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Sunday, February 24, 2008:
"Hard to Handle" by Lori Foster (2008) - review
stepback cover for "Hard to Handle"
Extreme fighter Harley Handleman has an outlook on life as hard as his muscular body. Fate has dealt him a sucker punch - and a low blow, at that. First, there were his failed attempts at the title belt. Then, Harley's mother lost her fight with breast cancer, leaving him with no family but his trainer, Uncle Satch.
Taking a break in the mountains seems like a good idea. But his vacation isn't nearly as restful as he expected - thanks to his landlady, Anastasia Bradley. Their verbal sparring keeps him on his toes, and the sensual sparks that fly between then would knock out a lesser man. The last thing Harley wants is more complications in his life, so he's determined to keep his distance from the alluring Stasia. But someone else has also noticed Stasia - someone who is putting her life in danger. To protect Stasia, Harley must stay close, but his growing feelings for her may be a bit hard to handle....
Anyone who's ever read this blog on a regular basis knows that Lori Foster is an auto-buy author for me. I just love her strong, capable heroes and her spirited, independent heroines, and the sometimes unusual but loving families she creates in her stories. I'm not really a fan of the UFC and all the wrestling, boxing, fighting stuff, but I do love the SBC world she's built, and the discipline, respect, friendship, and responsibility these men all have in spades. Harley Handleman is no different, yet he is a more complex hero than what we've usually seen fighting in the SBC before.
Because of several unexpected things that have happened in his life, Harley is determined to control whatever aspect of his life he can, and that includes sex. He doesn't believe in completely abstaining when he is in training, but he does feel the need to control what happens with his partner in the bedroom. And he's all about temporary - no fuss, no muss.
Most of the women Harley comes into contact with have absolutely no problem with this, and walk away happy and satisfied. But now Harley is noticing his landlady in a way he can't deny anymore, yet he knows Anastasia Bradley is not the temporary kind, so he tries to keep his distrance. But someone is after her, and being the protective man he is, Harley is unwilling to let her handle things on her own. After one rather intimate night together, Harley is determined more than ever to stay away from her, and after he leaves Echo Lake, he really doesn't expect to see her again anyway.
Stasia is a life coach, someone who works with clients and evaluates their goals, their lifestyles, their personalities to try to help them achieve what they set out to do and to be happier and more content. After getting to know Harley, she's convinced he needs some assistance to live a more fulfilling life, but of course he's not having it. Stasia accepts his decision, but feels that he could truly benefit from working with her. Naturally Fate has a way of bringing them back together, and the attraction between them is as explosive as ever, but Anastasia is not willing to let Harley control things in the bedroom; she's not going to be just another notch on his bedpost.
I found Harley to be rather fascinating, very determined and set on his path to win the title while almost closing himself off from emotion. He hangs with the other guys, and lets his uncle call all the shots, but he tries to steer clear of any entanglements. He knows he's in trouble right away with Stasia as she's not the typical groupie, and therefore has no problem butting heads with him. She's pretty upfront with him right from the start, throwing him off with her blunt honesty, and that only attracts him more. She's also not shy about admitting she wants him, but only if he's willing to let go of his control, which of course he has a problem with. It takes a long time for them to finally fall into bed, but by that time, they are well on their way to falling in love.
Stasia is such a likable heroine - pretty, honest, independent, confident - and way over her head when it comes to resisting Harley, who has always attracted her. She's had her own share of disappointments, but she knows she's good at what she does and she truly believes her work helps people achieve their full potential, and she feels she could do the same for Harley, if he would only take the chance and trust her.
As always, I enjoyed re-visiting the SBC fighters and the women who love them. Much like her Visitation series, Lori's SBC books center around a close-knit group of friends and family who love what they do and take pride in it, and it's really fun to get a sneak peek into the UFC, which is a labor of love for Lori, who is a huge fan of the sport. Brief mention of the negativity of steroids is brought up, which is very relevant in today's sports news. Instead of drugs, it takes discipline, training, talent, and hard work to win a title. Harley's story definitely focuses on the positive aspects of UFC fighting, and how that can carry over into everyday life. Another job well done.
However I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I was rather disappointed that musician Barber didn't get his own story! Especially after we got to know him so well as Dakota's good friend, I thought for sure he would have gotten his own book, and not have his HEA tacked onto Harley's. He has the charisma, attractiveness and charm to pull it off all on his own, and it would have been rather fun to see him suffer a little bit. Don't get me wrong: his was a nice story, but way too quick. Oh well, maybe he won't get off so easy after all.....
Rating: **** out of *****
And stay tuned for the next L.L. Foster book: "Servant: The Acceptance"
September 08
Berkley single title
ISBN: 9780515145328

