Below the Belt by Jeanette Murray
First to Fight #1
Brad’s deceased father was on the Marine Corps boxing team and Brad has been working his whole life to be on the team as well. He believes this will likely be his last chance since he’s the oldest of all the guys in the group. However, when he hurts his knee he wants to keep it a secret so that he doesn’t get pulled from tryouts. However, keeping it a secret gets harder to do once he starts dating the team’s athletic trainer, Marianne Cook. Marianne has dreams of working as a trainer for a professional team and she knows sleeping with one of the players won’t be good for her professional reputation but she finds she can’t resist Brad.
It took me a second try to really get into this book but once I did I enjoyed watching Brad and Marianne fall in love! The story spends a lot of time in the day-to-day training that Brad is going through and there isn’t anything pulse pounding or overly exciting about the goings-on. It’s a pretty sedate book overall.
I liked both Brad and Marianne individually and together. They knew how to act like mature adults and they actually went on a date instead of just jumping into bed together. When they realized they wanted to date they approached their respective bosses and disclosed their relationship so that wouldn’t be an issue going forward and they didn’t have to keep it secret. Kudos to Jeanette Murray for going outside the norm on that plot point. Both experience some growth in the story, particularly Brad who learns to be more of a role model for the younger guys on the team. I loved that Marianne was a bit silly and liked to play around with Brad because it helped balance his more stoic personality.
The side characters were also fun and I look forward to stories about Bailey, Kara, Higgs, and Sweeney. They got plenty of page time to introduce them and begin their development but it never felt like they took time away from Brad and Marianne’s story.
4 out of 5 stars
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.
Published by Berkley on April 7, 2015
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