Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini SinghCherish Hard (Hard Play, #1) by Nalini Singh
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Hard Play #1
Pages: 374
Published by TKA Distribution on November 14th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

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
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance, rock star romance
Series: Rock Kiss #4
Pages: 345
Published by TKA Distribution on July 19th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

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
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, rock star romance
Series: Rock Kiss #3
Pages: 316
Published by TKA Distribution on October 6th, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

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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