“You’re everything that I want, and everything I need. You already have my heart, and I don’t want it back.”- Patrick, Hard Hitter
*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Synopsis via Goodreads: 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…
After Rookie Movie (and Leo) stole my heart back in July, I was dying to read the next book in the Brooklyn Bruisers series and I was hoping that Patrick O’Doul would have the same affect on my feels as Leo Trevi did. Unfortunately, Hard Hitter did not live up to my expectations, and while this sequel did not quite fall victim to Second Book Syndrome, there was just something missing that kept me from enjoying this book as much as I would’ve liked to.
Hard Hitter follows the story of Patrick O’Doul, the team captain of the Brooklyn Bruisers, and Ariana Bettini. O’Doul, the team’s message therapist. Day in and day out, O’Doul takes a beating on the ice, but his dislike to being touch makes it difficult to relieve his aches and pains. When the pain becomes to much, O’Doul is sent to Ari in hopes of finding some relief. But O’Doul is not the only one in need of healing. After her relationship of eight years goes south, Ari could use a healing touch as well. Together, these two will find that one touch can go a long way.
I fully admit, one of the main reasons for why I was excited to read Hard Hitter was because the female MC has the same name as me. As shallow as that is, it’s not everyday I get to read a book with a character who has my name (even though her name needs an added “N”), so of course I’m going to be excited about this! Unlike the previous installment, Hard Hitter has a slightly darker tone as it deals with the topics of drugs and abuse. Both O’Doul and Ari have baggage that they are trying to sort out and throughout this book, these two help each other work through their own personal issues. Ari is dealing with an ex-boyfriend who doesn’t know how to quit and she learns that he may be involved with illegal activity which puts her at risk. Wanting to keep her safe, O’Doul helps Ari in anyway that he can. With them spending so much time together, sparks start to fly and these two develop feeling for one another. However, Ari does put the brakes on these two becoming a couple, which I liked because she needed time to figure herself out and who she was after being single for the first time in eight years. Ari goes through a lot in this book, but I enjoyed seeing her get the happiness that she deserved.
We also finally learn why O’Doul is the way that he is and the reason why he dislikes being touched. O’Doul started from the bottom and worked his way up to earn everything he has, but he never really had a steady support system or someone to lean on, hence why he tends to keep to himself. I initially went into this book thinking that O’Doul was a bit of a jerk because of his attitude in Rookie Move, but it turns out that there is actually a heart under the ice cold exterior and O’Doul cares much more than he let’s on. He’s the team captain for a reason and we definitely see why that is in this book.
But what kept me from enjoying this book as much as I would’ve like was the romance itself. To be honest, I felt like the romance was a bit forced. Don’t get me wrong, these two definitely have amazing chemistry and the sexy times are off the chart, but personally for me, O’Doul going from brooding hero to complete romantic just came out of left field and I just didn’t buy it. After one incident where O’Doul comes to Ari’s rescue, he starts being very affectionate towards her and using pet names and it was just a little bit too much too soon. I like the sexy times, but I just wished there was a deeper connection between these two other than just a physical one.
While Hard Hitter didn’t turn out to be a hit, I still enjoyed it and as always Sarina Bowen’s writing is amazing. I’m excited for Pipe Dreams because it’s another second-chance romance and Bowen slays when it comes to the rekindling of old flames so I have no doubt I’m going to love this one. HOWEVER, I AM ALSO HOPING THAT THIS SERIES DOES NOT END WITH PIPE DREAMS! Bowen has been dropping some serious hints about a possible relationship between Becca and Nate and she can’t leave us romantics hanging like that. Here’s to hope that the romance gods grant my wish and let this ship set sail!