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Hard Play #3

Love Hard

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New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh brings you the next sizzling story in her Hard Play contemporary romance series. Jacob Esera, star rugby player and young single father, has worked hard to create a joyous life for his six-year-old daughter. After the death of his childhood sweetheart soon after their daughter's birth, all Jake wants is safety and stability. No risks. No wild chances. And especially no Juliet Nelisi, former classmate, scandal magnet, and a woman who is a thorn in his side. As a lonely teenager, Juliet embraced her bad-girl reputation as a shield against rejection. Years later, having kicked a cheating sports-star ex to the curb, she has a prestigious job and loyal friends-and wants nothing to do with sportsmen. The last thing she expects is the fire that ignites between her and the stuffed-shirt golden boy who once loved her best friend. Straitlaced Jacob Esera versus wild-at-heart Juliet Nelisi? Place your bets. Contains mature themes.

Audio CD

First published March 10, 2020

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About the author

Nalini Singh

259 books24.7k followers
I've been writing as long as I can remember and all of my stories always held a thread of romance (even when I was writing about a prince who could shoot lasers out of his eyes). I love creating unique characters, love giving them happy endings and I even love the voices in my head. There's no other job I would rather be doing. In September 2002, when I got the call that Silhouette Desire wanted to buy my first book, Desert Warrior, it was a dream come true. I hope to continue living the dream until I keel over of old age on my keyboard.

I was born in Fiji and raised in New Zealand. I also spent three years living and working in Japan, during which time I took the chance to travel around Asia. I’m back in New Zealand now, but I’m always plotting new trips. If you’d like to see some of my travel snapshots, have a look at the Travel Diary page (updated every month).

So far, I've worked as a lawyer, a librarian, a candy factory general hand, a bank temp and an English teacher and not necessarily in that order. Some might call that inconsistency but I call it grist for the writer's mill.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 517 reviews
Profile Image for Isabella. R.
754 reviews1,386 followers
March 6, 2020
4 Ruination Stars ⭐

Jacob Esera and Juliet Nelisi are adamant that they dislike each other.  Knowing each other since High School, it’s been years since they’ve seen one another.  Back then they had a buffer in a mutual friend Callie who they both loved dearly. With Callie’s passing, their animosity from their past continues to run rampant…

As a Rugby player, Jacob knows that his career is fleeting.  With the responsibility of a young daughter to care for, he leads a conservative and respectable life.  Some might claim as repressed. What he doesn’t need is a flamboyant woman from the past making him feel uneasy.  Even if a part of himself seems somewhat intrigued by the way she makes him feel.

Jake clenched his gut, because the woman Juliet had become drew him like nobody's business. Tempting as it was to fight the attraction by focusing on her past, people weren't their pasts.

Juliet is used to being misunderstood and regarded as troublesome.  It’s easier to embrace that persona after so many years of owning it.  Recently divorced, running into Jacob is bittersweet if only he’d remove that pole from his ass.  The newfound attraction, not so much.

It was a good thing he never smiled at Juliet that way. Because if he did, she might forget that they were sworn nonfriends.

But how sweet is it when two people finally have an opportunity to realise how wrong their assumptions have been? And extremely delightful when the chemistry is too intoxicating to resist. Jacob and Juliet are amazing together, because when they peel back the layers of their armour, it exposes two people who are vulnerable. In fact, they compliment each other.

That laugh wrapped around him, as soft and sexy as her thighs.

Nalini Singh does a fantastic job in the contemporary genre and has a knack for writing sexy times worthy of hot flushes. Love Hard can be read as a standalone BUT it's so worth grabbing the other books in this series to get to know the many characters that appear in most these books.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Mindy Lou's Book Review.
2,640 reviews609 followers
March 5, 2020
First, Jake was awesome, but the real star in Love Hard was Juliet. Man did Juliet win me over. Learning her story firmly placed me in her corner and I wanted her to have Jake so badly. She deserved a guy like him after everything she has been through. Add in an adorable little girl and I was a goner.

Jake really was an incredible hero. He is such a good dad and they way he protected Esme was incredibly sweet. When he turned that same protection on Juliet, I wanted to shout with joy for her. Seeing dad and daughter be such an awesome team, adding Juliet to the mix was going to be very important for the author to handle. She knocked it out of the park.

Juliet is one of those characters that is tough on the outside and full of mush on the inside. She has such a huge capacity to love but never had the chance to give that gift. I wanted that for her. More importantly, I wanted that for her with Jake and Esme. What a gem this book turned into.
Profile Image for Fanny.
2,115 reviews54 followers
August 4, 2020

La saga Hard Play es una de mis favoritas actualmente, asi que no es inesperado que yo estuviera ansiando tener este tercer tomo en mis manos, y que cuando al fin lo tuve, practicamente lo haya inhalado de lo muy rapido que lo lei.

La historia de Jake me rompio el corazon cuando la conocimos brevemente en Cherish Hard, es cierto que no narra nada novedoso o nunca antes leido, y sin embargo, yo deseaba que consiguiera su merecido final feliz, ahora que lo he leido, no puedo estar mas contenta con la historia que ha escrito Nalini Singh.

Juliet y Jake fueron una pareja preciosa, romantica y llena de quimica que me lo hicieron pasar genial. Me gusto sobre todo que su relacion no pasara por ese tipico drama que se da cuando la chica se enamora del novio de su amiga fallecida, ademas de que el protagonista no comparara a sus dos parejas.

