Review: Kiss Hard by Nalini Singh

Review: Kiss Hard by Nalini SinghKiss Hard (Hard Play, #4) by Nalini Singh
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, sports romance
Series: Hard Play #4
Pages: 329
Published by TKA Distribution on May 3, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh brings you a sinfully playful contemporary romance between two sworn enemies turned partners in crime...
Daniel Esera is a young god on the rugby field, a sexy and charming man who's got the world at his feet. There's just one problem: his sudden potent attraction to his number one nemesis--Catie River. No. Just no. Not happening.
Catie River is on her way to Paralympic gold, and she's not about to allow Danny "Hotshot" Esera to derail her plans. Too bad her body isn't cooperating. Even worse? Her heart might be coming along for the ride. No. Nope. Never.
The pair are united in their desire to remain enemies... until a stranger's reckless action threatens both their careers. Now, the only way out for Catie and Danny is to pretend to be in a relationship. How bad can it be? They're adults in full control of their hormones and their hearts. There will be no kissing. No PDA. And definitely no falling in love.
Let the games begin.

My Review:

The Hard Play series has been all about the sons of the Bishop/Esera clan of New Zealand Rugby “Royalty” finding their HEAs, beginning with big brother Gabriel “T-Rex” Bishop in the precursor story, Rock Hard. T-Rex and his story were universal, squeeing, over-the-moon favorites over at The Book Pushers, so I’m always happy to see just how happy his and his “Mouse’s” HEA has turned out to be.

Gabriel Bishop is Danny Esera’s half brother – not that any of the Bishop/Esera brothers ever waste a breath on that half. The first “official” book in the Hard Play series, Cherish Hard, was all wrapped – like a vine – around the romance between Sailor Bishop, the second son in the family, and Isa Rain, the (half) sister of Catie River, Danny’s frenemy in the blended family from the day they met.

So long-time readers of this series have met these people before, back in that earlier book, and an earlier time in both their lives, as Sailor and Isa are more than a bit older than their (half) siblings. Again a half that only matters for the amount of time between their parents’ marriages and not anything to do with the amount of love in either family. (You don’t have to read the earlier books in the series to get right into the action in this one, but they are all delicious so why wouldn’t you?)

Which leads to a big part of this story, in that there was and is plenty of unconditional love in the Bishop/Esera clan, while Isa and Catie mostly had just each other. Not that their parents aren’t all still among the living, but that their presence in their daughters’ lives is a bit, shall we say, lacking.

Jacqueline Rain has always been more interested in being a corporate shark than a mother, while Isa’s father was every bit as invested in his own corporate sharkhood and not so present for his daughter. While Catie’s dad was an unreliable gambler who let his luck and the wind blow him wherever the next good time happened to be. Clive Rain loves his child, but he’s only rarely there for her. He stood steadfast for one, long, big, huge time when her legs were crushed along with her dreams of being an Olympic sprinter. But the rest of the time, Clive has been the one running.

Now Danny and Catie are all grown up, they are both sports stars in their own respective rights – Danny on the New Zealand National Rugby Team and Catie as a medal-winning Paralympic sprinter. They are also the best of enemies, snarking at each other at family gatherings and in social media. If there’s a poster couple for frenemies, Danny and Catie are it. They snark not to wound but to one-up each other in ways that are intelligent and funny rather than truly hurtful.

So, when Catie sees clean-cut, clean-living Danny stumbling and slurring his words at a big party, she knows something is wrong. Danny doesn’t drink to excess, and he doesn’t do drugs – because there’s too much riding on his good image and his success. In the best frenemy tradition, she gets Danny out of the party before he either passes out or does something stupid and unforgiveable.

Only for the news that they are holed up in her apartment in the suddenly snowbound city to potentially be as damaging to both their images as pictures of Danny under the influence might have been.

Which leads to damage control for the damage control. A fake relationship will explain their sudden cozy snowbound interlude. A fake relationship that lasts a reasonable amount of time will make the whole thing acceptable to both sets of fans and keep the media away from the real story.

And in the best tradition of fake relationship romances, when the fake turns real, neither of them are sure that the other is able to trust their very mutual change of heart.

