Tags: , , , , , , , ,

book cover Limecello’s review of Below the Belt by Sarah Mayberry
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Blaze on 1 Jun 08

I’m glad I read this book – because it was one I wasn’t sure about. I really like Sarah Mayberry’s writing, but… boxing? A female boxer? (No, I didn’t watch Million Dollar Baby.) Still, I did pick it up, and the reward was another good Blaze story. (Incidentally Harlequin is having a sale on Blaze books this month.)

Jamie Sawyer is one of the guys for a myriad of reasons. She was hurt a few times in relationships – first her father, then her boyfriend, so she’s adopted a love ‘em and leave ‘em mentality. She’ll hook up with a guy for a purely physical relationship, but once emotions are involved, she drops him. Jamie is also driven to follow in the family business – boxing. She’s on a mission to become the best to right some wrongs, and you have to respect that, despite her bullheadedness and which sometimes prevents her from seeing the big picture, or how potentially harmful her actions are.

Cooper Fitzgerald really makes the book. He’s a former heavyweight champion boxer, forced to retire to prevent further injuries. (Mostly the threat of blindness if he takes another hit to the head.) Cooper is so likable and well, sensible. He knows his career is over, and moves on. He’s opened a gym and has picked up the role of trainer. While he would love to continue fighting, Cooper knows he can’t, and doesn’t waste time with regrets, moping or being sullen. Cooper is extremely positive, and a guy every woman wants. Capable, smart, and sensitive, Cooper actually comes to terms with his emotions well before Jamie does. In fact, I might say that he’s a bit too forgiving.

Below the Belt was interesting, and it was clear that Ms. Mayberry knew what she was talking about. I’ve had some friends who were very engaged with boxing – male and female – but I was never as into boxing as I was while reading this book. The characters, plot, title, everything works together in an extremely clever manner. At no point does the reader feel that Ms. Mayberry is beating you over the head with facts, it’s just all there, and intertwined.

One thing I didn’t like was how closed off Jamie was at points. She was forcing those that loved her to take a difficult position – and causing more harm than good to herself and others. However, she didn’t care. For once, I felt that the heroine didn’t “suffer” enough as it were, in a book. I’m glad that she got her reality check, and things turned around.

There were a number of great parts throughout the book, but I think the ending was my favorite. Below the Belt didn’t end like I thought it would, which was a pleasant surprise. Next, it was nice how Jamie was able to get closure on a number of issues haunting her – and that Cooper was with her every step of the way. Ms. Mayberry has written yet another book that I recommend to all her fans, as well as those who like Blaze books. I’m looking forward to reading her next one, Amorous Liaisons.

LimecelloGrade: B-

He’s not going down without a fight

To outfit his new gym, trainer Cooper Fitzgerald is looking for fresh boxing talent. Male boxing talent, that is. So what on earth is he thinking by taking on Jamie Sawyer? She’s stubborn, difficult, aggressive – and far too hot for the kind of close contact training requires. But her skill in the ring is turning his professional head.

Too bad his isn’t the only head that’s turning. Jamie and her skimpy little shorts have all the guys forgetting the power she packs in a punch. And when Jamie offers Cooper her irresistible body – no strings attached – he’s down for the count. But can Cooper keep the line between trainer and sex buddy…or is he setting himself up for another knockout?

Read an excerpt here.