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review 2015-08-03 23:40
Review: Caged by Lorelei James

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

 

CAGED is the latest entry in the Mastered series by Lorelei James and one that continues the upward swing of my enjoyment in a series that started out rough for me but keeps getting better. In this book, we finally get an HEA for two previously introduced secondary characters, including the one whose initial violent encounter was the starting point for the entire series.

 

Deacon McConnell is famous in the local mixed martial arts community for his ability to read and exploit his opponents’ weaknesses in direct competition. Yet when it comes to making a claim on the woman he’s wanted for years, he’s still unable to follow through. Molly Calloway came to the dojo at her best friend Amery’s insistence for self-defense training after an attack that threatened her physical safety. Now that Amery is happily married to the dojo’s Sensei, it’s Molly who’s still working on defending herself from both physical and emotional threats, the greatest of which is her undeniable pull toward Deacon. When Molly finally confronts Deacon in the unlikeliest of places, the simmering attraction between them flares up hot and strong. But as demons from both their individual pasts threaten to come between them, it will take more than physical desire to stay true to themselves and each other to their happy ending together.

 

I’ll admit that I hadn’t paid much attention to either of these characters in previous books, other than when Molly was being stubborn about not wanting to go to the dojo when Amery agreed to participate in classes with her there in the first book. But CAGED has fleshed out the backgrounds of both Molly and Deacon almost to the point of overload, and shown that they do have more in common than just irresistible sexual chemistry. Both of them were rejected in almost ridiculously horrific ways by the people who should have loved and protected them, and each has managed to not just survive but succeed in spite of all that. It was wonderful to see them have each other’s backs as they had to re-fight their family battles one last time, even when the going got rough and inevitably faltered along the way.

 

The only part that didn’t quite work for me in CAGED was the early continuing emphasis on Deacon’s various confrontations with his trainer and a new but ultimately temporary competitor, and the constant misunderstandings from Ronin’s lack of transparency in his dojo management. I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be the bad guy and who wasn’t, and was still confused right up until a few pages of explanation much later in the book when Ronin deigned to make things clearer to both Deacon and the reader. Frankly, anything that isn’t directly related to the romance is of lesser interest for me, so I was happiest when Molly and Deacon were front and center together. Their personalities complemented each other well when they didn’t let external forces become a distraction, and the obstacles in their path to their HEA helped them grow emotionally as individuals and a couple. By the end of CAGED, I knew that they were going to stay together no matter what, and that it was the best possible ending for both of them. I can only hope that they and we as the readers will continue to enjoy seeing other members of the Black Arts dojo family find their own happiness as the Bound series continues.

Berkley / NAL Romance is giving one lucky commenter a free copy of the first two books in the Bound series (BOUND and UNWOUND). Just leave a comment here at the blog on this review between now (7/9/2015) and a week from now (7/16/2015). The winner will be drawn at random from all comments on this post and will receive this prize directly from the publisher.

 

Source: mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=890
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review 2014-06-06 23:43
Review: In Your Corner by Sarah Castille
In Your Corner - Sarah Castille

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

This review may contain spoilers for On The Ropes, book 1 in the Redemption series. You should be able to read In Your Corner as a standalone book.

ON THE ROPES was one of the first Mixed Martial Arts themed romances I read back in 2013, and it’s still one of the best. So I was excited to learn that there would be additional books featuring other characters in the world of Redemption. IN YOUR CORNER picks up two years after the events of ON THE ROPES, and tells the story of that couple we saw break up so painfully before: Jake and Amanda. Back then, anyone could see that although they were from different worlds, they still had not only an undeniable sexual chemistry, but also an emotional affinity as two people who had learned the hard way not to trust anyone but themselves for protection and safety, especially of the heart. So when Amanda pushed Jake away for good after he made a terrible snap judgment in a moment of weakness, we knew they weren’t quite done with each other. And now it’s two years later, and they’ve both grown and changed in ways that will prepare them to write the ending to that story at last.

When Amanda discovers that Jake is her new client at the stuffy corporate law firm where she’s been working herself to death in an attempt to make partner just to please her never-satisfied parents, the shock is almost too much to bear. She’d never known Jake was from a well-off family with a large and successful business. Now he needs a lawyer, and quickly, but he quickly makes it clear that he won’t allow it to be her. His seeming rejection of Amanda triggers a series of events that begins with her being forced to quit her job and ends with her broken and bleeding in a dark alley just down the street from Redemption. Jake and his fellow MMA fighters at Redemption try to rescue Amanda from the downward spiral that pushed her into that near-fatal alley. But will Amanda finally ask for the help she needs even when refusing it means losing Jake for good?

Jake had tried to forget Amanda after their painful breakup, but losing both her and his brother Peter was too much to bear. Being forced to take over the family business after Peter’s death has isolated Jake from everything else good in his life, especially the people at Redemption who were his true family after his parents had rejected him. But now that Amanda is back, Jake isn’t going to make the same mistake a second time. And when he’s done, he’ll have everything he always wanted before: the professional MMA career, the camaraderie of his Redemption family, and Amanda. 

As much as I loved ON THE ROPES, I was even more blown away by IN YOUR CORNER. I think it’s because unlike Max (Torment) in the previous book, there’s no mystery about who Jake is or what really makes him tick. He’s a guy who came from wealth, but never found happiness until he discovered his love of MMA at Redemption and got his life turned in the right direction. There’s really no secret about who Amanda really is, either.. She’s spent her whole life striving for the wrong goals, all because her father wanted a son and both he and her mother were too busy with their own legal careers to spend much time making sure their only daughter was actually loved and cared for. It took the dramatic events put into play by Jake’s rejection of Amanda as his lawyer to force them both to give a chance at happiness together one more try, but it took all their good friends to keep pushing them back together every time one or the other started falling back into their old patterns of rejection and hurt feelings. 

Usually a romance where the hero and heroine keep splitting up and coming back together would annoy me, but IN YOUR CORNER neatly avoids the usual traps which would otherwise doom the book to failure. As corny as it sounds, each time Jake and Amanda seem to be taking a step back, they really do end up taking two steps forward, and the small successes start adding up. By the time we reach the final black moment where it appears Amanda will lose everything she’s fought for, including Jake, all the lessons she’s learned the hard way start to kick in, and she is able to step back from the abyss this second time. Both Amanda and Jake realize that they need to love each other as they are, and accept that what they have together is exactly what they need. Along the way, we learn more about the various characters who populate the Redemption world, and the impending setups for future romances in the series. Redemption may be an MMA training center, but its name represents more than that for the people who have made it a success, and IN THE CORNER is show how true that is for both Jake and Amanda. It’s a moving and passionate look at a couple who learn to fight for what they want until they win, both in and out of the Redemption ring, and one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Source: mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=578
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