Escape Rating A-: At first it seems like this one hits the “Trope Trifecta” – it’s a snowbound, fake relationship, enemies to lovers romance. But under those easy-to-spot covers is something with a whole lot more delicious nuance.

The one part of the trope trifecta that is unequivocally true is the snowbound part. Catie and Danny do end up spending a couple of nights stuck in her apartment during a freak snowstorm. But those other two tropes, not so much – in a very good way.

This isn’t really an enemies to lovers romance because Danny and Catie aren’t truly enemies. Not that their mutual snarkfest isn’t real, rather that it doesn’t represent real enmity. They are constantly trying to one-up each other, and they are very salty to each other both online and in person, but it’s all very much in jest in a way that only works with someone you trust not to hurt you. Which they do.

Their relationship isn’t exactly fake, either. Or rather, they already have a relationship – a relationship of true friends who snark and play-fight to keep the world at bay. They already love each other, if not romantically. There’s nothing shameful or wrong in loving your friend, and that’s what they are to each other underneath all that snark.

So this is a story about both of them reaching for more with a person who is already inside their circle of trust – but who they are afraid to trust too much because of the emotional baggage they are carrying from other relationships in their lives when that trust was broken.

Especially Catie, who loves her father but was forced at a young age to recognize that he was not in the least trustworthy – and that he’d always walk away without a second’s notice.

To make a long story short, Kiss Hard is every bit as worthy a successor to the rest of the Hard Play series as Daniel Esera is to the tradition of his family’s rugby dynasty. The joy in the story is watching Catie and Danny turn their salty friendship into a beautiful romance.

Review: Love Hard by Nalini Singh

Review: Love Hard by Nalini SinghLove Hard by Nalini Singh
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, sports romance
Series: Hard Play #3
Pages: 340
Published by TKA Distribution on March 10, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Jacob Esera, star rugby player and young single father, has worked hard to create a joyous life for his six-year-old daughter. After the death of his childhood sweetheart soon after their daughter’s birth, all Jake wants is safety and stability. No risks. No wild chances. And especially no Juliet Nelisi, former classmate, scandal magnet, and a woman who is a thorn in his side.

As a lonely teenager, Juliet embraced her bad-girl reputation as a shield against loneliness and rejection. Years later, having kicked a cheating sports-star ex to the curb, she has a prestigious job and loyal friends—and wants nothing to do with sportsmen. The last thing she expects is the fire that ignites between her and the stuffed-shirt golden boy who once loved her best friend.

Straitlaced Jacob Esera versus wild-at-heart Juliet Nelisi? Place your bets.

My Review:

Until now the Hard Play series has been kind of a prequel to the author’s Rock Kiss series, but this entry is loosely a sequel to my personal favorite book in that series, Rock Hard. And while it was great to see the Mouse and T-Rex put the icing on the cake of their HEA with a wedding, Love Hard is not their story.

So you don’t have to read that, or any of the rest of the series, to like Love Hard. Not that it isn’t great to catch up with the friends from the rest of the series(es), but this one does stand alone.

In fact, it’s kind of about standing alone – and discovering that maybe it’s time not to have to.

Juliet Nelisi is the Mouse Charlotte’s best friend, and we saw plenty of her as a secondary character in Rock Hard. But that wasn’t her story just like this isn’t Charlotte’s. In spite of Jules’ status as Charlotte’s long-time bestie, we learn in Love Hard that if there’s one thing Jules isn’t used to, it’s having someone to stand in her corner. She’s done plenty of that standing for other people, but very few have ever stood for her. Starting with her family.

The one person besides Charlotte who always stood in Jules’ corner was her high school bestie, Calypso. But Calypso died of meningitis not long after giving birth to her beautiful daughter Esme, and Jules still misses her every day.

Jules isn’t the only one still missing Calypso. Jacob Esera, little Esme’s father, is raising his daughter not exactly alone, but the help he has comes from his parents, his brothers, and his extended family. Between his top-flight professional rugby career and raising his daughter, he’s kept himself away from the groupies and the scandals that can come with being a young man at the top of pro sports.

Jake, at 24, feels like he buried the young man he used to be in the grave with Calypso, but he’s mourned and moved on. He has to keep going for Esme, for his family, and for his career.

