Hard Hitter
Sarina Bowen     

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers
Book: 2
Heat Level: Hot

From the USA Today bestselling author of Rookie Move comes the second novel in the series that’s hot enough to melt the ice.
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...

Other books in the series:

After meeting Patrick O’Doul in Rookie Move (reviewed by another reviewer), I didn’t really know what to expect in his book, Hard Hitter. I mean as first impressions went, he was kind of a dick. He called Georgia (heroine in Rookie Move) a “bitch on wheels”. And he was a cocky SOB. But to be fair he got better during the course of that book.

In Hard Hitter, he’s different. Vulnerable in ways I couldn’t have imagined he would be. He has this thing about not liking people to touch him, which stems from his really tragic childhood. He doesn’t have a problem with it in regards to sex though. Sex is the exception. This becomes a big problem when it comes to him submitting to Ari Bettini’s massages. Ari is the team’s personal yoga instructor and masseuse. Patrick has been missing his appointments with her. As the captain of the team, they need him performing at 100% and that means tending to his injured hip. He reluctantly begins showing up for all his massage appointments with Ari.

Ari tries not to take Patrick snubbing her appointments personally and soon figures out he has an aversion to being touched. Whew! At least he doesn’t have a personal aversion to her. The Brooklyn Bruiser’s team captain is a very attractive guy with a body and eight-pack that won’t quit. It’s a lucky thing she’s not interested in him that way. A good thing too because her life is all kinds of messed up right now. Her ex-boyfriend, Vince is a nightmare on two feet. Seriously, the guy is trouble with a capital T, and it’s here the story takes a darker turn and brings in the suspense. I won’t go all spoiler on you, I’ll just say that Ari’s problems with her ex is the catalyst that changes the dynamics of her relationship with Patrick. It’s also when I really started to see Patrick in a new light.

I was surprised at who actively pursued who in this book, and who pulled back and didn’t want a relationship. I’m finding this to be a trend in this series, the hero doing the chasing and the heroine being skittish about getting involved. I was also surprised at the major lapse in judgment by one of our main characters. Yes, it made for good conflict in the maze of problems facing Ari and Patrick, but ouch, definitely not a smart move on that person’s part.

It was nice seeing Patrick go from the guy who walked around with walls fifteen feet high to the guy who was finally able to let people in—and I don’t mean just Ari. As I stated above, Patrick’s childhood was all kinds of tragic and my heart bled for that little boy and everything he went through. If anyone deserves an HEA, it’s him.

I must also add that in order to really appreciate Sarina Bowen’s Brooklyn Bruisers series, I think you have to have a decent love and or appreciation of hockey—the game. I like most sports: hockey, football, baseball, basketball, tennis, you name it. But not everyone does. I followed hockey pretty closely until I was in my mid-twenties and it’s amazing the things I learned reading this book. I had no idea hockey fights were orchestrated to the degree that they are. I just thought hockey players liked to fight a lot—too much. But no, there’s rhyme, reason and preparation behind most of those fights. Who knew? Not  me, that’s for sure.

What else did I adore about this book beyond the emotional and sexy romance between Ari and Patrick (tantric sex, anyone)? Visiting with Georgia and Leo (who are engaged and getting married), learning who Nate (owner of the team) is crushing on, and getting more facetime with Lauren (Nate’s Manhattan assistant). Lauren, to be frank, is coming off as a bitch right now. I know her book, Pipe Dreams, is the next in the series, so I’m prepared for my feelings about her to change. Ms. Bowen does a good job setting her story up and the sneak peek at the end of Hard Hitter gives readers a glimpse into her world. And all I can say is I can’t wait to read it. I’m also dying to know how Ari’s biological clock is faring. ;)

~ Beverley