by Lori Foster

February 2008
ISBN: 978-0-425-21972-0
Reviewer Graphic Button Berkley
Mass Market Paperback

Harley "Hard to Handle" Handleman has been denied the SBC champion belt three times because fate or luck or something has continually thrown a curveball at him. This time Harley is determined to succeed and that means total control, and no interruptions. Particularly his cute and feisty landlord, Anastasia "Stasia" Bradley.

Stasia is the kind of woman Harley could easily fall for if he let himself, so he is determined to not let himself. Forget attraction, forget her womanly curves, he is going to concentrate on winning. Unfortunately, his concentration is blown to bits when he discovers Stasia is in danger. Harley is a warrior to his core and he is not going to let a woman he considers a friend, maybe more, be hurt.

But Harley cannot keep watch over her all the time, especially when he has to leave town to train with the other fighters. Stasia follows against her better judgment, sure that as a life coach she has some advice that may help Harley win. Danger follows and soon Harley and Stasia are drawn into an attraction hotter than fire.

I hate to say it, but Hard to Handle was more like hard to read because it was so boring. This is unfortunate because both books in Foster's SBC fighter series have been winners so far for this reviewer. In this book however, it felt like all the conflicts were contrived and shaky. Even Stasia's decision to follow Harley was a bit odd because she was so determined to avoid his womanizing ways.

Harley was a rather interesting hero but when compared to Sublime and Havoc, the previous SBC heroes, he just fell a bit flat. Stasia was truly a yawn. She just seemed to have no personality and it felt odd to have Harley, a man with a definite personality, attracted to her.

Nothing about this book was awful; in fact, there is a great secondary romance that held my attention so much more than the main storyline. Unfortunately, all the elements combined, the supposed danger, the supposed attraction, and Harley's quest for the title, just did not fit well together. Fans of Foster's series will want to read Hard to Handle to see past characters, but this book is more of a library renter than a keeper.

Reviewed in January 2008 by Sarah.

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