Personalmente creo que este libro tiene muchos puntos positivos y no hablo solo de la parte sentimental, el que la autora le de tanta importancia a la relacion familiar de estos personajes me resulto muy bonito, me encanto leer lo muy cercanos que son, encima me parecio sumamente original que no se inventara una familia disfuncional o rota.

En conclusion, Love Hard narra un romance dulce e intenso que seguro te enamorara, me agrado la manera en la que Nalini desarrollo toda la trama y tambien lo muy bien definidos que estan todos los personajes, muy reales y coherentes con sus acciones.

Os invito a darle una oportunidad a estas novelas, son muy buenas, y si ademas amas leer sobre padres solteros, esta es la lectura perfecta.

4 Estrellas!!
Profile Image for Betül.
976 reviews233 followers
March 10, 2020
**ARC provided in exchange for an honest review**

This is the first non-paranormal book I read by Nalini Singh. I just really got excited after reading the blurb. I absolutely love single parent romances, and I looked forward to this book. I will just get straight to the point and say that I enjoyed Love Hard. Jake is a great dad to his six-year-old daughter Esme. Juliet (Jules) is a strong and independent woman that has a lot of spunk. I loved her banter with Jake and I thought they made a great couple. I enjoyed seeing their friendship grow and eventually seeing it turn into love. The scenes between Esme and the main characters were also very cute and my favorites. And the sex scenes were pretty hot as well.

However, I couldn't completely connect to the characters. I also didn't like that the first quarter of the book was set during a wedding. It was just too long and didn't interest me that much. The story picked up after that, and I thought that this was an okay contemporary sports romance. I just wanted more depth into the pasts of the characters, maybe a couple of flashbacks would've been helpful with that. Maybe I would've connected better if I had read the previous books in the series. However, I want a stand-alone novel, even if it is part of a series, to be strong on its own. I do have to say that I was glad that there was no unnecessary drama just for the sake of it. Both Jake and Jules are adults and thankfully acted like one. If you like what you read in the blurb then I recommend you to give it a try.
Profile Image for WhiskeyintheJar.
1,269 reviews517 followers
April 22, 2020
3.5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Juliet and Jacob knew each other in highschool but only tolerated each other for the sake of Calypso, Juliet's bestfriend and Jacob's girlfriend. When mutual friends bring them back together, Jacob is a now a single father and Juliet has managed to become vice president of a lingerie company. They get thrown even more together when Jacob's celebrity as a star Rugby player has him modeling for Juliet's company.
These two still rub each other the wrong way but now the friction is starting to cause sparks.

Love Hard is third in the Hard Play series but also has a strong connection to Rock Hard from the Rock Kiss series. The first 20% of this story deals heavily with the wedding between Gabriel and Charlotte (Rock Hard), Jacob is a groomsman in the wedding because Gabriel is his brother and Juliet is a bridesmaid because of her friendship with Charlotte. I've read Rock Hard and absolutely loved it, so I delighted at revisiting this couple but the focus even started to get a bit long for me, I'm not sure how new readers to both series would feel about all the characters that they would have no prior connection to. This could be read as a standalone but you'd miss emotional connections to characters that could dampen some enjoyment.

Jake “Golden Boy” Esera and Juliet “Bad Influence” Nelisi? Nope. Nope. Triple extra nope.

There is little flashback to Jake and Jules in highschool but the author does it right by just having our characters think back and discuss their relationship back then and reminisce sweetly about Calypso. Calypso was the mother of Jake's little girl, they had her in their teens and Calypso ended up getting a bacterial meningitis infection and passing away soon after giving birth. There was absolutely no romantic feelings between Jake and Jules when they were in highschool and the way the author had them growing close and developing attraction in the present was done perfect. They already have an emotional connection because of their mutual love of Calypso and I love how that brought them together instead of worried angst to keep them apart.

I also liked how the author developed Jake's character, Jules knew him to be a pretty straight and narrow guy in highschool while she pushed the boundaries because she didn't have a caring home environment. Jake comes from an extremely loving and supportive family and Calypso's death makes him want to become even more of a control freak but because of therapy and his support system, he recognizes that about himself and actively checks his impulses. Jules lost her parents young, spent time with an uncaring aunt only to be moved in with grandparents that put their issues with her parents on her for the majority of her young life. These character foundational developments clearly showed why Jake was sweetly more open at times and why Jules kept her walls up more.

That night she dreamed of tracing the coils and shapes of his tattoo with her tongue, fantasized about licking sweat from his skin after a hard game of rugby, and woke at midnight to the impression of his strong body pinning her to the bed while he smiled down at her. “Oh hell.”Juliet was in trouble.

I loved these two together, they had a great ease to how their characters flowed together and delicious heat to their tension. The story did at times though, butt them out too much as the focus went on the great Esera-Bishop family members; their greatness can eclipse. I did enjoy the slight drama that came from Juliet's ex-husband and how that tied in threads of how Juliet didn't want to get involved with another sports athlete and allowed to show Jake's caring and protective side, he was seriously sexy in how he treated and supported Jules through it all.

They might’ve scratched the itch, but in doing so had turned it into a chronic ailment— because now they knew how good it could be between them.

