Lovin' los libros

A book blog dedicated to young adult and new adult novels

Review: Below the Belt by Jeanette Murray

By 8:02 AM , , , , ,

Below the Belt (First to Fight #1)
   by: Jeanette Murray

Publication Date: Apr. 7, 2015
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Group: Adult
Source: e-ARC provided via the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Page Count: 304 pages
Order Links: Amazon | B&N
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

There's more than one way to win in the debut of the First to Fight series…

Athletic trainer Marianne Cook is ready to do whatever it takes to turn the men of the Marine Corps boxing team into fighting machines. After all, her ultimate goal is to land a job training professional athletes. But when she notices a certain hard-bodied marine trying to hide an injury, Marianne realizes that she’ll have to use covert tactics to get him talking.

First Lieutenant Brad Costa has waited years for the chance to fight for a spot on the Marine Corps boxing team, knowing he has to push twice as hard to get half as far as his younger counterparts. Brad tries to downplay his injuries to the attractive trainer who has his dreams in her hands, but Marianne isn’t buying it. Maybe it’s time to deploy some targeted flattery.

As Brad and Marianne’s attraction turns red-hot, there’s more than one person having a hard time keeping their eyes on the prize…

I first picked this one up because it reminded me of Katy Evan's Real, what with Brad being a boxer and Marianne being an athletic trainer. That's pretty much where the similarities end though. Brad is not only a boxer, but he is actually a Marine and is training to win a spot on their boxing team. Wanting to follow in his father's footsteps, Brad has worked hard to get a tryout and he is determined to become a part of the team. I really enjoyed seeing Brad go from isolating himself and wanting to be left alone to him actually engaging with his comrades and helping them out. After being put in charge of a small group of his peers, he eventually starts to see the value of helping his teammates out and just how much of an impact he has on them.
Marianne is the new athletic trainer and she is determined to do a good job. Her career is everything to her and it is her job to make sure these men don't overexert themselves and end up doing lasting damage to their bodies because they're too stubborn to quit. I really liked Marianne. She was such a great character, even though she drove me crazy because she kept saying 'Bad Marianne' in her head. A couple times was enough. Regardless, she's a strong woman who isn't afraid to handle these big, strong Marines.
Brad and Marianne first cross paths before they're formally introduced, and neither one can deny the attractiveness of the other. However, after their introduction Brad becomes a bit more closed off and guarded, as he knows she has the potential to ruin his dreams of boxing, should something happen. Of course, Brad ends up hurting his knee that very first day, but is too proud and stubborn to seek help. This ends up being the one looming thing between him and Marianne as things progress, because he is unwilling to tell her the truth for fear of her telling the coach. What starts off as a dinner date to distract her from asking him about his knee, eventually turns into more as the two realize they have some serious chemistry together.
I liked Brad and Marianne, though I hated that he was keeping his injury from her, especially when it's her job to be aware of these things. She has an inkling, but he keeps brushing her off, telling her it's nothing. Of course, this will cause problems later on! They have some really sexy scenes together and I enjoyed seeing them become more comfortable in their relationship with one another. I personally didn't feel that connection between them. I think it's more of Brad than anything- he was so gruff to start and his character just didn't show that much depth in the beginning.
I really enjoyed getting to know some of the secondary characters though. It's always humorous to watch guys interact with one another with their teasing and banter. Brad came a long way from the beginning of the book to the end and I liked seeing that camaraderie between him and his teammates.
Overall, this was a pretty good read. It was a bit slow in the beginning and took awhile to get things going, but it did pick up. There is one element of the story that doesn't get resolved though, but because this is a series, I saw from the sneak peek of the next book that that storyline will be continued. Again, this wasn't a bad read, but I don't know how memorable it will be for me.

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  1. A boxer and a marine? Phew! I like to be able to feel both an emotional and a physical connection when I read a romance book, so I'm a little sad that you weren't able to feel the emotional connection too much because of Brad being so gruff. I'm glad you enjoyed it overall.
    Wonderful review!

    1. I loved the combination and was so excited, but it just took a while to really get going. I'm so picky about adult romances as it is, so I knew I was taking a gamble on it but when a book doesn't grab me and keep me desperate for more, it's usually meh for me.

  2. This one sounds cute but its a shame it isnt really memorable, although they cant all be *sigh* this one still sounds interesting though. Great review.

    1. Right! I have a bad memory anyway, but I just didn't find anything that 'sparkled' about this one sadly. I like that it focused on the boxing team in the Marines, but where I won't ever forget Real, I sadly think I will this one.


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