What do you do when everything you avoid, turns out to be exactly what you need?
Easy and predictable, just the way he likes it, Blake Daniels flies through life the way he burns through women: on his terms, no regrets.
With his fighting career in full swing, he’s on the threshold of title contention. But when his training is compromised by injury, the stakes grow impossibly higher. The rage that fuels his punches also chips away at his focus, and he risks losing everything he cares about.
He won’t let that happen. Not again.
Layla’s through with men. After a marriage that never should’ve happened, she hopes to reclaim the pieces of the woman she lost years ago.
Emotional abuse has left her insecure and terrified. A master at faking what she’s not feeling, she masks her self-doubt in false confidence.
She’ll never let another man hurt her. Not again.
Chased by shadows of the past, Blake and Layla know what they don’t want, but their hearts have a different plan. As a web of lies and betrayal threatens to destroy them, they’re forced to make a choice.
Is love enough to heal even the deepest wounds?
ARC received by the author in exchange for an honest review
I love books about MMA fighters. There, I said it. There is just something about these incredibly strong, alpha males who – without realizing it – are a bit lost until the right woman comes along. I ADORED J. B. Salsbury’s first book, “Fighting For Flight”, and I have been eagerly – and, I admit, rather impatiently – awaiting Blake’s story. When I first met him, I was rather sceptic and did not think he had that many hidden depths – but oh, how wrong I was. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself here.
Blake is the typical player: he knows how to wrap women around his little finger – it usually only takes a certain look and a slow smile, and the women drop like flies. And he is the first to admit that he enjoys this way of life with no-strings-attached sex – but even he has his standards: he does not sleep with mothers or women who have a lot of baggage. With the way he has been brought up, I cannot say I blame him.
“I’m definitely doing her kid a favor. Girl with a mouth to feed doesn’t need to be paying a babysitter overtime so she can go home with a dude that’ll fuck her and never call her again.”
In some weird way, this actually makes sense to me! And it is nice to see that Blake has his limits.
Now, Blake has a huge fight coming up and knows that he needs to pull his act together – cut down on the booze and the late nights – in order to have a proper chance at beating his opponent. He takes his fighting extremely serious – like any good athlete should – and you have to admire his work ethics. For all his bravado and cocky behavior, Blake wants to succeed in his chosen career more than anything.
Although I wanted to kind of punch Blake in the beginning of the book, I was slowly but surely won over – little by little, we learn about his past, how toxic his home environment was, and how he was let down, again and again, by his mother. As so many strong men, Blake hides his vulnerability behind a mask and he does not even really let his best friend, Jonah, see behind the surface that often. He constantly fears that he will become his father as he grows older which is the main reason he does not want a real relationship.
But Blake does not count on Layla coming into his life. Sweet, scarred, insecure and a single mother with LOADS of baggage – she is exactly the type of woman that Blake steers clear of. It is, however, rather difficult for him to do that seeing as she is the new secretary at the UFL. The first time they meet is one of my favourite scenes ever:
“I don’t know if I should trust him. “I’m not going anywhere with you. I don’t even…who are you?”
“Whoever you want me to be, Mouse.” And he’s back to teasing.
“Look, Mr..?” Why is he smiling? I follow his eyes to my…oh my gosh. He’s staring at my boobs.”
I absolutely LOVE Layla – despite her past, she is determined to make a better life for her daughter and herself. And even though she admits to having many insecurities, she tries so hard to be tough – especially around Blake – and she can be so funny, even when she does not want to be.
In theory, this couple seems to be all wrong for each other, but Blake and Layla cannot help but admit their strong attraction. It is off the charts hot, yet so sweet at the same time. They start to get to know one another and find that they have more in common than they first thought. Blake, naturally, fights tooth and nail to stay away from Layla, but he succumbs eventually. He just cannot help himself.
Needless to say, Blake and Layla must overcome many obstacles in order to be together, and the most important of these is that they have to trust in each other and in themselves. I will not tell you more about what happens in the book – you ought to know by now that I do not want to give any spoilers.
I confess that I did not anticipate that Blake had such a caring and vulnerable side to him – he has always seemed to be so tough, a man who is all about having fun. I love how the author slowly shows us the real Blake, and the scene when he takes a leap of faith, daring to tell Layla his true feelings, is one of my favourites in the book:
“This song is for me. I’m sure of it. Those may be someone else’s lyrics, but belted from Blake’s mouth, they’re his. Even seated, my legs feel weak. My chest tightens with the warmth of his words. I’ve never heard anything so beautiful in my life.”
The story never seems rushed or forced in any way and I devoured every single page. I found myself reading it so fast that I had to make myself slow down, lest I missed something important in my eagerness. And THAT, my ladies, is the talent of a true storyteller in my world: to make the adrenaline course through your veins, to make the reader inaccessible to the real world because of the story. So, Miss Salsbury: THANK YOU! Thank you for giving us Blake & Layla – I know that I will read this book many times.
My final note will be this: although “Fighting To Forgive” is a standalone novel, I strongly urge you to read the previous book, “Fighting For Flight” first. Trust me, you will fall in love with Jonah & Raven.
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