The one thing he doesn’t factor on is Jules resurfacing in his life. Not like that. Jules and Calypso were besties, Calypso was Jake’s high school sweetheart, and the friend of his girlfriend, was, at best, a frenemy. They got along for Callie’s sake. Just barely.

At the time, Jules was trouble with a capital T. And everything that has happened in her life, at least the parts that Jake knows about from the gossip rags, say that she is still trouble. Big trouble. Huge trouble.

But their contentious encounter as part of the wedding party for T-Rex and the Mouse show Jake that Jules has grown into a beautiful woman who pushes all his buttons. Both the buttons that make him want to rile her up and piss her off, and the buttons that make him want to rile her up and take her to bed.

She drives him crazy in every possible way. And shakes him out of the staid, grey, safe zone he’s tried to live in since Callie’s death. But starting a relationship with Jules isn’t just ill-advised. It’s downright stupid. The gossip rags are still following her around after the juicy breakup of her marriage to a cricket star. Those same gossip rags are the last thing he wants in his life, especially sniffing around his 6-year-old daughter.

Jules has tried her best to live a quiet life, out of sight of the gossip rags, if not ever completely out of mind. Getting involved with another sports star will drag ALL of the old crap out of the woodwork, and set her up for yet another round of having her life invaded. She doesn’t want any part of that, and she especially doesn’t want any part of that invading Jake’s life with Esme, or his family.

But she wants Jake in spite of every instinct saying this is a really bad idea. The question is whether it is a good enough bad idea to take the risk?

Escape Rating A-: There are parts of this story that make me feel guilty for even looking at the headlines on the grocery store gossip magazine shelf, let alone ever clicking on a clickbait gossip headline on social media.

Speaking of which, have you ever noticed that, when it comes to the media, men are always talked about for who THEY are and what THEY do, but women are still almost always talked about in terms of who they married, regardless of their own accomplishments?

Both of those thoughts play into Jules’ side of this equation in a big way. While she may have been a troublemaker in high school, well, there were reasons. And it was high school, a big part of the point of which is to make mistakes and learn from them so you don’t make them later.

But her marriage, well, that mess was so not her fault as to be ridiculous. But he was the star and she was the girl from nowhere, so when the relationship ended, he controlled the narrative and got all the sympathy, while her reputation got trashed and trashed and trashed. It made for great clickbait and left her shell-shocked and gun shy. Especially since it seemed that everyone who even glanced at a tabloid made up their minds about her in an instant. Those rags got lots of mileage out of painting her as a gold-digging, lying, cheating predator, never mind that she signed an iron-clad prenup, so she didn’t get a dime, and that he was the liar, the cheater AND the predator.

It’s that past that both comes back to haunt Jules, and in the end teaches her that you can survive just about any storm if you have good people down in that storm shelter with you.

Her ex tries to resurrect their past scandal to put his name back in the headlines. His career is fading fast from too much “Life in the Fast Lane’, and he’s hoping to trade his remaining celebrity status for a cable TV show.

Jules wants to hide until the storm blows over, but Jake won’t let her. Instead, he stands with her, his entire family stands with her, and they all help her not just weather the storm, but turn it back against her ex. And in that process, she learns that she has someone who will stand with her through thick and thin, help her celebrate her wins, and help her recoup from her losses. It’s something she’s never had before.

But their relationship isn’t all one-sided. He needs her to be the wind beneath his wings, to get him out of that safe, staid, grey rut he’s been in. They do a whole lot better than just get by with a little, or a lot, of help from their friends.

So, on the one hand, this is a hot and steamy frenemies to lovers romance. On the other, it’s a story about not just finding but also accepting the right people to stand with, and to stand with you. About finding the person who helps you be strong in your broken places. And that’s a story that always makes for a very satisfying romance!

