Release Reviews: Hard Hitter: Sarina Bowen

Hard Hitter  (Brooklyn Bruisers #2)
Sarina Bowen
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Released January 3, 2017
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He’s a fighter in the rink, but he’s about to learn that playing nice can help you score... 

As team captain and enforcer, Patrick O'Doul puts the bruise in the Brooklyn Bruisers. But after years of hard hits, O'Doul is feeling the burn, both physically and mentally. He conceals his pain from his coach and trainers, but when his chronic hip injury becomes too obvious to ignore, they send him for sessions with the team’s massage therapist.

After breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, Ari Bettini is in need of peace of mind. For now, she’s decided to focus on her work: rehabilitating the Bruisers’ MVP. O'Doul is easy on the eyes, but his reaction to her touch is ice cold. Ari is determined to help O'Doul heal, but as the tension between them turns red hot, they both learn that a little TLC does the body good... 
Brooklyn Bruisers Captain, Patrick O'Doul, is a confidant, ballsy enforcer on the ice. But in real life he's a loner, cautious, and does not like to even be touched. He's also tired, beat down from hockey and rink fighting, and struggling for motivation,.

Ari Bettini, the team's yoga instructor and massage therapist, is coming off a bad break-up and is not looking very favorable at males. She is sweet, funny, persistent, and caring. But she's been hurt mentally and been made to feel unsafe and her self confidence has taken a hit.

Ari just wants to help Patrick relax his tired muscles and heal his hip. But he is good at dodging her for awhile. But Patrick ends up involved in her personal life and they begin spending more time together. She begins to crack through his tough exterior to see his vulnerability. And he begins to enjoy having her close.

I loved seeing Patrick start to reach out and open up more, and getting to see a softer side of him. No one had really touched it before, but Ari could reach him and draw him out.

But as he begins to want more, she begins to resist. She has issues from her recent ex that cause her to have fears, doubts, and insecurities and to think dating is not a good idea. But when Patrick puts on the charm and sex appeal, he is hard to resist. 

They both have past issues that have scarred them and make them wary. There are also outside forces causing problems. Her ex is threatening her and Patrick, and causing tension and suspense. Their work lives are intertwined and they are not sure how fraternization could affect them.

Patrick was so isolated before that he did not truly engage even when among friends. But I enjoyed seeing him begin to open his mind and heart to Ari and his team mates. It was like he just needed some support and attention  to feel confidant enough to expose his true self. And I liked Patrick. He was caring, very protective, sexy, and tender.

And I loved them together. Ari was supportive, nurturing, and genuine. The guys all loved her. But due to her personal life, she felt like her life was a bit messy and dramatic. She was so worried and anxious that she really needed to focus on some of her own techniques for trying new things and enjoying positive things in life. 

This was told in third person dual point of view. I liked getting both of their points of view, but I usually connect more with first person. It was a slow build since both characters had barriers up and issues to face. I liked their progression and that it was not super angsty. There was some relationship resistance, drama, personal growth, and suspense driving the plot.

A lot of friends are back from the Bruisers organization, and so are some favorite Ivy Leaguers. Those cameos made me smile. I really enjoyed the camaraderie with Leo and Georgia (Rookie Move), Becca, Nate, and the team. I was intrigued by Mike Beacon's story. He will be the male lead in the next book,  Pipe Dreams. But I have to say that I am not a fan of his heroine so she will have to really work to get me to like her. And I am excited about more with Nate and Becca too. 

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

Ari Bettini loves her job as massage therapist and yoga instructor to the Brooklyn Bruisers. Now that she has rid herself of her ex, who turned out to be less than she thought he was, she is enjoying finding herself and giving her energy to keeping the team loose and limber.

Patrick O’Doul intrigues her like none of the other players. He is the only one who actively avoids her table and she wants to know why. He is a veteran player with his own problems on and off the ice.

I liked both of these characters a lot. Ari is both relatable and genuine. She is goal oriented and focused, and though she doesn’t have everything in her life figured out, she knows what she wants. Patrick is gruff and stubborn, but his experiences have shaped that persona and as he lets Ari in, the rough exterior is softened, at least for her.

I loved the spark between these two. Patrick doesn’t like to feel vulnerable, not with his background, but slowly lets his guard down. His changes were the most pronounced as he let Ari in. The reactions of the people who had known him for years was priceless as they watched him let someone in for the first time in their memories. 

I had fun reading Ari and Patrick’s story. There was plenty of drama with all the issues they were each dealing with, but it kept me entertained and interested throughout. This team has a fun camaraderie, led by the quirky billionaire tech mogul. The cameos by the full Bruisers team as well as a few special Ivy Leaguers give a fun touch to series fans and round out the story for those new to the Bruisers. 
I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Coming off my mediocre impression of the first book in Sarina Bowen’s Brooklyn Bruisers series, Rookie Move, I admit that I had some trepidation about reading Hard Hitter. After all, it wasn’t just the pairing in the first book that I had trouble connecting with; none of the other players on the team and none of those that work with the team jumped out me at the time as being interesting enough to have the potential for their own stories. Fortunately, Hard Hitter returns to the form I’m used to getting from one of my favorite authors. This is a solid and enjoyable read with a pairing that I not only liked but contained one of my favorite female leads by this author.