This book had sections that I loved sinking into and others that dragged but Jules and Jake were characters that I enjoyed separately and together. The time that Jules let Jake know how his supportive family made it easier for him to be the more open person and the way Jake supported Jules but ultimately let her make her own decisions, made the romance flourish in the story. I also liked how they couldn't battle their sexual heat anymore, came to an agreement to scratch the itch once to get it out of their system, but didn't drag out the stubbornness on adhering to that when after they slept together, they both admitted to themselves and each other there was deeper feelings involved. Singh always does a great job on making characters feel real, the little additive of Jake not being a morning person and Jules delighting over that because he showed a normally hidden grumpy side was enchanting. If you're looking to immerse yourself in a big loving family, the Esera-Bishop clan, and their friends, is well worth reading about as Singh delivers on the emotions and love.
Profile Image for NAT.orious reads ☾.
833 reviews330 followers
April 7, 2020
3 STARS ★★★✩✩
This book is for you if… you’re not letting your grand experience with the psy-changeling books tempt you to have high expectations for Nalini’s other worlds (I feel like an utter traitor even thinking it).

I am very sad to report that I have indeed come to the conclusion that Nalini's work outside the psy-changeling universe will probably never satisfy me in the ways I hoped, given how great and familiar this world is.

To explain what I do not like about this book, I'll have to underline what it is that I love about that other series so much: the fact that there is something substantial going on in the bookbesides the romance part. That stretches throughout all the books and actually knits them together like a tight network. The psy-changeling universe is very intricate and detailed - which makes it possible to explore many spheres of the story, not just the individual love of the MCs.

That's what I'm kind of missing here. Although the romance is pretty hot, the dialogues are funny and there's some interesting side plot going on, the rest of the books is still just aimlessly throwing bits and pieces of a wider plot at the reader so it doesn't seem like yet another shallow romance.

Well...that didn't work.

What’s happening.
‘He’s amazing, Jules. Just give him a shot.<’
‘With a tranquilizer dart you mean?’

...a brief summary of Jake and Jules' relationship thus far. But when they get into closer contact during a wedding, they can't help but notice they might not actually dislike each other quite as much as they'd thought.
paparazzis always on the lookout for another scandal
past still looms over them
principles, damn it
being together is effortless
cravings of having a family
the sex

writing quality + easy of reading = 3*

pace = 3*

plot/story in general = 3*

plot development = 3*

characters = 3*

enjoyability = 3*

insightfulness = 3*
Many thanks to Nalini Singh, TKA Distribution and NetGalley, who provided me with a free digital arc of this book.
Profile Image for Dali.
1,764 reviews443 followers
March 15, 2020
Love Hard is a deliciously sweet and sexy romance about family and second chances.

Teenage Juliet Nelisi used her loner and bad-girl fame as a barrier. The Juliet the woman has a successful career, good friends and knows to stay away from men who one minute treat her like a queen and the next cheat on her. Especially famous men in the sports world. She never expect the sparks that ignited between her and the goodie two shoes who had been in love with her best friend years before.

After grieving the loss of his childhood sweetheart shortly after their daughter’s birth Jacob Esera focused on his career and raising a happy and healthy child. There was no room for craziness, especially not the kind his former high school classmate caused. But shouldn’t Jacob a.k.a. “Saint” the too proper rugby player have some fun in his life?

If you’re a fan of Nalini Singh you might remember the delicious Gabriel Bishop from Rock Hard. Well, this story starts at his and Charlotte’s wedding where Jacob and Juliet were in the wedding party. I loved getting an update on this couple who I fell for a while back. And even though I was a bit overwhelmed by all the couples I haven’t met in between that story and Love Hard, I did enjoy the sense of unity, loyalty and family.

Jacob and Juliet met when they were young but barely tolerated each other. Reconnecting several years later was easy, not easy. Because even though they had grown into their own, they had preconceived ideas about each other which made the push and pull between them a lot of fun. But as they got to know each other, their connection grew deeper and the attraction was impossible to ignore.

Love Hard is book #3 of the Hard Playseries by author Nalini Singh. It a standalone contemporary romance. It’s told from both points of view with a HEA. Sub-genre: sports romance.

Amazon -> https://amzn.to/38uZNw3

* I was given an ARC of this book courtesy of the author via NegBalley. The excerpts are from that copy. I am voluntarily reviewing this title. *

➵ Hero: 4.5
➵ Heroine: 4.5
➵ Plot: 4
➵ Sexiness: 4
➵ Feels: 4.5

Stalk me on FaceBook * Instagram * More reviews
Profile Image for Sentranced Jem.
1,059 reviews568 followers
August 10, 2020
This was actually my first book by Nalini Singh. I know she's uber popular in the fantasy/PNR genre..A genre I LOVE so I don't know why I decided to start with a sports romance of all books....maybe because that is another trope I love?
Anyway, Love Hard wasn't my favourite sports romance to be honest but I like the way Singh write so I will definitely be checking out her PNR books for sure.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,504 reviews3,656 followers
February 29, 2020
I'm somewhere between 3 and 3.5 stars for this one. Is this the best Nalini Singh out there? No, it's not, but honestly... I've pretty much never read a book from her where I didn't have a good time, and this is no exception. It's simply that when an author's body of work is so strong, it's hard to stand out in the crowd! That said, I absolutely loved opening the book with Charlie & Gabe's wedding (it was like seeing an extended extra epilogue & I swooned), and I quickly got on board with Jules & Jake as a pair. There's a lot of "hang out" time with the B-E clan, which at times is at the expense of the plot, but I really enjoyed getting that quality character time. All in all, this hit a lot of my buttons for a cozy contemporary, and as I said, I never walk away from a Nalini Singh book without a smile on my face. Now for Danny to get his HEA! (pretty clear who that's going to be with ;))
Profile Image for Bookgasms Book Blog.
2,730 reviews1,291 followers
March 5, 2020
AHH!! I have loved reading about the Esera brothers and could not wait to read Jake's story. His connection with Juliet was so fiery. I loved their "frenemies" to lovers romance and how sexy it was. It was high in snappy banter, explosive chemistry and very low in angst. This was just an emotionally sweet story full of swoons. I could not get enough. 