Review: Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh

Review: Rebel Hard by Nalini SinghRebel Hard (Hard Play, #2) by Nalini Singh
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Hard Play #2
Pages: 409
Published by TKA Distribution on September 18, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh continues her Hard Play series with a sweet, sexy romance featuring big, fat, OTT weddings, a meddling grandma, and a too-serious hero who needs to be unbuttoned…

Nayna Sharma agreed to an arranged marriage in the hope it would heal the fractures in her beloved family… only to realize too late that a traditional marriage is her personal nightmare. Panicked, she throws caution to the winds, puts on the tiniest dress she can find, and ends up in the arms of a tall, rough-edged hunk of a man who has abs of steel—and who she manages to mortally insult between one kiss and the next.

Abandoned as a child, then adopted into a loving family, Raj Sen believes in tradition, in continuity. Some might call him stiff and old-fashioned, but he knows what he wants—and it’s a life defined by rules… yet he can’t stop thinking about the infuriating and sexy woman who kissed him in the moonlight then disappeared. When his parents spring an introduction on him, the last woman he expects is her. Beautiful. Maddening. A rulebreaker in the making.

He’s all wrong for her. She’s all wrong for him. And love is about to make rebels of them both.

My Review:

The Hard Play series is a prequel to the author’s Rock Kiss series, linked by my and the rest of the Book Pushers favorite alpha male, Gabriel Bishop, better known as T-Rex. But you certainly don’t have to read Rock Kiss or even Gabriel’s book, Rock Hard to get right into Rebel Hard.

As I said, this series is a prequel, so those events haven’t happened yet. However, the series is absolutely marvelous!

Rebel Hard is the second book in the Hard Play series, after last year’s Cherish Hard. Again, absolutely awesome. But you really don’t need to read Cherish Hard to get into Rebel Hard, because these two stories are happening in parallel.

Isa, the heroine of Cherish Hard and Nayna, the heroine of Rebel Hard, are besties. Really, really solid besties and have been forever. Both stories begin at the same time and place, the party where Isa meets Sailor, and where Nayna meets Raj. And it both cases it’s at least lust at first sight, if not something more.

In Cherish Hard, we saw what transpired between Isa and Sailor after this fateful party. Now it’s Nayna’s turn. And while her story, both before and after the party is completely different, both do end in the same place.

Rebel Hard isn’t really a story about rebellion, at least not in a big way. But it is about the kind of small rebellions that happen in everyday lives. And that’s true even though the chapter headings of Rebel Hard reflect the way that Nayna’s life seems to be taking a turn straight into a Bollywood melodrama.

This is, in the end, the story of Nayna’s rebellion. She begins the story as her parents’ “perfect” and perfectly reliable daughter. Nayna has suppressed her own desires, and had them suppressed for her, in the wake of her older sister’s very big rebellion – where she married someone completely unsuitable, ran away from home, and eventually got divorced.

In their fairly traditional Indian family, Maddie went pretty far off the rails – and it seems that Nayna is the one that was punished for it, with her movements and teenage life claustrophobically restricted by their frightened parents. Now Maddie is back, and she and Nayna are both adults, but Nayna is still letting her parents control her life while Maddie seems to get away with everything.

Nayna feels resentful and taken for granted – and she feels the walls of her world closing in. She had agreed to let her parents arrange a marriage for her, but now that the process is underway Nayna feels like her cage door is closing. That the candidates she meets turn out to be self-absorbed douchebags probably isn’t helping.

So she and Isa break out one night, and go to what to them seems like a fairly wild party – not that it actually is. But they are among strangers, and for one night they can be whoever and whatever they want to be. They are free from the different but equally restrictive expectations they live with.

And Nayna, intending to take a little bitty walk on the wild side, meets Raj, and discovers a part of her that wants to be wild – but only with him.

Of course he turns out to be the next candidate her parents introduce her to. Because that’s the way these stories always work. Just as she’s finally figured out that as much as she loves her parents, and as much as they love her, she has to experience life on her own terms before she gets married. And that she wants to marry someone who sees the real her, whoever that turns out to be – even though her parents don’t.

The story here is the tug of war, both within and between Nayna and Raj, and with all of the conflicting sets of expectations set up by not merely the two of them, but between both of their close, loving and hyper-involved families.

Everyone wants what’s best for everyone else. But in the end only Nayna and Raj can make that decision – no matter how much pressure is put on them, from each and every side.

