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REVIEW: Shadowboxer by Cari Quinn

Shadowboxer by Cari Quinn

Dear Ms. Quinn:

I bought this book at the bargain price of 99c and as of today, the book is still priced at that amount. Mia Anderson is an underground MMA fighter and she believes if she could get the current king of underground MMA fighters, Tray “Fox” Knox, she’d get a big payday that would allow her to start a new life with her baby sister in a city other than New York.

While I liked Mia, I struggled A LOT with the concept. Tray is a taller and stronger trained fighter who is on the top of his game. I’d have a better time believing it if Tray was the same size as Mia but her belief she could beat him because she was quicker than him just never rang true to me. Every time Mia brought it up, I just felt like it was a contrived pipe dream. Mia is described as “no match for [Tray’s] height of six-foot-three.”


Part of me was frustrated that Mia just didn’t buy a couple of bus tickets to a place that wasn’t so effing expensive and get a job waiting tables or bartending. That seemed more realistic than her desire to fight Tray.  Why wouldn’t she try to get the attention of a legitimate UFC trainer and try to beat the top woman on the tour instead of Tray? Oh sure, that’s a different story but this plot point that I was unable to run away from just wasn’t believable to me. 

I did like Mia but sometimes she was overly prickly. Nearly every kind gesture of Tray’s is met with a slap in the face. For instance, when Tray suggests she meet his trainer, she responds with “Damn, it’s true.” I slowly shook my head. “I’ve heard rumors that sometimes sleeping with a guy makes them go batshit and think they own your vagina.” I understood that her reactions were fear based and that she was trying to protect herself but it was wearying over time.

Tray’s backstory, the disaffected rich boy, paled in comparison to Mia. Perhaps if Mia’s angst wasn’t as tragic, Tray’s would have a little more impact. Did he need a personal conflict other than he just liked to fight to place him in Mia’s circle? I wasn’t sure.  Tray’s really a nice guy despite the fact that he hides things from Mia. He doesn’t exactly see through Mia’s tough girl persona but rather keeps coming back for more because he’s so far gone for her. Sweetness counts for a lot with me in heroes.

The prose was quite nice and it was the writing that made me continue with the story even though Mia and the plot were problematic.

“I made the mistake of glancing down the hallway and sucked in a breath. A pair of doctors in scrubs walked toward the waiting room and the image brought back a flood of memories, none of them good. The walls seemed to swell and contract right along with my head.”

The other nice thing about this book is that it took unexpected turns. I was surprised by what happened in the story and I feel like it takes a lot to surprise me these days. C

Best regards,



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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Julie
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 11:37:48

    I read this book also and had the same reaction to Mia’s thinking she had a chance against Tray and, later, the other fighter. It simply wasn’t believable that she would think that, unless she was willfully in denial (and she wasn’t presented as that type of person in the rest of the story). I was also skeptical of her supposed mastery of so many aspects of the sport in so few years– three maybe? Other than that, though, I did like Mia and accepted her prickliness because of her past.

  2. Talia
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 11:58:23

    I wonder why the author didn’t just make the two closer in size.* At 6’3″ Tray’s probably a heavyweight/light heavyweight but it’s not as if there aren’t 6’0 women out there. A tall, strong female fighter could probably reach middleweight or even the bottom rung of light heavy. I get this is “underground” mma and weight classes might not be very important but I’d but a quick, skilled middleweight taking on a light heavy so much more easily than say a bantam trying to climb a heavyweight. Reach matters!

    (*I’m hoping the reason wasn’t just that a tall, more muscular woman wouldn’t be “heroine” material because bleh to that.)

  3. Erin Satie
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 14:13:11

    I think people who aren’t familiar with fight culture just don’t get how important weight is.

    Not just because small amounts of weight make a big difference–but because everybody KNOWS that small amounts of weight make a big difference, so dedicated fighters starve & sweat themselves down to the minimum weight possible, so they can give themselves the maximum advantage.

    A fair # of fighters will, for example, drink very little starting the night before a competition, then show up for the weigh in, get their low number, down all the water they’ve been craving & gain 8 pounds before they hit the mats.

    I did jiu jitsu for a while & it seemed like really skilled jiu jitsu fighters had a hard time transitioning to MMA because speed and skill really diminish as you get punched in the head. I had an instructor who used to say–this can’t be very original–punch a black belt in the face and you’ve got a brown belt, do it again and now he’s purple…

    Oh well.

  4. Julie
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 23:17:12

    @Erin Satie: And it’s not just weight. Strength makes an even bigger difference. A skilled female fighter against an untrained guy has a chance (as long as weight difference isn’t too great), but a trained female fighter is going to be at a SEVERE disadvantage against a trained male fighter. I’ve done jiujitsu, as well as several other martial arts, and I can say for a fact that a 200 lb body falling onto a 120 lb body with force can do serious damage–so can a single well-landed punch or kick at full power–and once those two are on the ground, the heavier stronger fighter will almost always win (assuming roughly equal skill levels otherwise).

  5. Erin Satie
    Feb 28, 2014 @ 10:19:23


    Yes, exactly. I was starting from the assumption that all things being equal, weight matters a LOT–probably the most bizarro-world, funny aspect of doing jiu jitsu, for me, was listening to a lot of dudes talk about their diet 24/7.

    But if you add a difference in weight to a difference in skill? That’s not a contest. The only way that fight lasts longer than 10 seconds is if the bigger, stronger guy strings it along out of pity.

    Mind you, I think that in jiu jitsu skill can overcome some handicaps, like height and reach–it’s a sport that rewards cleverness, and I’ve seen some women with amazing skills–but MMA is a different beast.

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