Review: Below The Belt by Sarah Mayberry

Format: E-book
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Harlequin Blaze #404
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Cooper Fitzgerald
Heroine: Jamie Sawyer
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: June 1, 2008
Started On: December 26, 2010
Finished On: December 28, 2010

Though I have enjoyed reading a couple of sports themed romances (they have been far and few in between) this is the first of its kind for me. Even being not much of a sports buff in reality this book turned out to be delightfully good, no doubt a testament to Sarah Mayberry’s extremely talented writing abilities.

34 years old Cooper “The Fist” Fitzgerald is a heavyweight boxer who has held the position of being the best in the world of heavyweight boxing for 4 straight years before he had been forced to retire owing to a detached retina in his left eye which had occurred during his last fight. Doctors had given him a choice, either continue to fight and lose his eyesight or retire. Being the smart and driven man that Cooper is he had opted to go with the latter and open up his own fighter’s gym and take on fighters to train. Cooper’s childhood had been far from idyllic as he had grown up in a destitute household with a heroine addict for a mother and her constant string of abusive boyfriends who had taken to beating the shit out of Cooper whenever possible until he had left home opting to live homeless rather than subject himself to the constant abuse. At the age of sixteen Cooper had been discovered by the man who had trained and turned him into what he is today and he has never looked back since.

27  year old Jamie Sawyer is the daughter of the infamous Jack Sawyer who had held the title of the heavyweight fighting championship for five years before retiring only to make an ill fated comeback to be charged with fraud for throwing a fight. Jamie who had always worshiped the very ground her father had walked on, in whose eyes he could do no wrong had been devastated by the shock and betrayal that had run its course through her. Jamie had watched as her grandfather who had been a legend himself in the boxing world be shunned by those he considered his friends and died a little inside as she watched the toll it had taken on him. The final straw had come when her father had committed suicide leaving Jamie clutching at straws to make ends meet. And when her grandfather had had a heart attack following his son’s suicide, Jamie had promised her grandfather that she would erase the shame her father had brought on the Sawyer name if its the last thing she did. So Jamie had given up her training in naturopathy, dropped out of Tae Kwon Do club she was so good at and started training in the boxing ring. Sharing a ratty apartment with her grandfather and working long hours as a maid in one of the big hotels in the city, Jamie is a determined and feisty woman who sets her heart on obtaining Cooper as her trainer.

Cooper comes across Jamie at his friend Ray Marshall’s place when he approaches Ray to join his fighter’s gym. At first mistaking her for a housemaid, Cooper is nevertheless struck by instant lust at the sight of Jamie’s hard, fit and toned body in front of him. When Cooper finds out that the reason Jamie is there is to lure him into taking her on as fighter in his gym Cooper flat-out refuses to take her on, not because he is a male chauvinist but because he doesn’t believe that Jamie is serious about fighting and that she has what it takes. And even then, it doesn’t stop him from going to see Jamie fight, identifying the beauty of her moves and finally giving in and taking her on, not understanding the need that drives Jamie.

What takes both Jamie and Cooper unawares is the red hot lust that seizes them and clutches both of them in its throes refusing to let go. Being the commitment phobic logical thinking female Jamie is, she proposes that she and Cooper give in to the undeniable attraction between them so that they can both get each other out of their systems. Wary of even the slightest sign of anything other than just a physical connection, Jamie is not at all prepared for it when Cooper starts falling for her and even lets Cooper walk out of her life as her trainer only to be forced by the events that follow to finally acknowledge that Cooper had invaded into her heart without her knowledge. But even then, Jamie’s driving need to succeed for all the wrong reasons in the fighting world nearly drives these two halves of one soul apart making this a very satisfying read on all fronts.

Likes:

1- Jamie Sawyer. She is one of the most different heroines that I have come across in the romance world and because of that I loved her to bits. She is strong, feisty, stubborn, determined to win at all costs, loyal to a fault and on top of all that she is so very vulnerable at the very core. But she hides her vulnerability from the rest of the world with the tough facade that she puts up, and it works most of the time that is until Cooper comes into the picture and all that just crashes down at her feet leaving her with no choice but to surrender her heart, body and soul to the one man who would never betray her trust. I liked the fact that Jamie didn’t just become a sweetly submissive woman overnight shedding her tortured soul to become a woman with a sunny personality and smiles all around. Rather she took her time getting there and even then stayed true to her self which is what eventually makes me her biggest fan all around.