Escape Rating A-: It took me a long time to get into this one – longer than usual for one of Nalini Singh’s books. In retrospect, I don’t think it was the fault of the book. I just wasn’t in the mood for a romance for several days.

Once I got into it, it turned out to be a breathlessly fast read, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Part of what made this story so interesting was that it is steeped in the Indian expat culture as it is lived in New Zealand – the setting from which the author herself springs. The families are very close-knit, as is the entire community. The interconnectedness of family and community is something that used to be a lot more common. People used to rely on not just their marital family but also their birth family and their extended family all their lives, and that’s something that doesn’t happen in the wider Western society as much anymore.

Nayna is a great character through which to portray both how lovely that can be and equally how smothering it can be. At the same time, the recognition that she has caught herself in her own trap is familiar no matter what culture one comes from. She has become the “good” daughter because her sister was the “bad” daughter, so she feels that she will only be loved if she is perfect. And she is afraid of what will happen if she isn’t.

Her relationship with Raj is fraught, not because there is anything wrong with him, but because she doesn’t want it to seem like she has given into expectations, and she is afraid that she will give into his. Not that she doesn’t fall for him, and very much vice versa, but he has always claimed that he wants a traditional wife, and Nayna doesn’t want to be that. Not that she doesn’t want to be a wife, she just doesn’t want to be that kind of wife. They have to work hard, both with and against all the various family pressures, to figure out a way to be together that satisfies what they both want and need – not just during the first flush of love, but for always.

Their sometimes desperate realism about what will and won’t work for each of them is what makes this story sing. And dance. Definitely dance.

Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini SinghCherish Hard (Hard Play, #1) by Nalini Singh
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Hard Play #1
Pages: 374
Published by TKA Distribution on November 14th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh kicks off her new Hard Play contemporary romance series with a sizzling story that’ll leave you smiling…

Sailor Bishop has only one goal for his future – to create a successful landscaping business. No distractions allowed. Then he comes face-to-face and lips-to-lips with a woman who blushes like an innocent… and kisses like pure sin.

Ísa Rain craves a man who will cherish her, aches to create a loving family of her own. Trading steamy kisses with a hot gardener in a parking lot? Not the way to true love. Then a deal with the devil (aka her CEO-mother) makes Ísa a corporate VP for the summer. Her main task? Working closely with a certain hot gardener.

And Sailor Bishop has wickedness on his mind.

As Ísa starts to fall for a man who makes her want to throttle and pounce on him at the same time, she knows she has to choose – play it safe and steady, or risk all her dreams and hope Sailor doesn’t destroy her heart.

My Review:

I found myself reading Cherish Hard in the middle of reading yesterday’s book. Not that yesterday’s book wasn’t good and absorbing, but I realized that I was still in the mood for another romance – and Nalini Singh always delivers.

As I got into the book, and we were introduced to the hero’s marvelous family, someone sounded familiar – so I had to check. And OMG it was T-Rex. Sailor’s older brother Gabriel is the absolutely delicious hero of one of my favorite books of the past few years, Rock Hard. So it looks like the Hard Play series is kind of a prequel to the author’s Rock Kiss series.

This is fantastic! Rock Hard was a universal favorite among the Book Pushers. We all wanted more. It looks like we got that more, and with bells on.

But Cherish Hard is not T-Rex’s story. Instead, this is the story of his brother Sailor, and the woman Sailor first meets at 17, and watches in a combination of teenaged lust and adult horror, as her then-boyfriend dumps her, in public, with the nastiest words possible, and she runs out of a party in devastated shock.

Even then, Sailor doesn’t want to let his mystery redhead go. But she gets away before he can break out of the overcrowded room. Which doesn’t stop her from being the fuel for all of his fantasies for six long years.

When they meet again years later, at first neither of them remembers the other. When they finally do, Sailor rushes towards the woman who has fueled his every fantasy, while Isa Rain wants to run far and fast from the man who witnessed her humiliating heartbreak.

But they can’t keep away from each other. Because Sailor has just signed a contract with her-mother-the-dragon to design the landscaping for her company’s new series of organic restaurants. And Isa has just caved into her mother’s blackmail to serve as vice-president of the family crafting business for the summer.