Jacob “Golden Boy” Esera and Juliet “Bad Influence” Nelisi have always had a complicated relationship. They were neither friends nor enemies in high school, but they shared a bond in their love and loss over the death of his childhood sweetheart and her bestfriend. But when they cross paths again years later, the rigid and protective Jake has no idea what hits him when the bad girl he knew in school suddenly is all he can think about. 

I LOVED this story. It was sweet and sexy but also emotional. Jake and Juliet both had a lot of feelings and issues to work through but I loved their devotion to each other. Jake was strong and assertive and knew what he wanted. He was there for Juliet and gave her a sense of family and belonging she's always needed. Overall, this was a great story! 4.5 stars! ~Ratula 
Profile Image for Lover of Romance.
2,753 reviews791 followers
March 4, 2020
This review was originally posted on Addicted To RomanceI received this book for free from Tka Distribution in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Love Hard is the third installment in the latest contemporary series by the talented Nalini Singh and I honestly adored this book. I was pretty on the shelf about it beforehand however, it really gobbled my attention up very quickly which I wasn't expecting as much as it did. I do get nervous around enemies to lover tropes to be honest, I never know the level of angst that will be in the story but boy how on earth do I ever doubt the talent of Nalini Singh? She did a fantastic job in penning this book in such the perfect way.

Our story begins with a wedding of the infamous T-Rex and Mouse (hero and heroine from Rock Hard) and finally we get to see their happy ever after actually happen. But this is where our couple meet up. Jacob has been working hard on his career and raising his daughter on his own ever since his high school sweetheart passed away. Now he is confronted with a ghost of his past, Juliet, who was his late wife's best friend. And Juliet and Jacob found such irritation in each other until the wedding and sparks fly between them and now they are both having to face feelings and a sexual tension that is new for them as they have always hated each other beforehand. But as they ease their way into this newfound relationship, they both will have to face up to the past to embrace their future...

Love Hard was such a emotion-packed and tension-filled story and I honestly adored every moment of it. I really had such a blast with Jacob and Juliet. The tension between them is quite unique because of the past they are both affiliated with. So you have some sweet emotion filled with this intensity. I really adored seeing Jacob and Juliet find their way to each other. Juliet has a hard time with trust, she has been burned badly and Jacob hasn't ever really had a firm relationship with another woman until Juliet. So I really enjoyed seeing them come to terms with certain aspects of themselves and find their way into their relationship. There is such an awkwardness between them that was so tender at times, you sense the type of feeling they have for each other, but this is such a new experience for them both so it's like seeing a bird learning to flap its wings and soar in the sky.

It was such a blast to see some of our old favorite characters and yes I mean the beloved T Rex and Mouse and seriously now I want to re-read their story again because *sigh* I love them. And so delightful to see this family again and their close-knit ties they have to each other. Eager for the youngest brother to have his story now.

Overall I found Love Hard to be a story of unique love, fesity angsty sensuality and a charm to knock your socks off.....

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Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
900 reviews775 followers
February 20, 2020
3.5 stars

My sister begged me to nab an early copy of Nalini Singh's latest romance featuring her cast of rugby stars in New Zeeland, and I found myself pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this family sports romance.

Pacing: ★★★
Romance: ★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★

Love Hard comes out on March 10, 2020!

Now, I know I just said my sister begged me to request this and read it on her behalf, but I was also a bit intrigued myself. Nalini Singh is the author of one of my favorite paranormal romance series, Guild Hunter, as well as her first mystery/thriller, A Madness of Sunshine. So I knew I was a fan of her romances, and of her writing in general.

But, let's be honest, this series was less intriguing to me—because it's about sports. And I don't really do sports. At all.

So say "I told you so," sister of mine, because I really enjoyed Love Hard.

Jake has no time for fun or acting his age. He's an all-star rugby player in a family of all-star players, and his commitment to his family and to his young daughter, Esme, is the sole focus of his life. After losing his childhood sweetheart, Callie, shortly after the birth of their daughter, Jake has grown up cautious and overprotective.

Juliet's never had a proper family upbringing. Peddled around from family member to family member as a kid left her with scars, and the only saving grace was her best friend, Callie. When Callie passed away, Juliet forgot about Callie's jock boyfriend, Jake, and started making her way in the world—with a few notable bumps in the road, including a nasty ex-husband.

When these two former acquaintances meet at a wedding, what will they do with these brand new sparks?

I thought Love Hard was cute, to the point, and filled with warm fuzzy feelings (and some other, well, feelings too). Jake and Juliet's banter and chemistry was front and center for the entire story. I really enjoyed listening to their banter, and in particular I thought their semi "enemies to lovers" mixed with "second chance romance" vibes worked extremely well in this context. I loved how they were both respectful and honest, and miscommunication was NOT used as a plot device.

However, I did struggle quite a bit with the general pacing. Love Hard didn't take place over multiple months or a long time span, but it felt like it anyway given the copious time spent on paragraphs of explanation of the past, backstory, and internal monologue. In fact, at a few points in the story I forgot that I was still in the same scene as dozens of pages later, we were still there! This might not necessarily be a negative for some readers—the descriptions and backstory added quite a bit of character depth—but for my taste in romance, I prefer dialogue-driven scenes with lots of movement in plot.

Overall, another winner from Nalini Singh—and a steamy one too. (Wink wink!)

