Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: "Hard and Fast" by Lisa Renee Jones

Hard and FastHard and Fast by Lisa Renee Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first read by Lisa Renee Jones and, yay, it was excellent. How come I've never heard of her before? Why am I "complaining"? Do I really need to add more authors and books to my TBR? Hmmm, I guess I do! :)

Amanda Wright is finally living her dream. She's the new sports reporter for the Los Angeles Tribune, with her own semiweekly feature column in the sports section. On game days - and we're talking about the Major League Baseball and the Los Angeles Rays here - she gets space in the paper no matter what. She's hit the big time, and she's got to show her new boss she can deliver what it takes to keep her position. Getting involved with a Rays player is definitely not the way to do it, as it would damage her credibility as a reporter and ruin her career, but what if one particular player is too hard to resist?

Brad Rogers, the star pitcher for the Rays, has a reputation as a bad boy and has learned the hard way not to trust reporters. He's nice and friendly with them, aware that they're a "necessary evil", but he knows better than to let any of them close - especially now, with his contract up for renewal, his agent telling him to play it cool and stay out of trouble, and the big secret he's hiding... Getting involved with the Tribune's new reporter is everything he shouldn't do, yet the attraction might be too strong to resist.

With their careers at stake, his secret hovering over them and a scandal in the making that her boss pressures her to investigate, any relationship between Brad and Amanda is doomed to failure. Or is it?

That's the basic premise of this book, one of the best HQ Blaze stories I've ever read. I must say that the book description is a bit misleading, because Amanda was never torn between revealing Brad's secret and having an affair with him. That was settled pretty early in the story, when she let him know that she wasn't going to reveal that he'd been hiding an injury. She wasn't the kind of reporter who did everything to make a good story no matter whose career got hurt in the process. The conflict in their relationship was rooted in their individual and antagonistic careers, and that was harder to overcome than the "simple" revelation of a secret. Brad was a ballplayer and Amanda was a sports reporter assigned to cover his team, none of them was likely to change their career so how could there be any future for their relationship?

I absolutely adored Brad and Amanda. They were very well drawn, with realistic motivations and fears, and had great chemistry. I loved the fact that they didn't let lust take over their senses right off the bat, even though they acknowledged the mutual attraction. That was a great way to build up sexual tension and, bonus point, move along the plot, as Brad and Amanda had believable reasons to want to keep their relationship strictly professional. So when they finally got together, there was more than just sex on the table bed, and I could feel it.

Brad was the ultimate sports hero. He was 6'3", blond, blue-eyed and had a "deliciously muscular body, with sculpted pecs and nicely defined abs." Yum! Quoting Amanda, "The man was a walking sex god." Have a look:


(Brad doesn't have any tattoos, but I had to take some liberties with "his" pic because it's very hard to find to-die-for blond guys with blue eyes on the internet.)

He was also charming, fun, loyal, and very persuasive when he went after what he wanted. His decision to keep his injury a secret was perfectly understandable, and so was his wariness around Amanda. I got a little angry with him near the end of the book, when he momentarily took the coward's way out and hurt Amanda in the process, but even that was understandable under the circumstances. He did have a lot on the line there.

Career-driven women can be tough to portray in a sympathetic manner in Romancelandia, but Amanda had the right balance between professional ambition and ethics. She could have revealed Brad's secret and made her name known nationally, but that wasn't how she worked. She was smart, determined, and strong without being pushy. She could have made Brad grovel a little more when he apologized for his behavior near the end of the book, but I guess she was more forgiving that me. :)

All in all, I really loved this book and have no complaints about it. Great characters, interesting plot, sizzling love scenes and a sigh-worthy HEA. What else was missing? Absolutely nothing!

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