What Isa doesn’t know, but her mother does, is that Isa’s project as VP is to manage the organic restaurant start-up, including Sailor’s contract.

The Dragon Mother believes that one summer of being VP will awaken Isa’s inner dragon and turn her away from her dream of being a teacher. She may also be counting on Isa getting the hot and sexy Sailor out of her system.

The best laid plans of mice, men and dragon mothers often go astray…

Escape Rating A: As much as I squeed about the link between Cherish Hard and Rock Hard, you do not have to read Rock Hard or the Rock Kiss series first. Although they are absolutely marvelous and you might just want to. But the events of Rock Hard occur after Cherish Hard. I’m not quite sure just how long after, and I may treat myself to a re-read to find out, but the stories aren’t really linked. Or at least not yet.

The romance between Isa and Sailor sizzles on every page of Cherish Hard, from Sailor’s reaction to Isa at their first disastrous near-meeting to their second encounter outside her school to their unexpectedly hot relationship the moment they finally do manage to really connect.

At the same time, this is a romance between two people with serious abandonment issues. Issues that they both acknowledge, but have only half worked through, if that. Sailor’s bio-dad left him, his older brother Gabe, and their mother when Sailor was five, after first cleaning out all of the family’s bank accounts, even Gabe and Sailor’s boyhood savings. He’s slime, and Sailor sees the man’s face every time he looks in the mirror.

Sailor has a plan to become a successful businessman, at pretty much any cost, in order to feel like he is not the man his bio-dad was. And he seems to be driven to sacrifice everything to that goal, at least until he falls for Isa.

Isa was abandoned in place. Both her parents are still alive, but neither seems to have any emotional investment in Isa or any of their children, whether separately or together. Isa’s only sources of real support and affection were her grandmother, now deceased, and her best friend. But Isa is determined to give her siblings, her half-sister Catie and her stepbrother Harlow, the grounding and emotional support she never had, no matter what.

She’s 28, and looking for a relationship with a man who will put her first, as no one in her life ever has. Instead, she falls for Sailor, even though she believes he isn’t ready for the kind of commitment she needs, and has admitted that his business comes first, and will for a long time.

They seem to be at an emotional impasse, and the conflict that they have to overcome is to find a way to make it work, because they are both all in whether they are ready to admit that or not.

Watching them find a compromise that gives them both what they really need, and not just what they thought they wanted, is beautiful.

I can’t wait to see how the rest of Sailor’s brothers find their matches, because I already know it’s going to be awesome.

Review: Rock Wedding by Nalini Singh + Giveaway

Review: Rock Wedding by Nalini Singh + GiveawayRock Wedding (Rock Kiss, #4) by Nalini Singh
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Rock Kiss #4
Pages: 345
Published by TKA Distribution on July 19th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh continues her Rock Kiss series with a hot, sweet, emotional contemporary romance about love and forgiveness…
After a lifetime of longing for a real family, Sarah Smith thought she’d finally found her home with rock star Abe Bellamy, even if she knew Abe didn’t love her the way she loved him. But their brief relationship, filled with tragedy and heartache, nearly destroyed her. Alone, emotions in turmoil, and already shaky self-esteem shattered, Sarah struggles to pick up the pieces in the wake of their divorce.
Abe knows he’s to blame for the end of his marriage. Caught in a web of painful memories, he pushed away the best thing in his life – the sexy, smart woman he adores – breaking them both in the process. Then fate throws him a second chance to get things right, to prove to Sarah that she means everything to him. Abe desperately wants that second chance at love...even if he knows he doesn’t deserve it.
But can he convince Sarah – now strong and independent without him – to risk her wounded heart one more time?

My Review:

rock hard by nalini singhI have enjoyed the entire Rock Kiss series, as my reviews of the previous books (Rock Addiction, Rock Courtship, Rock Hard and Rock Redemption) certainly indicate. Rock Hard is definitely my favorite. We had great fun doing one of our joint reviews over at The Book Pushers. Gabriel (AKA T-Rex) was everyone’s favorite book boyfriend.

Rock Wedding, unlike some of the earlier books, contains a story that has been brewing through the entire series. Not just because parts of this story cover the weddings of the couples that were formed in the earlier books, but because the relationship between Abe and Sarah originally predated Fox and Molly’s romance in Rock Addiction.