Patrick O’Doul is the enforcer and team captain for the Brooklyn Bruisers. Years of fights and hard hits have taken their toll on both his body and mind, but like all good hockey players, he plays through the pain and doesn’t feel it’s necessary to get others involved. But since the Bruisers are making a serious play-off run this season, the team’s training staff is having none of that nonsense, so much to his displeasure, they assign him to see the team’s massage therapist when his chronic hip injury becomes too obvious to hide from them. Ari Bettini loves her job as massage therapist and yoga instructor for the Bruisers, and it’s working well as a place to focus her energy after a painful break-up with her boyfriend of eight years. As Patrick warms up to Ari’s healing touch, sparks start to fly between them too. But will demons from both their pasts keep them from making a run at love?

I’m beginning to think I could have a template for reviews of every book I read by this author. Within the genre, Sarina Bowen has one of the most flawless and engaging storytelling styles I’ve read. When she pairs that with tropes I enjoy (she often does) and characters I like enough to root for (she almost always does), the result is a book that causes time to pass more quickly than I expect. Like the first book in the series, Hard Hitter is on the long side for romances, but at no point was I forcing myself to continue or wishing it were shorter. Also like most of her books, this one has a compelling and completely believable plot line that involves some potentially serious issues that she handles in a way that perfectly balances angst with humor.

Patrick is the perfect type of romance hero in my book. As a long-time NHL veteran, he’s old enough to have the life experiences needed to know himself fully so that his actions in the book feel completely honest. His troubled past easily explains much about the man he turned into: he’s a loner who’s cautious about getting close to those he’s around, something that makes him come across as a bit of an asshole—he certainly came across to me that way in his limited appearances in Rookie Move—but once he’s on your side, he’s fiercely loyal and protective. He’s also flawed, largely from his upbringing, but also because he’s starting to feel his age in such a rough sport, which causes him to make some poor decisions that certainly come back to haunt him as the story goes on.

For whatever reason, when I read Sarina’s M/F romances, I usually find the heroine only tolerable to maybe likable in the best case scenario. Here, though, Ari is a character I really liked. She’s friendly and outgoing with a nurturing personality that comes through in her persistence. The recent break-up with her jerk of a boyfriend, one that quickly moves from annoying to dangerous, has her shaken and unconfident when it comes to acting on the feelings she develops for Patrick. Put all this together, and she has the most important characteristic I could want for someone in a book, she’s relatable. And that makes me want things to work out for her all the more. Put them together, and the result is irresistible.

Sure I’m a gay man and Hard Hitter is not a gay romance, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. As much as I loved Sarina Bowen’s M/M romances and would love to see another one, I hope she continues writing the books she wants to write. I know I plan to keep reading them, because even if they have lady parts in them, I will always be reading them for the wonderfully crafted stories they contain.

The author and/or publisher generously provided me a complimentary copy of Hard Hitter in exchange for this fair and honest review.

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Our reviews

The first novel in a sexy new series featuring the hockey players of the Brooklyn Bruisers and the women who win their hearts—from the USA Today bestselling author of the Ivy Years series.

In high school they were the perfect couple—until the day Georgia left Leo in the cold...

Hockey player Leo Trevi has spent the last six years trying to do two things: get over the girl who broke his heart, and succeed in the NHL. But on the first day he’s called up to the newly franchised Brooklyn Bruisers, Leo gets checked on both sides, first by the team’s coach—who has a long simmering grudge, and then by the Bruisers’ sexy, icy publicist—his former girlfriend Georgia Worthington.

Saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things Georgia ever had to do—and saying hello again isn’t much easier. Georgia is determined to keep their relationship strictly professional, but when a press conference microphone catches Leo declaring his feelings for her, things get really personal, really fast...

Pipe Dreams  (Brooklyn Bruisers #3)
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Pre-order  Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo
Expected May 2, 2017

A goalie has to trust his instincts, even when taking a shot to the heart…

Mike Beacon is a champion at defending the net, but off the ice, he’s not so lucky. A widower and a single father, he’s never forgotten Lauren Williams, the ex who gave him the best year of his life. When Lauren reappears in the Bruisers office during the playoffs, Beacon sees his chance to make things right.

Lauren hates that she’s forced to travel with the team she used to work for and the man who broke her heart. There’s still undeniable sexual tension running between her and Mike, but she won’t go down that road again. She’s focused on her plans for the future—she doesn’t need a man to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Lauren plays her best defensive game, but she’s no match for the dark-eyed goalie. When the field of play moves to Florida, things heat up on the beach.

One of Mike’s biggest fans doesn’t approve—his teenage daughter. But a true competitor knows not to waste the perfect shot at love. 
Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and New Adult fiction from the wilds of Vermont.

Her Ivy Years and Brooklyn Bruisers books are hockey romance novels. These two connected series began breaking hearts in 2014 with The Year We Fell Down. See http://www.sarinabowen.com for updates.

HIM and US are the bestselling, hockey LGBT novels co-written with Elle Kennedy. HIM is also a finalist for the Romance Writers of America's RITA® Award.

For lovers of angsty snowboarders, Sarina also writes the Gravity series, featuring snow sports heroes.

Sarina enjoys skiing, coffee products and a nice glass of wine. She lives with her family, six chickens and more ski gear and hockey equipment than seems necessary.


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