Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: TKA Distribution
First Published: 10 March 2020
Rating: 4.5 stars
“Juliet was wild color, and she’d drenched his life with it.”
I will start by saying that I was given an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own. Thank you so much to TKA Distribution and NetGalley!
Jacob Esera, star rugby player and young single father, has worked hard to create a joyous life for his six-year-old daughter. After the death of his childhood sweetheart soon after their daughter’s birth, all Jake wants is safety and stability. No risks. No wild chances. And especially no Juliet Nelisi, former classmate, scandal magnet, and a woman who is a thorn in his side.
As a lonely teenager, Juliet embraced her bad-girl reputation as a shield against loneliness and rejection. Years later, having kicked a cheating sports-star ex to the curb, she has a prestigious job and loyal friends—and wants nothing to do with sportsmen. The last thing she expects is the fire that ignites between her and the stuffed-shirt golden boy who once loved her best friend.
Straitlaced Jacob Esera versus wild-at-heart Juliet Nelisi? Place your bets.
I adore Nalini Singh and was thrilled when I was approved for this ARC. Love Hard is the third book in her Play Hard series. The series is set in New Zealand — which I love — and follows the sons of rugby family the Bishop-Esera.
Juliet is used to been misunderstood and considered troublesome but she’s loyal. Something her ex-husband and cricket player used against her for years. I adored Juliet. She has a tough exterior and is used to fending for herself. As the narrative progresses and she explores her relationship with Jacob, we see past her walls and glimpse her vulnerable side.
After the death of his childhood sweetheart and the mother of his daughter, Jacob has dedicated his life to his daughter, Esme. He’s made it his mission to provide her safety and stability. As a rugby player, he’s focusing the game rather than get caught up in fame he leads a conservative life. Juliet manages to get under Jacob’s skin and allows him to have fun and feel young again.
The banter between Jacob and Juliet was front and centre the whole narrative. This is a slow burn relationship, the pair’s dynamic shifts from teenaged enemies to a tentative friendship before they give in to their attraction and start dating. When Juliet’s ex sparks up a media scandal, her first reaction is to push Jacob away. She knows he has Esme to think about and prefers to stay out of the limelight. She’s also used to being alone and having no one to rely on. However, Jacob doesn’t let her go and instead does everything to protect her. When the rest of the Bishop-Esera clan bans around Juliet it brought my heart so much joy.
This story is told in alternative third-person perspectives from both Juliet and Jacob. Sprinkled throughout are flashbacks from when Jacob, Juliet and Callie where teenagers. I loved this element because we got an insight into the person who brought the pair together. Nalini Singh does a fantastic job of creating the perfect balancing the pair’s grief of the loose of Callie and their budding attraction.
Oh my god, Esme was just the cutest! Even though I do not want kids right now there is something about reading about a single dad who’s doing anything and everything for his daughter that just makes my ovaries want to explode. And when she gave Juliet permission to kiss her dad! It was so sweet!
If you love Nalini Singh’s paranormal series — Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunters — and haven’t yet tried her contemporary, I highly recommend this series. The first book is Cherish Hard.