Thank you to Independent Publishers Group via NetGalley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Malene.
1,184 reviews508 followers
March 9, 2020
Love Hard is a friends to lovers romance. The main characters Jake and Juliet have known each other since high school and because Jake dated Juliet’s best friend Calypso. Their relationship resulted in an unplanned pregnancy. Flash forward to Jake being a single father but a very amazing father to his daughter Esme.
When Jake and Juliet meet again at his brother’s wedding they still push each other’s buttons just as they did when they were kids.

I liked Jake and Juliet but it took me a long time to get into Love Hard. I haven’t read the previous books, and maybe that’s why I struggled, but the first quarter of the book centered around the wedding of Jake’s brother. That resulted in me feeling Juliet and Jake got stuck in the background when I needed them to be the focus so I could connect with them which sadly didn’t happen. I would have appreciated more flashbacks of them when they were kids and with Calypso too just to strengthen their connection since I struggled with it. Yes they had a mutual attraction, and it was mentioned a lot, it wasn’t enough. I felt the jump to them being intimate was fast and I needed more build up.

Luckily the story did pick up a bit for me after the wedding because of the growing friendship between Jake and Juliet. She and Jake’s daughter were so cute together.
Now I finally got the build up, lovely bantering and flirting. Also Jake’s wonderful family was amazing and they adored Juliet. Love Hard started out bumpy but slowly turned out great and overall I ended up enjoying it.

3 Family Stars

*I requested and received an ARC via Netgalley
Profile Image for Maida.
Author 13 books442 followers
March 8, 2020
The title of this review is Squee Hard. 😛

Unlike most, I became a fan of Nalini Singh through her Rock Kiss series and Rock Hard, Charlie and Gabriel’s story, was my absolute favorite of the 4.5 books (and 4 short stories). So, when I started reading Love Hard, I was giddy with delight at finding the first part to be set during the mouse and her T-Rex’s wedding.

Before I proceed, let me say this. You CAN read Love Hard as a stand-alone. DON'T. You’ll say there are too many characters. You’ll complain that it takes forever to get going because the wedding dominated the first quarter. Read Rock Hard and Cherish Hard first so you’ll meet and fall in love with the entire Bishop-Esera family. Go!

Okay, now on to Jake and Juliet’s story. It was sweet and steamy, lovely and full of heart-eyes. 😍 A feel-good, low-angst, romantic second-chance-at-love story featuring likable and mature adult characters with a dash of cute kid thrown in and loads of family (both blood and found) support.

Profile Image for Jan.
867 reviews163 followers
March 19, 2020
3 to 3.5 stars. Quite a nice story, particularly the first half or so. There was a long opening scene at the wedding of Charlie and Gabriel from Rock Hard, which was nice. This book is about Jake, one of Gabriel's younger brothers, and he's another rugby star.

The heroine was quite feisty and full of personality. Sadly in the later part of the book she seemed to morph into a fairly bland same-old-same-old character. Similarly for the hero. He was stern and humourless and nicely grumpy, but he too became pretty bland as the self-protective shields around his heart started to fall away.

The premise was a little different - the hero had lost his wife to a sudden shocking illness some time ago, leaving him with a tiny daughter. Nothing new there. But the heroine had been a close friend of the hero's wife, and they'd all known each other at school. That added an interesting spin to the story.

Unfortunately I felt that the last 15% or so of the book was pretty much by-the-numbers. In the middle of a random chapter, with no warning it was suddenly 'three months later'. What the? There were also a couple of further jumps - 'three weeks later', 'two days later'. Kind of seemed like lazy writing :( Surely there is a better way to introduce time jumps.........

There was also an annoying, sudden change to a new chapter right in the middle of an intense scene. I know this is a feature of Singh's writing - she seems to like putting chapter breaks at dramatic moments to stop you giving up and putting the book down. But in this case it was near the end of the book. You'd read this far. Come on, you weren't going to stop reading at that stage of the book. In this case I found it forced, artificial and annoying to have a chapter break right at that moment :(

There was a also a sudden scene with the heroine's ex that felt as if it came from nowhere and didn't add a lot to the story. Potential dramatic moment, but it didn't go anywhere. Again, it felt by-the-numbers. Ooh. Must put drastic incident at X point of the plot line. It felt forced. *sigh*

So for the first half to two thirds, I give 3.5 stars. For the last third, 3 stars. It became a bit 'meh' for me.

This isn't my fav series by Ms Singh, but they are nice, easy, entertaining CRs. I'm sure I will read Daniel's book when it comes out.
Profile Image for Beth.
3,126 reviews261 followers
April 13, 2020
If you’ve been following my reviews, you know I’m more of an escapism reader so I am a big fan of Nalini Singh’s past works. Reading a contemporary romance isn’t beyond my comfort zone so when I saw Love Hard, I jumped at the chance to read Singh’s take on the contemporary sports romance genre … and I was not disappointed.

Love Hard has relatable, likable characters with an absolutely swoon worth romance. It was a delight watching Jake fall for Juliet. Did I mention, Swoon Worth, it is worth repeating.

If you love a really sweet, endearing romance then Love Hard will touch your heart and leave a smile on your face.

I received this ARC copy of Love Hard from Independent Publishers Group - TKA Distribution. This is my honest and voluntary review. Love Hard is set for publication March 10, 2020.

My Rating: 4 stars
Written by: Nalini Singh
Series: Hard Play (Book 3)
Paperback: 340 pages
Publisher: TKA Distribution (March 10, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1942356692
ISBN-13: 978-1942356691
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Hard-Play...
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Itunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/love-...
Profile Image for Kim.
2,435 reviews377 followers
August 1, 2020
Love Hard

Find this review and more at kimberlyfaye reads.