Once upon a time, back when Abe Bellamy, the keyboard artist of Schoolboy Choir was drowning in at least the booze and drugs part of the fabled rockstar lifestyle, he married 21-year-old Sarah. And proceeded to totally screw things up until he finally drove Sarah away. Sarah was beyond right to leave the bastard. She probably should have done it a hell of a lot sooner.

But Sarah’s departure sent Abe into what was almost a final tailspin. Just because he drove her away, doesn’t mean he actually wanted her gone. Abe dove so far into booze and drugs that his bandmates had to stage an intervention to get him out and into rehab.

rock redemption by nalini singhIt doesn’t sound like it took the first time either, but it finally did. By the time (in Rock Redemption) that Abe and the rest of Schoolboy Choir rescue Sarah from an attempted battering by the guy she makes the mistaking of hooking up with after her divorce, it is pretty clear that Sarah’s and Abe’s relationship still has a lot of unfinished business.

When Rock Wedding opens, it is equally clear that whatever is unfinished between them contains a whole lot of sexual heat – as well as a whole bunch of raw emotion that Abe is finally clean and sober and able to deal with. Along with all of the baggage that derailed their first attempt at marriage.

But it’s going to take a lot of time and effort for Sarah to trust again the one man that she knows can break her heart – because he’s already done it. And she’s not sure she wants to risk it a second time – no matter how good it feels to try.

Escape Rating B: I liked Rock Wedding, but not nearly as much as some of the other books in the series – especially the completely yummy Rock Hard.

While I usually enjoy a second chance at love story, which Rock Wedding definitely is, the romantic tension was missing in this one. Sarah and Abe get together almost at the beginning of the book. And while Sarah keeps trying to convince herself that each encounter is just a one-time thing, it is obvious to the reader, and to Sarah herself, that it isn’t. She doesn’t expect Abe to keep coming back, and her very justifiable mistrust is disarmed when he does.

A significant chunk of this story is Abe proving to Sarah that he is going to remain clean and sober and be all in for their relationship this time. He has a long way to go to prove to Sarah that he will be there for her and for the baby they accidentally made on their first night together.

There are a lot of readers that enjoy romances that are started with or furthered by the introduction of an accidental pregnancy. This reader is just not one of them. The story is well done, but this is just far from my favorite trope. That Sarah spends a lot of emotional energy trying to convince herself that this is all about the baby and not about their relationship, while it made sense in context of the story, just didn’t work as well for this reader as the other stories in the series.

Which doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a few tears in my eyes during the emotional climax of the book, because I definitely did. I liked Abe and Sarah and was very happy to see them make a family. Not just their own nuclear family, but their family of choice with the members of Schoolboy Choir, the women who have given them all a reason to keep making beautiful music, and the marvelous people who surround them.


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Review: Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh + Giveaway

Review: Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh + GiveawayRock Redemption (Rock Kiss, #3) by Nalini Singh
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Rock Kiss #3
Pages: 316
on October 6th, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Kit Devigny could have loved rock guitarist Noah St. John. Their friendship burned with the promise of intense passion and searing tenderness…until the night Noah deliberately shattered her heart.
Noah knows he destroyed something precious the night he chose to betray Kit, but he’d rather she hate him than learn his darkest secret. All he has left is his music. It’s his saving grace, but it doesn’t silence the voices that keep him up at night. Chasing oblivion through endless one-night-stands, he earns a few hours’ sleep and his bad boy reputation.
When a media error sees Noah and Kit dubbed the new “it” couple, Kit discovers her chance at the role of a lifetime hinges on riding the media wave. Wanting—needing—to give Kit this, even if he can’t give her everything, Noah agrees to play the adoring boyfriend. Only the illusion is suddenly too real, too painful, too beautiful…and it may be too late for the redemption of Noah St. John.

Rock Redemption is a powerful story. It is not an easy story.

