Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MMA Romance Week: Unspoken by Jen Frederick

Welcome to day 4 of MMA Romance Week !

Ratings: ★★★ | 270 Pages | Self-Published | New Adult | Woodlands #2 | 11/13/2013

This book was close to a DNF and not because it was bad, but because some sections of this felt so long and unnecessary and I’m not even counting the extended epilogue.

Unspoken is the second in the Woodlands series, I really liked the first one so I eagerly went into book two. I started with the audio, but I didn’t like the new female narrator and decided to just read it. Our heroine is AnnMarie West, a sophomore at Central College who has basically been slut shamed off campus after sleeping with the wrong lacrosse player. When she becomes partners with Beau, the MMA fighting, stud ex-Marine in her science class (stop me if you’ve heard this one) they start a romance with a very, very slow burn.

The romance between the hero and heroine was just okay. I liked the exploration of the idea that a woman who sleeps around is called a slut while a man gets to be a stud. It was interesting to watch the couple work through this and see there relationship evolve --but oh man the daddy issues in this book. Literally everyone has daddy issues.

Much like No Limits by Lori Foster it turns out this really isn’t  much of a fighting book. Beau works out in an MMA gym, but because the owner thinks he lacks the discipline to go pro Beau fights illegally on reservations from time to time. While AnnMarie does witness one of Beau’s fight we never get any of these fights from his point of view.

I do like the way Frederick touches on some of the problematic elements of having a violent hero. It's not something that has come up in the other books.  Beau has a lot of rage issues and at one point when he admits he’s afraid he’s going to hit AnnMarie and it’s kind of reeling, but I like that Frederick examined and fully fleshed it out what that fear means.

Frederick adds a healthy dose of sprinkles on this book. AnnMarie has a black best friend, a gay male neighbor and lesbian neighbor with a black girlfriend. The reason this all really stands out to me is because the first book has a pretty much all white cast and so it felt like she was correcting some of that.

As I mentioned at the top, the version of this book on Scribd had the extended epilogue which covers the next 18 years of the characters lives. At first I thought it was odd, but then I realized it was a lead in to her YA book about AnnMarie and Beau's kids. I kind of liked seeing the future and watching characters realize their dreams. I’ve been reading more self-pub lately and this is what I like about self pub… it’s allows to do something like make your NA into a YA spinoff.

That said, it’s pretty obvious Unspoken takes place in the 2010’s so I’m curious how Frederick negotiates the YA taking place in the late 2020's.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

MMA Romance Week: Ten Signs You're In An MMA Romance

1. Muscles. Muscles are everywhere. Most importantly biceps.

2. There are suddenly a lot of blue-eyed Irish men in America and they are mad AF.

3. Hey, Ladies- All MEN (except the hero who sees you as a person...sometimes) are jerks and want to hurt you. Don’t go anywhere by yourself because you might be sexually assaulted.

4. Losing is not an option. I mean unless it leads to angst or character development or a redemption arc and being even more winning-er later.

5. Women don’t swear. It’s only men because they are bad boys. Because duh.

6. And sometimes by bad boy we really just mean "sleeps with lots of other women"--but it’s cool because its consensual. But don't you dare have sexual agency, ladies !

7.Your man will have lots of bruises he won’t explain to you, but you think it’s kind of hot.

8. Nicknames are badass AF. Torment. The Wolf. Hurricane.Savage. In fact real names are also probably badass AF. Killian. Aiden. Ryland... and Irish See #2.

9. Professional Female fighters can only exist if they are validated by male coaches or other male fighters. And they always have to work harder to be seen as equal--oh, this may be real life.

10. That guy you’re dating has a dark past. And sometimes it means he’s killed people and got away with it, but you're okay with it. Statute of limitations, amirite ?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

MMA Romance Week : Punching and Kissing by Helena Newbury

Rating: ★★★ + .5 | 6 hours 52 minutes | Tantor Media | Contemporary | Kissing #2| 7/25/2015

Strap in, this is going to be a long one !