I've been itching to read a Nalini Singh contemporary romance for quite a while now. She's one of those authors whose books I always hear other readers rave about, but I've not made the effort to really explore for myself. Well, no more! I'm ready to explore. Especially if the others are anything like Love Hard.

There isn't much that can make walking in the summer heat and humidity enjoyable, but the Love Hard audiobook did just that. I actually looked forward to my daily walks so I could spend more time with Juliet and Jake. I absolutely adored them and this book was flat-out delightful. It could've been an angsty and overwhelming story because of their history and the loss of Callie, Juliet's best friend and Jake's wife. It wasn't. It had a series tone at times, but it was also fun, flirty and sexy. Plus it gets all kinds of bonus points for having one of the cutest book kids ever in it. Jake's daughter Esme was absolutely adorable. The family they formed with each other totally tugged at my heartstrings.

There were a million little things to love about Love Hard. Of course the romance — and smoking hot sexy times — were at the top of my list, but they weren't the only things I enjoyed. The family dynamic was fantastic. I need to go back and binge the other Eseras' stories ASAP. Thankfully this book was excellent on audio, so I feel good about bingeing the rest this way.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Profile Image for Linda (un)Conventional Bookworms.
2,714 reviews331 followers
February 15, 2020
*I received a free copy of Love Hard. That has in no way influenced my voluntary review which is honest and unbiased.*

Oh my goodness! Jake and Jules took my heart by surprise, and they took it hard. Love Hard was an amazing story.
Profile Image for Roz.
351 reviews173 followers
April 25, 2022
2 🌶

Love Hard is the third novel in the Hard Play series and the second novel I have read by Nalini Singh. It was very good!

After losing the mother of his child and love, Calypso, at such a young age, Jake is left heartbroken and with a daughter he must protect. Years later, he is surprised to see Juliet, Calypso’s annoying friend from high school, at an event he is attending. They bicker every chance they get and cannot stand one another. Jake suggests they get all that tension and frustration out of their system…One night. But, will that be enough or will they be back for more?

Juliet and Jake are both incredible characters who have dealt with a lot. I loved seeing them open up with one another and take the risk! They have both lost Calypso and seeing them connect about that and talk with each other about that loss was heartwarming. It definitely got emotional at times, but it was also sweet and even spicy! Juliet is such a strong woman who just wants someone to love her and be loyal! Can she let down her walls for Jake? It was incredible to see both sides of Juliet! Seeing Juliet and Esme, Jake’s daughter, interact was probably my favorite thing, it made my heart all warm and fuzzy!

This novel was everything I want in a romance and more! I would definitely recommend it! I don’t think I can ever get enough of the Bishop-Esera family and I can’t wait to read more about them!
Profile Image for Alina.
391 reviews65 followers
June 16, 2021
I loved it!! Obsessed with these characters ❤️
Profile Image for Lana  (Bibliomedico).
300 reviews251 followers
February 28, 2020
Unfortunately , this book didn't work for me ..
I couldn't finish it

The author's writing style was actually pretty good , but I couldn't connect with the Story ..
Profile Image for Natasha is a Book Junkie.
681 reviews7,435 followers
April 29, 2020
Hate-to-love romances are a fave of mine, all that heightened tension and conflict as the characters struggle to stay emotionally distant while physically craving each other makes for an unputdownable read in my book, and few authors know how to create off-the-charts chemistry like Nalini Singh does. Set in New Zealand, the hero is a star rugby player and single dad to an adorable toddler, while the heroine is his late wife's best friend. Their paths cross at his brother's wedding, but fate then keeps bringing them together time and time again, until they can no longer deny the attraction between them. The sexual and emotional build-up is slow and incredibly well executed, and by the time these characters get together, I was on my third cocktail. Such a great story, such great writing, and exactly the book I needed.
Profile Image for Jen (That's What I'm Talking About).
1,452 reviews256 followers
March 11, 2020
Love Hard is another enjoyable, entertaining contemporary romance from one of my favorite authors. I love getting back to the Esera-Bishop clan and that story opens with the wedding of Gabe and Charlotte, bringing back several past characters, including the pair that kicked off the Rock Kiss / Hard Play series, Molly and Fox. It is a great “reintroduction” to the clan and series after the previous book was about a couple outside the family.

Juliet, aka Jules, and Jacob, aka Jake, went to school together. Jules was the “bad girl” best friend to Callie, Jake’s girlfriend, and while not exactly friends, they both loved Callie dearly. Juliet moved away when they were still in high school, and not too long after, Callie and Jake had a baby girl, Esme. Callie died shortly after giving birth, and Jake has raised his daughter (with the help of his family) for the past six years. Present day, Jules and Jake are matched together at Gabe and Charlotte’s wedding. Jules, having gone through a short but very public marriage to a media-hog sports figure, moved back home and has lived a quiet, low-key life, befriending Charlotte, who had no clue about the history between Juliet and Jake.

Jules and Jake have a fairly smooth journey to HEA, and sometimes that is just what I need. Yes, they have hesitations, but the drama is external to the couple rather than within. Jake is a kind soul who loves with all his heart and fiercely protects those he claims as his. This includes Juliet, who has never experienced this kind of unconditional love. She grew up without her parents and raised by an uncaring aunt. Only her best friend gave her that love, and she lost her early. Yet, she’s not messed up. She’s made several mistakes in her youth, but grew into a strong, confident woman. She works hard and has earned her success.

