Dear Ms. Hammond:
This is a book that has problems. There are three different POVs written in three different tenses. Despite the blurb stating that it has been re edited for grammatical errors and minor inconsistencies, there are still several grammatical errors and typos. And really strange ones like up for lip or won’t for want.
But I really enjoyed the story despite these flaws because I believed in the authenticity of the characters and their conflict. The book had a lot of raw visceral appeal and with a little editing, I think it could be a knock out (if I can use a pun here).
The heroine, Hadlee Flax, is nearly raped one day and she is saved by the hero, only she doesn’t know it because she was knocked unconscious and can really only remember his voice – a gravely accented one. She is slow to recover. What’s interesting is that a number of reviewers felt Hadlee was weak but in some sense (and I can’t tell whether this is intentional) she is actually the stronger of the two main protagonists. Hadlee recognizes she feels weak and impotent. She is having difficult coping with her assault. But she is seeing a therapist and she is trying to overcome her deficiencies. I never saw Hadlee as weak, only recovering. In fact, by admitting her feelings of weakness, I felt she owned it.
The hero, Sean Reilly, is not physically weak. In some ways he is the polar opposite of Hadlee. He is a middleweight boxing champion from Cleveland but his mother died at the age of 17. He was alone, with little money and his sister to take care of and thus vulnerable to predators. He is recruited by “Uncle Connie” the head of the Irish mafia in Cleveland and now, years later, he’s balls deep in the mafia. He wants to get out but he doesn’t feel like he can. Once you swear an oath of loyalty to the brotherhood, you owe it until you die. Sean learned that lesson at a young age when his father was killed by Uncle Connie.
The contrast between Sean and Hadlee is fascinating. While Hadlee is physically weak and emotionally suffering, she actually has more power over her own life and her own outcomes than Sean. Sean might be physically strong, but he is nearly powerless in some ways for all his money, fame, and connections. Because this is the first in a series, we don’t see these issues fully developed but I’m hopeful.
The two protagonists meet again when the Hadlee takes self defense classes at the gym where Sean trains. Their connection is immediate and electric, although she thinks he hates her and he just is frightened by her presence. Eventually they get together, although the build up is slow.
Sean is frank and crude, but his POV was really well done. I loved the boxing aspect of it and the mafia connection provides a fairly intense element of suspense. Hadlee is afraid but, as I said earlier, recovering. Each character is distinct. And these two fit in a special way. I don’t think you can take Sean and match him up with any one else and the same can be said for Hadlee. The two do not have sex in this story but it still came off steamy and full of sexual tension.
This is the first in a series. I don’t know how many books there are and it ends in a cliffhanger. The cliffhanger is about the hero’s mafia connection and not about the romance. For some reason I feel vaguely confident that the author isn’t going to screw me over even though I’ve never read her before. Because of the editing issues, I can’t really give this a full throated endorsement but I really liked it. I’m glad I gave it a try and I am looking forward to the next one. C+