FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Random House LLC (via NetGalley).
Series: Worth the Fight #3
Publisher: Loveswept on February 10, 2015
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (Adult)
Once one of the most sought-after names on the mixed martial arts circuit, Antonio “Scarface” Marino watched his career go down for the count as he chased skirts and made tabloid headlines. Now he’s finally making a comeback, and it’s all thanks to Francesca Silva, a Brazilian bombshell as tough as any of her fighters. But who’s the real Francesca: the trash-talking trainer who rides him hard, or the vulnerable woman who blushes at his touch?
Francesca went to the mat to sign Tony because she believes he still has the potential to bring big success to her gym—if she can keep his head in the cage and out of her personal life. After a short-lived marriage soured her on love, a one-night stand is all she can handle. Now Tony’s kisses are stirring up complicated feelings—especially when he agrees to face her ex in the ring. Francesca’s used to freezing guys out. But Tony’s tempting her to give in to the heat.
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
If Tony has any chance of salvaging his flagging career, he’s got to get himself together, train hard, and stop getting distracted by booze, barfights, and women. But that’s a lot easier said than done when his new boss is a fiesty, tough as nails bombshell with legs that won’t quit.
I have to be honest; it took me a while to warm up to both Francesca and Tony, and for a while there, I wondered if I should just move on to the next book. But after a while, more of their personalities were explained, and the occasional glimpses at their vulnerabilities led to my liking them a whole hell of a lot.
Francesca (or Frankie or Frances, depending on who you ask) is 99% ice queen. She dresses the part of sexy business woman, but that’s just it — she’s all business. She doesn’t really socialize outside of work, seems to care only about making the center a success, and has her walls up so high that she’s practically two-dimensional. Tony, on the other hand, is all machismo. Francesca is a challenge he can’t seem to overcome, and no amount of flirting or innuendo works with her. His idea of flirting, however, is more along the lines of sexual harassment, and his lack of concern for pretty much everything else was quite irritating for a while. But then things began to change.
Francesca isn’t the strong, cold woman she projects. In fact, she’s very much still affected by the ugly end of her first real relationship, and she’s so terrified of being hurt again, so convinced she’s lacking, that she lives a passionless and solitary life. And while Tony is very definitely the dirty-minded lothario he comes across as, he’s also incredibly considerate and more than willing to be patient and gentle with Francesca when she gives him even a hint of a shot with her.
But even though they both began to show hidden sides that were instantly intriguing, they didn’t completely change, which made me love them even more. Tony was rough around the edges and easily provoked into jealousy. And Francesca was still incredibly strong and capable, never hesitating to stand up to Tony’s often Neanderthal ways. It’s what made them so perfect for each other even after they’d gotten past the major hurdles.
While Full Contact may have have given Jessica a happily ever after following her escape from an abusive relationship, Below the Belt is the one about characters with more emotional damage, and while I certainly loved the previous two books, Tony and Francesca’s story seemed to delve much deeper. It’s a hot, angsty, sweet journey for two characters who are absolutely made for each other.