Jake had issues after losing his high school sweetheart, the mother of his daughter, so young. He understands this and went through counseling - so it’s “in the past,” and he is able to recognize and deal with his issues. He’s healthy and in a good place for a real relationship. For both - knowing they had issues, but have moved passed the issues, is what makes the romance move forward with ease. They consciously open themselves up to trust and love, and stick together through the bumps.

If you are looking for a sweet and insanely sexy romance, look no further than Love Hard!

My Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot
Review copy provided by Netgalley
Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About
Profile Image for Meli  .
1,020 reviews184 followers
September 11, 2020
Das Buch beginnt mit der Hochzeit, auf der Jake und Juliet sich nach vielen Jahren zum ersten Mal wiedersehen, dort tauchen viele Charaktere auf, die man aus den Vorgängern oder auch aus der "Rock Kiss"-Reihe kennen könnte. Ich habe zwar nicht alle diese Bücher gelesen, aber ich kam da noch mit den vielen Personen und ihren Geschichten klar. Diese Hochzeit nimmt fast das gesamte erste Viertel des Buches ein und ich denke, wenn man die Charaktere schon kennt und liebt, hat man mehr Spaß daran.

Danach geht es aber etwas schneller vorwärts. Juliet und Jake kennen sich aus der Schulzeit, auch wenn sie sich damals nicht so gut verstanden haben. Juliet war die beste Freundin von Jakes Jugendliebe Callie, die auch die Mutter seiner Tochter war und plötzlich verstorben ist. Nach all den Jahren verbindet sie die Liebe zu Callie, aber wie früher auch zanken sie sich nur. Für Juliet ist Jake ein Spießer, während Jake in ihr nur eine aufmüpfige Rebellin sieht, doch dann ist da die Tatsache, dass sie einander nun unglaublich attraktiv finden. Und nach und nach sieht Juliet, wie liebevoll Jake zu seiner Tochter und seiner Familie ist und kann ihn nicht mehr so nervig finden, nach so einer Familie hat sie sich immer gesehnt. Jake hingegen merkt, wie erwachsen auch Juliet geworden ist und bei ihren Streitereien fühlt er sich so lebendig wie schon lange nicht mehr. Doch Jake hat seine Tochter, seine Familie und seine Karriere, Juliets schlechter Ruf würde da eher nicht helfen und natürlich kann er auch nicht jede Frau direkt seiner Tochter vorstellen.

Das liebevolle Necken der beiden war unglaublich unterhaltsam und man konnte die Chemie zwischen ihnen richtig spüren. Ich finde aber, dass man da auch ein bisschen an den sexuellen Fantasien sparen könnte, die beiden haben ja kaum noch andere Gedanken! Jakes entzückende Tochter und seine große Familie haben auch eine gemütliche Atmosphäre geschaffen und durch einen mediengeilen Exmann kam noch etwas mehr Drama in die Sache. Ich mochte aber besonders die spannende Beziehung von Jake und Juliet und auch die Geschichte um den Verlust der geliebten Freundin. Beide Protagonisten haben schwierige Zeiten durchgemacht und sind daran gewachsen, um der Liebe nun noch eine Chance zu geben, wo sie sie nie erwartet hätten.

"Cherish Dreams" hat mir wirklich sehr gut gefallen! Die Liebesgeschichte von Jake und Juliet war romantisch und durch die Unterschiede der beiden Protagonisten sowohl spannend als auch unterhaltsam!
Profile Image for Kay.
554 reviews1 follower
August 28, 2020
I adored Rock Hard, Gabriel Esera and Charlotte Baird’s story, and was delighted to find the opening scene to Love Hard was their wedding day. By the time I tapped the final page, I realized it was the novel’s best, most vibrant one, with droll moments and full of affection, fun, and family high-jinks. The Eseras are QUITE the clan. We are introduced to hero and heroine as they take their places as groomsman and one of many maidens of honour. They are Jacob Esera, Gabriel’s rugby-star younger brother, and Juliet Nelisi, E. E. Designs’ manager. They are also former HS antagonists and there’s a lovely dose of banter when they reunite. Not all is light and fluffy, however; they share a great sadness. Juliet’s best friend and Jacob’s HS sweetheart, Calypso “Callie,” died of meningitis soon after giving birth to their daughter. Callie and Jacob were teen parents. Jacob has been a single-dad to Esme going for six years.

While Jacob and Juliet aka “Jules” start out with snarky banter, contrasting his serious bent to her wild-child, this fun soon peters out. With Jacob’s superstar profile and Juliet’s working in design, she and Jacob are brought together as he signs on for promotional work. Their interactions, except for the love scenes, are punctuated with the lispy adorableness of Jacob’s daughter. Esme’s relentlessly cuddly adorableness wore thin and was one of the reasons, among others, I didn’t enjoy Love Hard.

Singh has tried to add depth to Juliet and Jacob, but they still turn out one-note wonders. Jacob is “overprotective” because of the way he lost Callie, which is VERY sad, and Juliet has had to live with an evil EX and a loveless childhood, also VERY sad. I can’t say I didn’t feel for them. Their stories did pull at the heartstrings, but their romance was strangely flat. Oh, there were sexy times, not terribly interesting ones, but plentiful and raw. As we know, they do not a romance make. Jacob and Juliet play an initial fun little banter dance, indulge in mental lusting and soon fall into bed and into time with Esme and Jacob’s admittedly likeable family. Because there’s not much keeping them apart, Singh develops an external conflict involving Juliet’s ex. Which brings out the protectiveness in Jacob and his family. Starved-for-love Juliet is touched, moved, wary at first, but sinks into their care and affection. She deserves it. Jacob’s a great dad, a great dude. What the novel lacks in tension, it makes up for in niceness. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it has its moments, just not enough of them. With Miss Austen, we’d say Love Hard offers “tolerable comfort,” Mansfield Park.

