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Release Blitz/Review Tour/Giveaway: These Battered Hands: Laurel Ulen Curtis

These Battered Hands
Laurel Ulen Curtis
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Released September 27, 2015
Special 2.99 release blitz price! 


Callie

Blood, sweat, hard work, and a disconcerting lack of tears—my entire life—was meant to culminate in a flourish of glory and significance.

I’d thought I’d always known exactly what that meant.
But I’d had the timing wrong by about three minutes.
I knew now.
This moment wasn’t everything. The one person I found myself wanting more than anything during it was.

Nik

One preconceived notion can haunt you for the entirety of your life.
I thought I owed it to myself and to everyone who’d ever backed me to do what was expected. What was right. What I was supposed to do.
But nothing is forbidden in love. Not circumstances or propriety or the denial of the object of said affection.
I knew now.
This was it.
If I wanted it, I had to take it.

This gymnastics love story is more than grips, rips, and battered hands. 
For Calia Nickleson and Nikolai Bagrov, it was everything. 

His eyes were like actual pools of water—moving, flowing, and changing color along with depth. Each time his focus shifted, so did mine, zeroing in on a new fleck of deep blue and trying to help it float through the much more abundant aqua. Their magnetism made it hard to focus on his words, but I wouldn’t have traded those moments spent studying their nuances for all of the words in the dictionary.
Sure, looks were shallow and words could mean everything, but in those split seconds when his eyes changed before my own, I would have sworn on my every Olympic medal it was the opposite.
And right now, I needed the comfort of that feeling. I needed it to swaddle me in its warmth and make everything feel right again.
The word wrong had never been a concept worthy of my focus, but as I tried to make sense of what was happening, denying its existence was no longer an option.
Up felt like down and left very nearly tricked me into believing it was right.
Voices called out to me constantly and on repeat, but none of them were the one I wanted. Like they were speaking through water, every pronunciation of my name seemed foreign and unwelcome, and my brain did nothing but scream another.
I tried valiantly to talk my uncooperative body into bending to my will, but for the first time in my life it wouldn’t.
Digging deep down into my gut, I found the last vestiges of my energy and willed them into one single action.
Into one single word.
“Nik.
Priorities shifted and silence mocked me.
My entire life had been a series of events all specifically driven toward this very moment. I’d known all of my work was meant to culminate in a flourish of glory and significance. I’d known there’d be a second in time when I knew why each part of my life had played out the way it had. Why I’d worked, why I’d sweat, why I’d fought to keep going well after most people’s journeys were done.
I’d even known it would probably happen now—on this stage, in front of all of these people.
I’d just had the timing wrong by about three minutes.
But I knew now.
This was it.
The thing I found myself wanting most during this moment—that was everything.
He was everything.

Callia Nickleson has lived her whole life to achieve her goals...two Olympics were not enough so she is going for her third. But nothing seems to be enough to fill the void or what she is missing. Nikolai Bagrov waltzes into her gym...her safe zone...and shakes everything up. He is her new coach and she is not sure she wants or needs him in her personal arena. From the beginning these two have a strong reaction. She is angry, resistant, and closed off. He is pushy, confident, and loves to get under her skin. The taunt each other, they challenge each other, but they make each other come alive when they have both been withdrawn into themselves and essentially shut down.

Callie is stubborn, driven, and focused on her goals. She appears to be a smart ass and cocky,  but under her tough facade is a women with insecurities, self esteem issues, fears, and loneliness. It is easier to keep to herself rather than face rejection or deal with her issues.

Nik is outgoing and demanding, but also patient, kind and intuitive. He has his own skill set, and his own demons. He does not want attention on himself and is happy to fly under the radar. 

They fight each other, she fights herself, but they have a symbiotic connection and understanding that fulfills needs that they did not even realize they had. She is the quick tempered, while he is the rational one. He challenges both her skills and her need to live her life fully. He wants to help her to pull her life into more focus and feel. She brings out his passion and sense of purpose. But their circumstances and timing are all wrong. A relationship falls under the forbidden zone and Callie is really close to the pinnacle of her career. His presence not only has the ability to further her goals by pushing her skills, but could also provide too much of a distraction. And there are many eyes watching as they train for the most important events of her life.

This is the a story of finding hope, inspiration, passion, and learning how to live a full life. It is about change and choices and what really is important. I was glad to get both points of view. I absolutely fell hard for Nik. He was the ultimate in good guy heroes with just enough edge to make him appealing. He was so thoughtful, understanding, supportive, but also charismatic, humorous, and passionate.  And Callie was likable too despite her underlying issues and stubbornness. They had inner demons and flaws, but were also strong and determined. There were enough drama, challenges , and twists to keep it interesting and realistic, but was not so overly angsty that it was frustrating. I was totally invested in them as a couple and in her journey towards self actualization and her Olympic dreams. 

It was engaging, funny, sweet, tension filled, and emotional. I have always loved watching the Summer Olympics especially gymnastics so the background story made it even more appealing to me. I have been in a bit of a book funk lately, and I was happy to be so easily drawn into this story and to connect with these characters so effortlessly. It was one of those reads that flows easily, makes you laugh, but at the same time makes you feel.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Callia is so focused on her gymnastics she has no life outside the gym. As the oldest gymnast training at her father’s gym, she has no friends inside the gym. Focused and driven, she is determined to reach her third Olympics at 26 and prove the naysayers wrong. She is not too old to compete.

Nic has retired from power tumbling near the top of his competition. Though it is still how he centers himself, his heart is no longer in the competition side of tumbling. He instantly challenges Callia, but not just on the mats. He challenges her to see beyond the gym, to let others in, and to be a friendly role model, not the ice queen she has projected.

These two were a great pairing. She has spent so much time centered on her career that she has taken for granted everything outside the gym. His life experience means he is all about living in the moment and not taking things for granted. That contrast made for some great conversations and interactions between them, especially as they built their relationship inside the gym.

This story is told in such a way that I had a hard time putting it down at the end of chapters as I usually do when I need to break from reading. I loved the alternating perspective from each chapter, as well as the way each chapter let into the next with a connecting word or phrase. The storytelling was smooth, and fit with the flow and feeling of the book.

This was a cute, quick read. With a fairly smooth storyline, a couple surprises and surprising aspects of the story just when things look like smooth sailing kept things interesting. I enjoyed each character's quirks and the focus on top level gymnastics made this a different take on a sports romance. 
I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Laurel Ulen Curtis is a 28 year old mother of one. She lives with her husband and son (and cat!) in New Jersey, but grew up all over the United States. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology, and puts that to almost no use other than forecasting for her friends! She has a passion for her family, laughing, and reading and writing Romance novels. Oh, and she's addicted to Coke. The drink, not the drug.

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