Against the Ropes by Sarah Castille

*This is the first novel in the Redemption series

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Blurb:

He scared me. He thrilled me. And after one touch, all I could think about was getting more…

Makayla never thought she’d set foot in an underground mixed-martial arts club. But if anyone needs a medic on hand, it’s these guys. Trouble is, at her first sight of the club’s owner she’s the one feeling breathless.

All sleek muscle and restrained power, the man they call Torment plays to win at any cost. Whether it’s in the ring or in the bedroom, he knows exactly when to use a soft touch and when to launch a full-on assault. He always knows just how far he can push. And he’s about to tempt Makayla in ways she never imagined…

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Against the Ropes is a MMA themed romance novel. The hero, Max “Torment” Huntington is a wealthy businessman by day and the owner of an underground MMA club by night. He is also the undisputed king of the octagon in the place, and is surrounded by a plethora of characters. Although, that makes sense considering the types of people who would choose to train and compete on the illegal circuit, rather than the legitimate one.

His heroine Makayla is terrified of violence due to a traumatic incident in her past, and as such, is barely paying her bills working in a dead-end hospital administration position even though she has a degree as a paramedic. Until her BFF talks her into working ticket sales at an underground fight club and she gets drawn inside, chasing a gate-crasher.

This novel approaches the bdsm scene but wouldn’t actually be considered erotica  – at least by my standards. Torment has dominant tendencies, something Makayla hasn’t experienced before in a relationship, but the sex is pretty tame compared to my usual reading. They don’t get into anything too kinky together.

Castille did a great job of introducing a supporting cast of characters who she will (presumably) be writing about in future books, as this is apparently the first in a series. Rampage, Jake, Amanda and the good doctor all jumped off the page. The story flowed well and proceeded at a good pace and I finished it in one sitting.

My main issue with this novel, and why I intend to downgrade my rating, is the author’s apparent lack of research into MMA. I may not be an expert but mixed martial arts is my favourite sport so it is a huge pet peeve when authors don’t do their research. Castille kept referring to “ropes” in the octagon as if it were a boxing ring. Octagons don’t have ropes and the “corners” have very open angles it is easy to maneuver out of them, compared to the 90 degree corners of a boxing “ring”. Small details like this take very little time to research and I would have enjoyed the story so much more without glaringly obvious mistakes.

I do intend to read the second in the series. Hopefully the terminology will be cleaned up!

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Mr and Mrs by Alexa Riley

Mr and Mrs is a sweet, romantic novella about a young couple passionately in love with one another, but a little lost in the intense emotions and busyness of life.

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This isn’t my normal type of romance, but I randomly found it while home sick from work and was desperate for something to read. What I did like about this novel is that there is a distinct beginning, middle and end. Oftentimes in romance, particularly with novellas, the book appears to just end, a style that I do not enjoy reading.

While the book lacked depth – which I’m not really faulting the author for because that is difficult to achieve in the shorter word count of a novella – there was enough there that I felt it could have been flushed out into a full length novel.

My favourite aspect of Mr and Mrs was its sweetness (unusual for me!). Neither of the protagonists were difficult to relate to or like. Neither was overly dramatic, which is another big turn-off IMHO. I admired the Mr for his passion and ruthlessness and related to the Mrs for her sweet desire to have a family and put it first.

If you are looking for a short story that you can read in an hour or so, this one is for you.

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