“We want to be in a situation under maximum pressure, maximum intensity, and maximum danger. When it is shared with others, it provides a bond which is stronger than any tie that can exist.”- SEAL Team Six Officer.
I read this quote at the beginning of the prologue and instantly was taken to Africa where a situation unfolded that was maximum pressure, intensity and danger. It was where Jake rescued Isabella from her captor and instantly a connection is formed. From the moment I read her “confession” to Jake and Jake in return revealed a secret of him I wanted to dig into their motivations. What had happened with Isabella prior to her rescue? What was her connection to her captor? And where was this all going? The prologue was one where my curiosity was triggered and the suspense was already anchoring me to the story. The other thing I immediately was drawn to in HARD TO HOLD was the characters Stephanie Tyler brought to life, yet it is the numbers of that group of characters that initially threw me off.
After the rather intense prologue there were many set-up of storylines; Jake, Nick and Chris with their past, Jake and Isabella with their romance, Jeannie, mother of Isabella, with the general Cal, Clutch and Sarah, and then there’s also Rafe McAllistar who has his role to play out too. While it all was interconnected it initially tempered my connection with the story until I was firmly adjusted to the writing style and got more in sync with the characters. Besides the fact of the many POV’s I had a bit of trouble surrendering to the fact Jake was so very young when he entered the army. At one hand I could believe that due to his past he had the emotional maturity to go through army training, and after that, SEAL training. Yet at the other hand I saw a 15 year old in front of me that didn’t fuse with the needed expertise of an extreme tough soldier.
Even though I had some issues with HARD TO HOLD Stephanie Tyler hit the bulls’ eye for me with Jake, Nick and Chris as men. They are an addictive combination of male toughness, attitude, vulnerability, virility and skills. They are a tight unit together that will stick by one another through the good and the bad. In their teenage years their bond as brothers by choice began and through all those years it never wavered, leading up to a point they now know each other like the back of their hand. So Nick and Chris knew when Jake offered Isabella a place to stay at their house that there was more going on then Jake just protecting Isabella.
While I tried to get my grip on the several storylines the romance was heart rendering beautiful. Isabella’s emotional healing process spoke of resilience, overcoming fears, courage and uncovering the naked truth of the past and the present. I think Isabella’s road to recovery was done in a believable way; it was an internal sparring of the strength to get her life back and yet feeling the fear and the pain of what was done to her. Jake is a great opposite for Isabella and they emotionally fit together like white on rice, still their strong personality’s clash where they create a fiery friction and have passionate dialogues. Neither is willing to back down easy but the underlying hunger for each other is evident in many choices, gestures and conversations. I loved how Jake restrained his libido to a certain level so that Isabella held the power yet at other area’s Jake is all take charge and a man not to be messed with.
Another romance that caught up with me is that of secondary characters Clutch and Sarah, who reside in Africa. They have their own romantic battle to fight but by pursuing an enemy are connected to the larger picture. Stephanie Tyler gave me another intriguing set-up with an organization named; GOST, and as I didn’t get a conclusion regarding this supporting storyline I am fiercely hoping I will get to meet Clutch and Sarah in book two again.
By the second half of HARD TOO HOLD past secrets, the present dangers, the romance and the characters worked together in a way I finally could feel the full effect of this author’s voice. The plot was in full swing and gave some more time for Chris and Nick and while I really liked all the characters Chris sealed his fate with me with his offbeat attitude and his two different colored eyes. What can I say; the man had me at hello. Now that I was firmly hooked I read the chapters, one right after the other, to deliver an ending that was nail biting good.
HARD TO HOLD had a somewhat rocky start but it only got better and better that by the end I could feel the eagerness for book two humming through my veins.