She’s hitting below the belt…
In this corner is admittedly romantic Jenna Wilinski, who’s inherited a rather seedy boxing gym from her estranged father. With it, she can realize her dream of launching an upscale matchmaking business…provided she can take on the very intimidating—and wickedly hot—boxer who stands in her way!
In the far corner is former pro boxer Mercer Rowley. He’s the only one who can protect his “home”—even if it is a little run-down— from his determined and feisty little opponent. But man, once the gloves come off, his hands just want to touch her everywhere…
This matchup is too close to call. But no matter which contender comes out on top, the other is sure to enjoy every minute of it.
We all know about novels involving estranged parents and children, and we even have novels about estranged children inheriting properties of one sort or another. But I haven’t ever read a story about a daughter who is virtually a stranger from her dad inheriting a rundown boxing gym, a place where boxing wannabes kept their dreams alive even though they and everyone else knew that those dreams were going nowhere. It’s a curious mixture of characters starting with the estranged heiress all the way to the loyal boxers who have been coming to her dad’s gym for years, who were like family to him . . . more like his family than ever she was. Yet throughout the novel runs the quiet but persistent strand of sexual tension between Jenna and Mercer–the boxing pro that has taken over the gym at the death of Jenna’s father, and a man for whom the gym is not only his career and his life but his family as well. Now Jenna’s plans are all set to rob him of nearly everything that makes his life meaningful.
This is a novel about dreams . . . those that are shimmering on the horizon like Jenna’s dream of a highly successful matchmaking business, and those like Mercer’s that revolve around a young boxer who is truly gifted and poised to become a contender in the boxing world. All around the edges of this story are the still-born dreams of those guys that keep coming to the gym, who see this as one very important constant in their lives and who can’t even conceive of what their world will be like when Jenna gets her way and the gym is closed. The battle for the future of the gym is joined when the representative of the franchise matchmaking organization begins to have problems with the idea of Jenna’s business sharing a location with her father’s gym and the crisis becomes critical when Jenna and Mercer become lovers and the date for making a final decision about the future looms close and large.
I didn’t think I would really get as involved in this story as I did. The author has skillfully woven the strands of all these situations, the dreams of all the characters, the emotions that butt up against one another as Jenna sees that her dad had a much richer relationship with these boxer guys than he ever did with her. Lots of old baggage here, all of which are wrapped in a pervasive sense of loss of one sort or another. It’s a deep and compelling and multi-layered story and certainly isn’t your old-time fluffy Harlequin novelette of past days. It’s gritty and real and deeply emotional, all of which serves to make it a satisfying read for those readers who like to sink their teeth into a really, really good story. The author teases out the possibilities for a HEA here–nothing about this clash of hopes and dreams makes that a given. The reader really doesn’t know how this is all going to end as the story just keeps getting more and more complicated. Something is really going to have to give, and it’s a constant temptation to go to the last chapter and see how it’s all going to come out.
This is a fine piece of fiction writing and does the author proud. It’s a story that deserves to be read and appreciated and I encourage those who are always on the lookout for a deeply satisfying romance novel to be sure and give this one a try.
I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.