If I made a spectrum of combat sport books it would start with books like Jeanette Murray’s Below The Belt on one end--noble military boxing team--and books like Punching and Kissing on the complete opposite. Like complete opposite

When both of their parents die Sylvie and her brother Alec do everything to survive on their own --including Alec entering The Pit--an illegal underground bareknuckle boxing club. When one of Alec’s fights leaves him in a coma, Sylvie volunteers to fight in his place. Sylvie’s never so much as swung a punch, but if she doesn’t fight the coked-out fight organizer will kill Alec. In her desperation she seeks out Aiden, an Irish dockworker who was once a deadly legend in The Pit and begs him to train her.

That synopsis is what got me into this book, I wanted to get away from the party line of MMA romances where the innocent heroine just dates a big bad fighter. I liked the idea of the heroine having to get in the ring and I wanted to see how far this book would go with her fighting….and it goes there.

This book has a lot of flaws and I mean a lot of flaws; the writing can be really cringe-y, the sex scenes were awful and the plot is over the top but overall....I still really liked this story and I feel like if it was a little bit tighter this could be a 5 star review.

MMA Romance Week: Below The Belt by Jeanette Murray

Rating: ★★★★ | 304 Pages | Berkley | Contemporary | First to Fight #1 | 4/7/2015

At 29-years-old, Brad Costa has been affectionately nicknamed the Grandpa of the Marine Corps boxing training camp. This year is Costa’s first and final shot at making the team and when he takes a bad fall on the first day of training  he does the only thing he can do--hide the injury. But he doesn't escape the eye of Marianne Cooke, the team's new athletic trainer. As Marianne and Brad get closer, his secret injury could threaten their relationship and her job.

After my speed read/ DNF of Lori Foster’s No Limits this book was so refreshing. The heroine, Marianne has this big personality and makes Parks and Rec references left and right. She’s almost the exact opposite of Brad who is all serious and Grumpy McGrumpy Grump all the time.

Brad was so fascinating to me because it’s almost like he didn’t get the memo that he is a marine
hero in a romance novel. He just wanted to do his duty and blend in with everyone else, he wasn't about being seen as a hero.

Murray really built a whole world around the day-to-day life in and around this Jacksonville military base and now that I think about it, military base romances are totally just small town romances. They both have close communities that share a small space and have residents with common ideals.

What makes this book compelling is that the stakes were always high; you don’t know if Brad is going to make the team or not. Also, NGL, when Brad reveals why joining the boxing team is so important to him it got me in the feels.

Now...there is a mystery (which I was terrified was going to lead to the heroine running from rape but didn’t) that involves someone constantly vandalizing Marianne’s training center. It’s never resolved so I assume it’s going to be an ongoing plot point in the series ?


  •  I thought the race car driving was a plethora for double entendre titles for romance novels but apparently boxing/MMA/wrestling books is where it is at.
  • Murray does a decent job of incorporating other minorities although she did kind of do the Black Dude Dies First because the only explicitly black Marine that gets a name gets cut from the team soon after he gets a personality.

Monday, March 13, 2017

MMA Romance Week : The DNFs

No Limits by Lori Foster (Ultimate #1)
This isn't a true DNF and since I skim read the last 60%. When the will of  Yvette Sweeny's grandfather brings both Yvette and successful pro MMA fighter Cannon Colter (who by the by once saved her from sexual assault) back to their hometown, they have to work together sort out her late grandfather's pawn business. Oh and he ends up protecting her from some new threat because of reasons.

When I picked up this book I must have been having author amnesia or something because this is the third Lori Foster book I’ve DNFed. We just don’t click. Her heroines always feel bland and her heroes lean a little too close to Meathead McAlphahole. All the men are big brawny protectors for all the womenfolk who always need protection from…well, rape personified usually. It's just not my thing.