2- Cooper. He is hot, sinfully handsome, wickedly intense and oh my lordy when he is turned on he is sex personified. Cooper’s most endearing quality is his ability to love Jamie for who she is, the way he cherishes her and stands beside her in everything she wants to achieve in this world. Though it hurts something fierce in him to watch Jamie get battered up in the ring, he understands the fire driving Jamie to succeed and win big and at the same time he loves her enough not to give up when Jamie is being too stubborn for her own good. I totally and irrevocably heart Cooper  to bits.

3- The true Blaze style sensuality in the story. This book packs a punch in the sensuality department and gives the reader all the right kind of tingles in all the right places in the style that I have come to recognize that is just uniquely Sarah Mayberry. From the first blazing hot smexing session that nearly knocked my breathe out to the slow paced actual act itself had me sighing, fanning myself and mooning all over Cooper and his well honed muscles. *gulp*

4- Mmm.. I totally love the cover. Just wanna run my hands all over that slick, hot body of Cooper’s. *wink*

5- And I absolutely loved the fact that this story kept me entertained, willing me to turn the pages that didn’t bog me down with unnecessary details of the fighting and kickboxing world and yet still managed to teach me a thing or two about it. As I said at the beginning of the review, Sarah Mayberry is so very talented and this story too is a testament to the fact. Makes me wonder why I kept this in my TBR pile for as long as I did now. *scratches head*

Dislikes: None.

Favorite Quotes

He didn’t want to want her. She didn’t want to want him. But he did, and she did. And if Dean didn’t do the trick tonight, Jamie honestly had no idea how to handle the situation. Human desire was a powerful thing. It had ruined marriages, brought down governments, destroyed dynasties. How in the hell was she supposed to stay strong when she saw the man every day? When he touched her time after time in the course of their work? When –
She caught movement out of the corners of her eyes and nearly groaned with frustration. He was peeling his tank top off, leaving his chest bare.
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.
She forgot to breathe for a moment as he balled his top in his hand and mopped his sweaty chest with it. He was beautiful. Great pecs, amazing abs, those big shoulders. Lucky she was already panting. As it was, she could barely keep her eyes off him.

“I’m not starting my training career by screwing one of my fighters,” he said.
Frustration and need welled up inside her. She knew he wanted her as much as she wanted him. She was so sure that this was what they needed – the release of it, the freedom of it.
She took a last step forward, so close that she could feel the heat coming off his body, so close that her nipples brushed his chest.
“You’re really going to let this go to waste?” she asked, holding his eyes as she slid a hand onto the long, thick ridge straining against the fabric of his shorts.
He felt so big and hard in her hand she almost purred with anticipation.
His jaw tightened as she gripped him through his shorts and rubbed her hand up and down his shaft, once, twice, maintaining eye contact all the while.
He swore and reached for her, hauling her against him and angling her head as he took her mouth in a fierce, no-holds-barred kiss.

“I want to make sure you’re not lying to me,” he said.
She stopped resisting and he slid both hands up to cup her face. He used the pads of his thumbs to survey her features with infinite tenderness, assessing her swollen lip, tracing the cut on her nose, mapping the puffiness around her eye.
“Sweetheart,” he said his voice deep with regret. “Sweet Jamie.”
His touch was so gentle, his concern for her so evident. Wet heat burned at the back of her eyes. The first tear slid hotly onto her cheek and splashed onto his chest.
“Jamie,” he said softly again, then he tugged her closer so that he could kiss her.
It was her undoing, before she knew it, tears were shuddering out of her and he’d pulled her down beside him on the bed to hold her tight.

Recommended for:

1- Fans of sports-themed romances.
2- Fans of Sarah Mayberry.
3- Fans of the Harlequin Blaze line.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard | Kobo 

Rating from the sunny side of life: ★★★★☆ 

Caliber Seal: GREAT READ!


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