard to Hold’ and felt that this book, unlike the first, was spectacular in every way.

Black seems to have found a more balanced, grounded writing voice in this book, and the result is a gritty and absolutely riveting tale (with some ludicrous moments of hilarity and heavy irony) of betrayal, forgiveness and redemption between two people who have much to lose as well as gain by the end of the story.

Incy Black’s heroes – Nick Marshall and Jack Ballentyne – are tortured souls, demonstrating a hardened brutality and impenetrable crust that made me wonder how her heroines actually get through them. The usual spiel of pushing someone away because of the fear of hurting them directly or indirectly is repeated here, but I loved how eloquent Incy Black articulated the nature of the demons that haunted Jack.

Jack, like Nick, is a much less likeable hero than the sort I’m accustomed to and my own sympathies for at least half the novel lay mostly with Lowry, but it’s impossible to ignore how much he grows into someone who’s finally worthy of her – which of course, accounts for a satisfying end. I only wished this had come before Hard to Hold (the events here seem to take place before the first book) so I could simply catch up on Jack, Lowry and their lives after the Service.