Gabrielle Cody has accepted her destiny as one of God’s warriors, charged to destroy evil. When surrounded by violence, she must be ready for anything, but Gaby wasn’t prepared to see Detective Luther Cross ever again. He’s the beacon of reality in her life, the one thing that makes her feel human, like a real woman.
But Gaby can’t get caught up with Luther now. She has work to do, this time protecting the street walkers. But Luther gives her purpose, something more than just working at God’s whim. Yet her life of retribution is far too dangerous even for Luther, and this time, it’s not just their hearts that won’t come out unscathed.
Can't wait!!!

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  1. Wow, great review and comments, Stacy! Thank you.
    I'm so sincerely sorry to have disappointed you with Barber's secondary story. :-(
    I know many people wanted him to have his own book, but for me, it just wasn't there. I can't write what isn't in my brain.
    I think many times readers THINK they'd have liked an entire story, because the shortened story packs so much punch. They don't realize that if it was drawn out, the punch wouldn't be there. LOL

    Thank you again! Oh, thanks also for mentioning Servant: The Acceptance. I'm sooooo loving this new series. It's mega fun to write.

    Happy reading!


  2. Great review. Lori is an auto-buy for me as well. I am not a fan of ufc either but i do like the world she has created. I loved Harley and thought that Anastasia's career was different. I have not read a book where the character is a life-coach. I love reading characters with not so typical careers.

  3. Loved Harley. It was a great book. I thought Stasia was also a great hearoine.

    As always, great review, Stacy.

  4. I am so glad Foster's next Servant novel was moved to September!! WOO HOO.
    Lori is also an auto buy for me. :)
    Thanks for the head up Stacy.

  5. Lori, you know it's cuz I just wanted more of Barber, and not cuz I think you suck LOL. If the story's not there, well, I get that. I'm sooo looking forward to Mallet's and Drew's stories!

    Kris, it was different, and pretty cool. I would love to do something like that, it sounds pretty flexible, but I'm not the most perceptive person, so I won't quit my dayjob.

    Thanx Kelley. It was a fun read. Reading Lori's books are like eating potato chips - addictive cuz you can't stop at one.

    Hey Katie, I agree! I'm looking forward to seeing Lori in June - maybe she'll have some Servant stuff available.

  6. Bummer, Barber didn't get his own story?! I remember after finishing Havoc's story wondering about Barber and being surprised that Harley was up next. I got this from the library. I'll have to give it a shot...although I'm in a major slump w/ romances right now....

    Not really interested in the Servant series. Burned out on the paranormals .

  7. Stacy I felt the same way. I loved the book but was bummed that Barber didn’t get his own book :o( or at least get to see more of his story in this one. I felt the same way about Gregor. But I understand that if it’s there, it’s there and if it’s not, then it’s not.

  8. I read H to H and loved it, of course! I think the only reason any of us were sad is that Barber was such a darned sweet and sexy character yet with a totally masculine edge... so we'd have been happy to see another book. Which just goes to show how good Lori is - she made us fall in love with him even though he was onstage just a little while...

    Harley was indeed hard to handle, but I know Stasia thought it was worth it in the end!! They were great together...

    Janice Maynard

  9. I grabbed HTH because it was the next SBC book. I'll be honest I initially couldn't remember who Harley was which bothered me.(that's the reason I always re-read the previous books before diving into the next) Once I dove into it, I couldn't put it down. I gobbled it up in one day and one very long night. =o)

    Yes I was surprised that Barber didn't have his own book but I didn't feel jipped by his secondary story at all. I loved Jasmine and all her curves. I love that he fell so hard and I loved that she gave him a hard time. There was nothing missing in it for me.

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