Awwww, yes. I ended my year in the perfect way… with a Sarina Bowen book. This author and her many, many awesome releases helped get me through 2016. Which means I held on to Hard Hitter for as long as possible before I finally cracked it open.
Hard Hitter features Patrick O’Doul, the Brooklyn Bruisers team captain and enforcer, and Ari Bettini, team masseuse and yoga instructor. Patrick is an old-timer in the league at aged 32. His mental game is taking a big hit lately as his body starts to give in to all the aches, pains and injuries of a long time athlete. His stress is only magnified by the fact that he’s expected to fight on the ice every game night. Showing weakness isn’t an option, so when his team doctor orders massage as another way to keep him healthy, he is not enthused.
Ari loves her job with the Bruisers, loves everything about it in fact. Her personal life, however, is a mess. After finally kicking her long time boyfriend to the curb, she’s ready to start fresh. Only said boyfriend just won’t leave her alone and she’s starting to worry about when the next shoe will drop. Then there is her newest massage client, Patrick O’Doul. Sexy as sin, a bit closed off and cold Doulie. He’s an enigma she wants to figure out. She wants to help him stay healthy and in top shape on and off the ice, which means she just needs to figure out a way to give him what he needs despite his distaste at being touched.
Patrick and Ari’s romance starts out tentatively. He doesn’t really want to be stuck on her massage table, and she knows it. But she loves what she does and is determined to figure out a way to make it work. Ari is patient with him and Patrick responds by trying to loosen up. A friendship is born. Then he comes to her rescue one evening and that friendship morphs into a hot and heavy, super sexy night in bed where Patrick proves his dislike for touch does not extend to sexy times.
Which is when our tortured hero turns into a sweet, slightly clueless, make you sigh romantic who will do whatever it takes to win over his lover. Which I loooooved.
I’m not a huge hockey fan, I mean for real, I’m from Texas. Football, yes, hockey, not so much. So everything I know about hockey I pretty much learned from reading Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. Which means I was kind of surprised by Patrick’s worries over his role as an enforcer and what that entailed exactly. I had no idea. Patrick has all this stress, as well as a backstory that helps readers understand why he is so standoffish with everyone, including his teammates. Ari is really the first person he has ever let into his life, into his private and safe spaces. Which made their romance so much more romantic to me. Add in her desire to not get caught up in another relationship so soon after her break up (which I completely understood) and his playful and sweet desire to woo her and I was a goner.
Hard Hitter hit all my happy places. I loved Patrick, and pretty much all the players, on and off the ice. I loved Ari and her passion for her work. I loved Becca and Georgia and their wonderfully supportive friendship with Ari and each other. I loved the little bit of suspense thrown in which made me wonder toward the end what this couple’s HEA would look like. This book left me with a smile on my face. Then I read the teaser for book three, Pipe Dreams, and all of a sudden I have yet another Sarina Bowen book on my must have asap list. Final Grade- B+
“You and I aren’t on the traditional plan. We’ve both had some troubles, and now we know how to spot something good. We make our own luck, you and me.”