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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 loneliness and 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.
*ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
Love Hard is book three (but the fourth book in the series) in the Hard Play series featuring sexy single dad Jacob Esera, and former bad girl Juliet Nelisi. This book can be read as a stand alone but be warned, you’ll get a lot of characters from previous books and while the book lightly explains who they are, the prior books are so good and I’d highly recommend them. I love books with big families and interconnected stories and these characters have resonated with me since the first book, so I loved reconnecting with them all over again.
“Bad-girl Juliet Nelisi had grown into her bones, no more hard edges to her. Ah hell, who was he trying to fool? The woman was a hammer-to-the-head, bottle-of-whiskey knockout, full of dangerous curves that made him want to explore her inch by inch… then do it all over again.”
Big brother Gabriel, who we meet in Rock Hard, is finally getting married to the lovely Charlotte and the whole family has gathered to celebrate, including the Rock Kiss gang *que giant squeee*. I loved Rock Hard so I was excited that the whole gang was here and we get a nice reunion with everyone.
While Juliet and Jacob were pseudo mortal enemies in high school, they shared something very special; Calypso, who was Juliet’s best friend and Jacob’s high school sweetheart. After Callie passes away, Jacob devotes himself to be a dad to his little girl, Esme. At the same time, Juliet has cleaned up her act and has kicked aside a cheating ex sports star to the curb. But both of them are beyond surprised when they see each other at their friend’s wedding after so many years and sparks fly, as well as the barbs and banter. As the two begin to spend more time with one another and open up about their pasts, Jacob realizes how much Juliet hid behind the facade of being the bad girl and how she used it to try and gain the attention and love of a family who had no space in their hearts for her. I love how much Jacob goes out of his way to show Juliet is loved. And little Esme gets in on the fun too.
“Want to know a secret?”
“Juliet and I didn’t like each other then.”
“Really?” Eyes rounded, Esme looked from one to the other.
“But you like each other now?” A serious question.
“Yes,” Jake said, his eyes meeting Juliet’s. “I really like her now.” The knots in Juliet’s stomach grew hotter, tighter. Especially when Esme took one of their hands each and beamed.
“Good! I told her she can kiss you!”
Ack, the cuteness! Esme never knew her mom and while Jacob loved Callie, he’s wise enough to have mourned her and know that he needs to move on for his and is daughter’s sake. Finding Juliet and having her in their lives just makes them whole again and it’s such a sweet thing to see her interaction with Esme and how it heals a big part of her. The feels! I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of enemies to lovers but there’s no drama or fighting with how they connect and it works so well. Juliet is in need of a big, loving family and the Esera clan is happy to deliver.
4.5 “gets you in the feels” stars.