Title: Hard To Break
Author: Bella Jewel
Series: Alpha’s Heart (may be read as a standalone)
Release Date: October 13th
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary Adult Romance – Sports Romance (Auto Racing)
Quinn has spent her whole life working in her dad’s garage, leaving her more comfortable with a carburetor than a curling iron. Her world is turned upside down when her beloved garage is bought by none other than world famous, sexy as sin, custom car builder, Tazen Watts. He’s the one man she can’t stand…even though he makes her hotter than a high performance engine in top gear.
Tazen has no use for Quinn, at least not professionally, and he’s making sure she knows it. But there’s a spark between them that she’s finding hard to ignore. She’s determined to prove her talent is as impressive as her sassy mouth. When she finds out Tazen is hiding a secret that could bring down his career and everyone involved in it, she wonders: if falling for him is going to be worth the risk.
**Although part of a series, Hard To Break is a full-length standalone romance with a HEA**
This is the first book I’ve read by Bella Jewel, having received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I found her writing style to be crisp, clean, and descriptive, easy to read and easy to follow. I expected an enemies to frenemies to lovers storyline with conflict, a little suspense, and a happy ending – and Bella delivered it with snarky, funny dialogue that immediately engaged me in the story.
The primary conflict centers around the sale of the family garage – a business she ran in the absence of her alcoholic father, a place where she’d spent most of her life learning the trade – and a place that meant everything to her. Two major points of conflict emerge from this.
The first source of conflict is Quinn’s fiery relationship with Tazen — the buyer, celebrity custom car builder, a racer, and someone Quinn has always idolized – until he abruptly takes the garage away and sends her packing. Determined not to let him win, she defies him and, in the process, shows him that she belongs in his world: first as a frenemy – a necessary nuisance – then as a skilled mechanic; then as a trusted friend, and ultimately as a lover. Their intense and unstoppable attraction sets up some very well-written, steamy sexual encounters. They don’t try to hide their relationship – and there are hints of some bitterness on the part of the male members of the team – but nothing comes of that.
The other is the conflict between what she feels she must do to protect and support her father – overshadowed by the heartbreaking effect that his chronic, debilitating alcoholism has on her life – then what happens when she finally confronts him. Both of these primary conflicts drive the story forward and as fiction goes, although they are predictable they are also completely relatable.
A secondary conflict centers around an old flame of Tazen – a bitter, narcissistic racing diva named Sheyenne. She threatens to expose a secret that could ruin him if he doesn’t concede to her demands, and she’s quite the drama queen in the process. This part of the story could have been much more suspenseful and threatening. I found the resolution of their broken relationship a bit unsatisfying.
I appreciate the fact that Bella created a strong heroine in Quinn – one who has definite vulnerabilities but also great strengths. She has the confidence to go after what she wants, and she has technical skills that command respect in the male-dominated world of auto mechanics, construction and racing. She shares a passion for cars that captivates Tazen from the very beginning – the common bond that ultimately leads to their HEA. I liked Tazen, too. Some reviewers have described him as arrogant – but I saw him as a strong alpha, driven by a need to protect his business, his secrets, and ultimately, the woman he loves.
Hard to Break was a good read and a solid story, but I didn’t love it, for a couple of reasons. Although the main characters were well written, I felt they were underdeveloped to some extent. I couldn’t connect with them on a deeply emotional level; I could sympathize, I could even engage, but something was missing. Their The other drawback was that the conflicts detailed in the story had a lot of potential – but they didn’t grab me; I felt little if any suspense. Even the darkest aspects of the plot didn’t draw me into the story as much as I’d hoped. Consequently, I found the pace to be a bit slow, and the “heavy scenes” were less exciting and emotional than I expected.
I will definitely read more stories by Bella Jewel, because I like her storytelling style. I recommend this book for readers who want a light, easy read, love sports-related romance, appreciate some steamy sex, enjoy alpha males, and need a happy ever after.