Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Below The Belt by Sarah Mayberry ***

This is a Harlequin Blaze that I listened to on audio book with Gabra Zackman as narrator. I have 3 other Mayberry titles on audio, none in physical book, and really liked the 2 that were part of a series of 3 women working on a soap opera in Los Angeles. This one was working for me until the stubborn heroine really did a broad jump past TSTL - Too Stupid To Live.

Cooper Fitzgerald is a former boxer, now trainer, starting out his own gym. He's wooing one of his boxer pals, Ray, into being one of the first boxers he trains - but Ray wants him to have a look at Jamie - a woman boxer and former lover - as part of the deal. Cooper is adamant - boxing is not for women, for a number of sexist reasons. Then he attends a couple of Jamie's fights, with her grandfather as trainer, and can't resist. She's talented but she has a couple of flaws that a good trainer needs to work out of her, mostly having to do with her former training in tae kwon do.

Jamie has wanted to prove to the world that her family's name is still golden in boxing, ever since her father threw a fight, went to jail and then committed suicide from the shame of his actions 2 years ago. She's got the body, the raw talent and the drive - she just needs the best trainer, and in her mind that is Cooper. Once she hears his opinion of women in boxing, though, she's over him. But when he approaches her during her second fight, and gives her a tip that causes her to best her opponent, she's willing to re-think.

The 2 of them strike sexual chemistry sparks from the word go - she's a looker, and everyone in the gym can barely keep their eyes in their heads and their tongues in their mouths when she's around. This includes Cooper, except that he is able to (usually) control it. One late night session with some heat, however, and she's decided to confront him.

OK - she has decided that ol' Romance conceit: we'll screw until we're brainless, and then it will be worked out of our system and we will be over it and can go forward, never feeling the sexual draw again. Oh, as if that would work. If there is chemistry, they'll want more - THEY ALWAYS DO. If there's no chemistry, they're not even going to want to see each other again. Why do authors play this foolish card? I wasn't happy but I kept listening.

Cooper actually maintains enough control to keep it in his pants - well, it stayed in his pants, but his hands went in hers - and after her orgasm, he begs off. What a saint. And so unbelievable, but there you are.

OK - they move on, no more sex, keep it professional. She's all "it's just sex" and he's all "I have feelings for her" and so they keep it strictly professional, really, until the heady aftermath of a win has him ripping her shorts off and boinking her in the locker room. Guess they shoulda locked the door, cuz in walks gramps and boy is he mad. For one thing, Jamie's vulnerable and trusts Cooper, Gramps says (later). Oh, yeah, who's vulnerable? Miss "It's just sex" or Mr. "I have feelings"?

Tell you what - when an opportunity comes up towards the end of the book for Jamie to face one of the top women boxers in the world, after Jamie has been in a total of 3 - count'em 3 - professional fights, and is still suffering the aftermath of her win as well as a street brawl - and Jamie decides to take it, against the wishes of Gramps, of Cooper, even of Ray - hello? Can we talk about the requirements for TSTL? Let's see: her very professional and practically saintly trainer (older, wiser, and definitely thinking of her best interests) says she's not ready; her grandfather, FOR WHOM SHE THINKS SHE IS DOING THIS, doesn't want her to do it. Those 2 reasons alone should be enough, but noooooooo, Miss "it's just sex and I can beat one of the best women boxers ever even though I'm not experienced enough" knows best.

At some point, Jamie realizes that, indeed, she also has feelings for Cooper (before her major TSTL decision) but doesn't let that cloud her reasoning, not when she has a passle of other clouds to do that for her.

About the narrator: I have listened to a number of audio books by Zackman, and she's ok. She has this inflection thing going on, this sorta rise at the end of a sentence that almost turns it into a question, though, that I found bothersome on this book. Because Mayberry is Australian, and sets many of her books in Australia, Zackman gives the characters Aussie accents but narrates in American English. The accents sound good to me, but then I'm not Australian, so what do I know.

OK - I didn't hate it but I really didn't like having that TSTL moment cloud the story, although it ended HEA of course. 3 stars - mediocre.

1 comment:

emeraldfire said...
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