Fighting to Start (Fighting Madly Book 1) by S.L. Ziegler

Fighting to Start (Fighting Madly Book 1) by S.L. Ziegler

Fighting to Start Cover

2 out of 5 Stars

Twenty-one-year-old Hadley loves Reed “Riker” Collins madly, which is why she completely shuts down when he leaves her one day with nothing more than a note. Reed is an MMA fighter looking to make something of himself so he can be good enough for Hadley, his only love, a girl who grew up in privilege as opposed to his life of poverty. He promises to come back for her once he finds himself, hoping she’ll also follow her dreams instead of giving everything up to follow him.

Unfortunately, Reed’s good intentions don’t work out like he planned. Although he’s made a name for himself and plenty of money, both his life and Hadley’s have been practically destroyed in the process. Reed will fight to get her back, but Hadley isn’t sure there’s anything left worth saving.

Fighting to Start is book one in the Fighting Madly series, and the story doesn’t end with a happily ever after. It’s not a cliffhanger ending, but there is clearly more to the story between Hadley and Reed. While Fighting to Start is definitely in the romance genre, I’d call it more of a relationship story. It starts with the main characters madly in love with each other, but very quickly Reed makes the decision to leave Hadley for her own good, and the two live their lives separately for about five years. We hear about what each of them is up to during that time and the bits of information they get about each other, which spurs on the choices they make. Eventually the two arcs come back together, but there’s no immediate happy reunion. Even once they do reunite romantically, the story is not over since both characters are hiding information about their past from the other.

This is where things got a little too cliché for my liking. Reed and Hadley agreed to discuss the past one time and then put it behind them, but neither of them did that. They both kept secrets, and when those secrets came out neither of them were able to just move on from it. I didn’t understand the ending of how Hadley could suddenly decide she couldn’t be in a relationship with Reed because of something that had happened while they were apart when they made that agreement in the first place.

Let me discuss the stupid choices they each made. To start with, Reed left Hadley for her own good without giving her perspective any consideration. That was the entire premise of the story, and it annoyed me from the get-go. While they were apart, he was so broken up over not being with her that he went out and slept with other women—lots of other women. Meanwhile, Hadley complained about how much of a pig Bennett was and an hour later she decided he was perfect for her. Once his true nature came out, she admitted he was a monster but never entertained the idea of leaving him.

Then there was the unrealistic. Reed’s father died quickly and without warning, yet somehow he managed to write a letter to Reed that said how long ago Hadley had contacted him, which meant he had written the letter right before he died somehow knowing he was going to die. Hadley’s mother made a long-winded speech on her deathbed while she was in pain but holding off on getting pain meds. Reed and Hadley got back together and had sex the night Hadley’s mother died. Then everything between them was magically okay after that. Reed’s training only ever consisted of using punching bags, even though he was a master of mixed martial arts. The story ends with Hadley in a coma, but the epilogue jumps to her going home and being strong enough to leave Reed.

And then there were the editing mistakes. The dialogue was unnatural. There were tense changes, lots of run-on sentences, missing words, words out of order, and incorrect word usage—rose “pedals” instead of “petals,” “heal” instead of the “heel” of a shoe, another “thing” coming instead of another “think” coming. Hadley talks about storm counting with her mom when she was younger, but she got the process wrong, saying they counted from thunder to lightning when it should have been counting from lightning to thunder. At one point, Reed was on the phone with someone, yet he told us he watched the guy shake his head. In the epilogue, Hadley said she hasn’t said a word to Reed since she left the hospital, but she had just had dialogue a few paragraphs prior.

Overall, this story wasn’t very enjoyable for me with so much of it being cliché, unrealistic, and poorly edited. I would not be interested in reading more of the series.

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Back in Play (Power Play Book 2) by Lynda Aicher

Back in Play (Power Play Book 2) by Lynda Aicher

Back in Play Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

*I received an ARC of Back in Play through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Playing professional hockey is all Scott Walters has known for the last fifteen years. He wants the Stanley Cup, but he also wants a wife and family. A bum knee forces Scott to over-medicate in order to play the game, and all of the medication doesn’t mix with a healthy relationship or a healthy career.

High school teacher Rachel Fielding doesn’t need a man in her life, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want one. Meeting Scott feels like kismet. He’s the perfect guy for her—until she finds out about his drug abuse. The fact that she’s only in town for a few more days doesn’t help matters.

When Scott asks for Rachel’s help to break his addiction, the two grow closer than ever. But Rachel has rules for her relationships, and Scott returning home to play hockey is a deal-breaker. Scott will need to make some tough decisions about what he really wants out of life.

Back in Play was an interesting read that tackled the tough issue of dependence on prescription pain medication. Scott was not only addicted to the pain relief, but also to the mind-numbing effects of the pills. But as with most medications, there were side effects. One of them happened to be that Scott couldn’t orgasm. It’s not a subject many people want to tackle, but it’s real and it can bring down an otherwise healthy relationship. Lynda Aicher tackled this subject with grace and finesse throughout the story.