In the end this book (like a few other books I read for this) really wasn’t even an MMA or fighting book. It was an alpha-dude-protects-the-pretty-lady with a side of forced seduction, which wasn’t what I was looking for. We see a lot of Cannon signing autographs and going to a gym he helped open, but he never fights on the page. What can I say, I wanted more grit.


Foster must be the queen of sequel bait because every time I pick up one of her books it always feels like I’m coming in the middle of something. I think the initial sexual assault Cannon saves Yvette from is from an earlier book in a different Foster series. Her entire catalog must be connected.

Also, what I do find interesting is that  Foster writes almost exclusively from the male POV.

Take Me On by Katie McGarry (Pushing The Limits #4)

This is a YA romance about Haley Williams, a former teen kickboxer who has it pretty tough. She's given up kickboxing after turning her back on her grandfather's gym for an abusive boyfriend.  Her Dad has been out of work for a year and her family is forced to move in with  her controlling Uncle and his family. She sees college as her only way out, but without a kickboxing scholarship it could never happen. Haley crosses paths with West Young, a rich kid  who was just kicked out by his parents and yada, yada, yada she has to train him to fight against her ex-boyfriend.

Let me back up. I met Katie McGarry at my first BEA and I remember just being really impressed with her personality and personal story. She grew up in a  town where poverty was common and friends were like family and that comes through in her books. 

I really like a lot of the themes and subjects in her books. I could see the relationships and world she was building. She seems to have the market cornered on poor white Southern communities.

All that said I just can’t get into her books and it's mainly because these books are too damn long. And so angsty. There are just pages of internal dialogue that I kept zoning out. And I know people love these books, but much like Foster, me and McGarry do not click.

I tried with this one I really did, but I could see it would take me too long to read and I had to DNF it. I think if you gave me 200 less pages I'd be all about it.

This is the fourth in the Pushing The Limits series and she has developed a very connected world of characters. The books seem to bounce off each other at times so I was a little lost.  I'd suggest reading this series in order.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Welcome to MMA Romance Week

Welcome to MMA romance week at Romance and Sensibility ! 

Last year I noticed there was a ton of  heroes who tangle with  Mixed Martial Arts and other combat sports. So, I spent an entire month diving into the subgenre to learn how these bruising blue collar heroes fit into   romance world that is populated with  billionaires and tycoons. This week I'll be sharing everything I read and learned during my journey into MMA romance.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

First Comes Marriage by Sophia Sasson

Rating: ★★★ | 02/01/2016 | Contemporary Romance | 256 Pages | Harlequin

Dr. Meera Malhort is spending a medical rotation at a rural American clinic to see how the real people live. You know, without insurance and all. She ends up in the small town of Hell’s Bell where she finds board at Jake Taylor’s cattle ranch. Opposites attract and they start a flirtation that...just seems doomed from the start. I mean she’s a vegetarian Hindu and he kills cows for a living. Oh and did I mention she has a fiancĂ© waiting for her back in London ?

I was kind of turned off from this book from the start because before we get into the story the town already hates Meera, who is Indian, because she tells the star football player he can’t play in the big game. But it’s not explained right away why everyone hates her and I couldn’t help but think everyone in town was just racist.

I love small town romances but this town was just ridiculous, the townspeople have a mob mentality and all go from hating Meera to rooting for her and Jake in less than three weeks because of reasons. I think this acceleration of romance is just a thing with series romance because of the length but it left me lukewarm and I just couldn’t get past the fact that Meera was basically cheating on her fiancĂ©.

This is my first romance with, as Sara Wendell would say, no pants feelings and I honestly didn’t mind that part. There were just a lot more throbbing...hearts. There aren’t even really faded to black scenes, in fact it’s implied that premarital sex is a problem in this world. That said there is still an element of physical attraction. The author has to still convey physical attraction without taking it all off which I think she did well.

I can’t say my heart was warmed by my first Harlequin Heartwarming but I’ll be game to try one again !