Nalini Singh’s Love Hard is self-published. It was released in March and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-galley on Netgalley.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 68 books952 followers
February 9, 2020
Ahhhhh this was such a lovely book in a wonderful series. I am not a fan of rugby (although I am a rugby widow at various parts of the year, since my husband loves the game so much!), but I am a huge fan of the big, warm, inclusive family at the heart of most of these books. I love the way that the spiky, strong, fabulous heroine gets embraced by all of them in this story - at one point, she realizes that she's falling in love with Jake's family as well as with him, and I loved the whole experience.

The opening of this book might not work for new readers to the series, because it absolutely luxuriates in its depiction of the wedding of two characters from a previous book - but it certainly reads as a total gift to series readers as well as providing an introduction to that big, warm family, and once the wedding is over, the book would function perfectly well as a standalone. The couple at the heart of the story disliked and distrusted each other as teenagers, but as adults, they turn out to be PERFECT for each other, and the tenderness that grows between them is just heart-melting.

Also, I will ALWAYS love a heroine who proudly announces (after defeating a pathetically nasty ploy by her ex-husband) "I have crushed that worm under my stilettos" <3 - AND a hero who looooves hearing her say that!

Now I'm going back to Cherish Hard (Book 1 in this series) to re-read all three of these books in a row - and I am SO looking forward to the next book, which promises to be about a couple I've been waiting for ever since Book 1!
Profile Image for nick (the infinite limits of love).
2,119 reviews1,333 followers
March 1, 2020

If you've been reading romance for a while, then you know the legend that is Nalini Singh. While everyone is head over heels in love with her urban fantasy/paranormal series, I have a softer spot for her contemporary romances. They are all about the characters and the achingly swoony romances that develop between them. Reading Love Hard was the perfect way to spend a relaxing day for me and no, I'm not just saying that because the male love interest of this book is a single father a.k.a my romance novel catnip.

Love Hard opens up with a beautiful wedding of two characters from the previous books. To say that I loved the entirety of this first section of the book surrounding the wedding would be an understatement. Yes, it was very very romantic, but it was seeing the beautiful family dynamics and the powerful friendships that truly made it memorable. The wedding was also where Jacob reunited with the bad girl from his childhood, Juliet. Sparks immediately flew between the two as their physical chemistry was blazing hot. This attraction to each other only seemed to explode further throughout the wedding and the rest of the book. It's this palpable chemistry that kept me glued to the pages of Love Hard. I also found both Juliet and Jacob to be such endearing characters. They were opposites in many ways, but they somehow fit well together. Several factors led to some hesitation on Juliet's part for getting together with Jacob including her troubled teenage years, the fact that the mother of Jacob's daughter was her best friend, Callie, and Jacob's fame as a rugby player. It was hard for her to resist the magic and charm of Jake though and I don't blame the woman one bit. Jacob was what I like to call book husband material. He was swoony and entirely too delicious for words. He had to grow up very fast after Callie passed away shortly after giving birth to their daughter, Esme. His goal in life was to ensure Esme's happiness and protection, and his bond with that little girl was the most precious thing ever. Romances that deal with dead best friends and their loves can be somewhat icky, but Nalini Singh handled it beautifully here. Jacob and Juliet have long conversations about Callie and the role she played in their relationship, along the way building up their emotional connection. I won't lie, there were a few times when I shed a tear or two because Jacob had this way with words and he was so so good at proving to Juliet that she was his future. *swoon* I'd be remiss to not mention the most amazing fictional family, the Bishop-Eseras. They defined everything good about a loving and supportive family and I just want them to adopt me (even though I do love my family too).

It took zero reflecting on my part to rate Love Hard 5 stars. It wholely deserves it, in my opinion. I know I will be re-reading my favorite parts of Love Hard, over and over again. :)
Profile Image for AlwaysV.
471 reviews
March 26, 2020
Loved this beautiful love story so much! I loved Juliet even more than I should have. Could be I wanted to apologize to her for my negative misconception of her character I gleaned from reading the blurb. I forgot that tabloids can print whatever the heck they wanted to. She won me over with her lovable traits, like loyalty and fierce protection of the people she loved.

Jake and Juliet fell in lust/love right at the beginning of the story, during his brother, Gabriel's wedding scene. As a beloved rugby star, from a beloved family, Jake always kept his image immaculate, like a Saint, for his little girl. He was sweet & super amazing when he went all out courting her! I loved when he posted himself and Juliet on social media using a 🖤 emoji, something he had NEVER done. Never! How their Happily Ever After happened was absolutely worth a couple more re-readings from me. Totally heart-warming, especially the way all of Jake's family joined forces to protect and welcome Juliet into the Bishop-Esera family.

Sharing one of my favorite scenes:

"No. Thank you." Soft eyes, full of a mother's love. "Jake stopped laughing that way a long time ago. . . he took all the weight of Calypso's death on his shoulders. He stopped being a boy and became a man far too young."

Juliet thought of how he'd laughed with her in bed, how he'd looked so young when they kissed just now . . . and felt a strange stretching inside her. A reminder that this wasn't a one-sided relationship where she was the recipient of all the gifts—Jake had asked her to be his wings, to take him flying.
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