My last review coincided with me getting ready to attend a spring outdoors camping weekend, and this one is being written as I sit at home recovering from said weekend. While it was quite a bit of fun, there were also some challenges that I need to work through before I do this again. However, I did learn the joys of archery, and hopefully by the time this publishes, that will be a thing I’m doing. Speaking of sporty type things, I’ve found a new love for sports related romances. This one includes MMA fighting, though mostly in passing. I liked this book…high angsty love drama for the win! The book is scheduled to release on August 18th.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Cain and Violet were best friends growing up. As adults, they’re still friends, but things have changed. Cain, who has always been in love with Violet, can’t bring himself to pursue a relationship with her because of his guilt regarding their other childhood friend and Violet’s fiance, who died in the service. Violet can’t bring herself to date due to a lack of confidence brought about by a strict and critical father. When Cain decides to help her become more confident, he promises he can do it without ruining their friendship.
I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to like this book, especially because there are parts of each character that are really not likeable. However, it turned out to be enjoyable and a good standalone story (even though its part of a series).
The plot used a few different tropes, including military man, girl with confidence issues, and friends to lovers, but whereas in a lot of stories the tropes are fairly straightforward, these ones had layers, so the plot felt intricate and fleshed out. There was conflict coming from several directions, so the resolution didn’t feel easy and the angst level, especially for Cain, was really high.
There was one plot point I would have liked to see developed further, and that was Cain’s MMA fighting. It was mostly talked about it narrative. There were a few fight scenes when Cain was fighting for scary Russians, but those felt like teasers. Also, movies and books have taught me that you generally don’t start doing stuff for the Russian mob and then just stop whenever you want. Maybe they weren’t really the mob, and maybe that’s reality and Hollywood biffed it again, but it felt like the story started down one path and then detoured without looking back.
Cain and Violet are interesting characters who I sort of liked but who also irked me. Violet had body confidence issues and was slightly obsessed with thinking she was fat (she was a curvy character). There was a lot of negative self talk, even though she was contradictory and often said that she really liked and accepted who she was when clearly she didn’t.
Cain is actually a major jerk through most of the book. His mood changes frequently and he goes from being sweet and affectionate with Violet to ignoring her completely. I felt that she took a lot of emotional abuse from him and kept coming back for more. As the reader, I likes that the author switched points of view, because knowing Cain’s thought processes actually helped in dealing with this character. Also, he decides that after Violet can get naked in front of him without feeling embarrassed, she’s obviously ready to date. This drove me nuts because yeah, I get he was trying to teach her self confidence, but dude…just because she can get naked in front of one guy doesn’t mean she’s ready to take it full monty everywhere she goes.
I think what made me enjoy this book overall was that it was so much romantic angst (unrequited love was another trope), and though I’m not always a fan, I really liked it as part of this story. The Romance Factor is a strong 5/5 for that reason and because for all his flaws, I could buy how much Cain adored Violet. The Sex Factor also gets a 5/5 because the sexy times were intense and sweet and were paced well so that they didn’t take up half the story but made an impact when the did come into play.
The book was technically well written, though this arc had several minor errors in wording and grammar, including a random switch from 3rd to 1st person POV. I’m assuming those will get ironed out before publishing. Overall, this was a pleasant surprise and was hard to put down, especially at the end. I’d definitely read more from this author and might look into some other MMA novels as well.