Both Kit and Noah have a lot of baggage about their pasts and their parents. But there’s a big difference. Kit has learned to deal with her parents’ benign neglect combined with extreme protectiveness. She loves them, they love each other, but they don’t hurt her anymore. Not because they aren’t still occasionally selfish idiots, but because Kit has learned not to count on them for anything. It’s a hard lesson, and it’s had some overlap into the rest of her life, but she has learned to deal with it.

Earning her own as an actor has helped her, not just for the fame and fortune, but for the validation. And the fame is certainly a mixed blessing – it’s brought her great movie parts, but also a vicious stalker.

And some of Kit’s baggage was dropped in her lap by Noah’s crap.

Noah has had a much tougher row to hoe, and has way more baggage as a result. His rich parents are cold and distant. They occasionally require his presence, but can’t look him in the face. We don’t find out what happened until fairly close to the end of the book, although there are clues dropped early on. But what happened was bad at the time, and it’s worse now in lots of ways because Noah has never had any help getting past it. The wounds are scars that he keeps picking at, and one of those ways that he picks at those scars is to pick up lots of women and have hard and meaningless sex.
rock hard by nalini singhAnd there are lots of women to pick up – Noah is a member of Schoolboy Choir, the rock bank that has featured in Singh’s Rock Kiss series. Lead singer Fox found his true love in Rock Addiction (reviewed here), drummer David, found his happy ever after with their publicist Thea in Rock Courtship (review at The Book Pushers) and in a lovely kind of side-story, businessman Gabriel woos and wins Charlotte, the very best friend of Fox’s Molly in Rock Hard (review also at The Book Pushers).

Noah has gone through his life believing that he isn’t worthy of being loved. And this in spite of the fact that he and Fox have been best friends for 20+ years. But now that he sees his friends fall in love and find real happiness, Noah is starting to envy them a bit. But he thinks he is too messed up for happy ever after. He’s sure that he’ll ruin anything he touches.

And that’s where Kit comes in. Before this story opens, Noah and Kit fell into a deep friendship that masked very real love on both their parts. But Noah, doing a classic “I’ll hurt you now so I don’t destroy you later”, let her find him with another woman. Noah and Kit weren’t even dating, but it was a betrayal and he knew it and did it on purpose.

A lot of the story in Rock Redemption is Noah and Kit recovering their original friendship and trust, to set the stage for that more that Noah can’t believe he deserves.

Escape Rating B+: There are a lot of classic elements to this romance. It is definitely a friends-into-lovers story, while at the same time being a second-chance-at-love story. It has some of the feel of good-girl-reforms-bad-boy, and it has oodles of fake-romance-turns-real.

At the same time, it’s an absolute heartbreaker. Part of the bedrock of the story is that Kit knows she loves Noah, but she is absolutely unwilling to let him off the hook on dealing with his own shit. She’ll help him, she’ll sit up with him, she’ll run with him in the middle of the night, but she won’t let him use her as an emotional punching bag. He has to own up to what went wrong in the past, and work to get beyond it. Over it isn’t possible or reasonable, but he has to stop using his past as the reason to screw up the present, and do it without booze or drugs or endless parades of women to numb the pain.

I really lRock Addiction by Nalini Singhiked Kit. She both stands up for herself and fights for what she wants. She knows just how far she will go, and doesn’t waffle on her line in the sand. She’s scared and hurt and she still does everything she can to get where she wants to be.

She also lives her life on her own terms, in spite of the crazy stalker who has broke into her house, sends her sick notes and drops presents where she trips over them. The stalker seems to be escalating their level of insane possessiveness, and it’s a constant menace to Kit’s life and happiness. But as much as I admired Kit’s strength in the face of this adversity, the reveal of the stalker seemed a bit anti-climactic at the end.

The setup of the fake-romance plotline also seemed a bit contrived, but it was necessary for the story, and it was lovely to watch the way that Noah would just about beat himself up to do whatever he could to help Kit’s career – no matter how much he hurt himself in the process.

But I still loved this story. It is, in some ways, the exact opposite of Rock Addiction, which sometimes seemed like all sex all the time. In Rock Redemption, we have a very necessary very slow burn as Noah and Kit have to find their way back to trusting each other before they are ready to love each other.

For another take (actually several other takes) on Rock Redemption, check out the Group Review over at The Book Pushers.



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