I liked that the main characters were both a bit older than your typical romance. Both had established lives and careers, and they needed to figure out how the other fit into it all. Rachel was supportive throughout Scott’s rehab, but she was dead set against any type of long distance relationship. She also didn’t want to be excluded from the decision-making. Scott only wanted one more year to play hockey, and his decision to return left Rachel out in the cold.

At the same time, Rachel never actually spoke up about her expectations. She was a very vocal and honest character, so this kink in their relationship put a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Both of the main characters had a hand in the major angst. I just felt Rachel staying quiet was a little out of character for her.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, which had a nice happily ever after. I would definitely read more by this author. Back in Play is available for pre-order and will be published on May 11, 2015.

Happy reading!


Abel (5th Street #4) by Elizabeth Reyes

Abel (5th Street #4) by Elizabeth Reyes

Abel Cover

3 out of 5 Stars

Twenty-nine-year-old Nellie is coming off a difficult divorce and wants to let loose and have some fun for once in her life. Twenty-two-year-old boxer Abel seems like the perfect candidate for the job. Even with friends warning them of the dangers of their agreement, Nellie and Abel decide that being “friends with benefits” is the way to go. Each of them swears to keep things casual since Nellie is far from ready for any type of relationship.

Feelings start to get in the way, along with paparazzi photos thanks to Abel’s upcoming big fight. And when Nellie accepts a semi-date from someone she works with, everything spirals out of control. Abel takes a chance on admitting his feelings because he can’t imagine living without Nellie, but even when she reciprocates, it’s not the end of their troubles.

I’ll start by saying that this book is hot, just like Abel. Who wouldn’t love a sexy boxer who loves his mother?

That being said, several times during the first half of this book, I wanted to put it down and be done with it. The start of the relationship between Nellie and Abel is a little tired. Their “friends with benefits” status is established immediately, and when each of them develops feelings for the other they continually miscommunicate or get bad information from their friends. I was surprised that the first time Nellie felt like Abel was “making love” to her the author told us just that. Not one single moment of that scene was shown. Of all the steamy scenes that could have been skipped, that was the one I would have liked to see.

The second half of the book was more action-packed and much more enjoyable to me. If I could have skipped over ridiculousness of the first half, I would have been much happier. But even with using the first half of the book to establish the relationship, it still was missing something. Although part of a series, this book is supposed to stand on its own, yet it felt like the author jumped right into things and expected that the reader had read the previous book. I still don’t know what Nellie and Abel were doing on a cruise in the beginning or how long it had been since Nellie’s divorce. I assume the author set up that information at the end of the last book, as she set up information on another character at the end of this book.

I also didn’t love the author’s writing style. It was fine for the most part, but early on it seemed like a lot of information was repeated, as if the reader would forget that Nellie’s divorce was horrible or she only wanted to let loose a little. I’m a fan of “less is more,” and there were a ton of words that could have been cut out (especially from the first half of the book) to make a greater impact.

There were quite a few formatting and grammatical errors in the book as well. It wasn’t necessarily enough to distract from reading, but enough for me to be constantly rolling my eyes.

Overall, the concept was good but the execution lacking.

Breakaway (Portland Storm Book 1) by Catherine Gayle

Breakaway by Catherine Gayle

Breakaway Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

Dana has not had much of a life for the past seven years, ever since she was raped during her first year of college. She can’t touch or be touched by any man, not even those closest to her. Her therapist has all but given up on her, but Dana is ready to make one last effort to take her life back. She seeks out the help of someone she trusts entirely—her brother’s best friend, professional hockey player Eric.

Eric has his own problems to deal with during the remainder of the hockey season, but he can’t say no to Dana’s request. Although he’s hesitant to cause her any pain by going along with her plan, he doesn’t want anyone else to touch her either. She’s also his first love, and he fears letting her go will be harder than anything else.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, well-written story. Although it dealt with the subject of rape, that act was in the past and we only saw bits and pieces of it—just enough to give us the history and explain why Dana is the way she is.

The slow process of Dana being able to accept Eric’s touch (and eventually touch him in return) was believable. Her panic attacks felt real to the reader. As she became more comfortable with Eric, the panic lessened and the touching grew at an appropriate pace. The chemistry between Dana and Eric was palpable, so when they finally got to REALLY touch each other, it nearly exploded off the page. Although this story was written from both characters’ points of view, which I usually don’t like, they both did have a story to tell. There wasn’t much overlap and each of their issues was resolved.

The main drawback of this book for me was the amount of hockey. I love hockey; don’t get me wrong. It’s what actually drew me to the book in the first place. But there were several times where it was just too much narration of a game that Dana was watching or Eric was playing.

I also wasn’t thrilled with how Dana refused to listen to Eric’s words. He more or less told her how he felt about her throughout the book, yet she continually thought he only liked her as her brother’s kid sister and that he was repulsed by having to touch her. He never once gave off that impression. I understand she was damaged and not likely to recognize normal signals, but it was just too much for me. Of course, this misunderstanding was what led to the climax of the book, so I’m not sure there was a better way to go about it other than leaving out all the times she thought of herself as “kid.”

I did enjoy reading this story though, and the few minor editorial issues I found were not bothersome. I read it quickly and would likely read more by this author.

Happy reading!