Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

Aidee’s review of Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh
Contemporary romance released by TKA Distribution

Book CoverNew York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh kicks off her new Hard Play contemporary romance series with a sizzling story that’ll leave you smiling…

Sailor Bishop has only one goal for his future – to create a successful landscaping business. No distractions allowed. Then he comes face-to-face and lips-to-lips with a woman who blushes like an innocent… and kisses like pure sin.

Ísa Rain craves a man who will cherish her, aches to create a loving family of her own. Trading steamy kisses with a hot gardener in a parking lot? Not the way to true love. Then a deal with the devil (aka her CEO-mother) makes Ísa a corporate VP for the summer. Her main task? Working closely with a certain hot gardener.

And Sailor Bishop has wickedness on his mind.

As Ísa starts to fall for a man who makes her want to throttle and pounce on him at the same time, she knows she has to choose – play it safe and steady, or risk all her dreams and hope Sailor doesn’t destroy her heart.

I picked up this book because it is a spinoff of Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss books—the hero of this book is the brother of one of the heroes from that series. Apparently, the family of the hero of Rock Hard—the second full-length book in the Rock Kiss series–was so popular when Singh first introduced them in Rock Kiss that she has decided to write books for the rest of the brothers—also known as the Hard Play series. I’m totally here for that. So of course I made grabby hands (virtually) when I saw that Cherish Hard was coming out in November. I really liked what I saw of Sailor and Ísa in Rock Hard, and I enjoyed getting to know their backstory in Cherish Hard.

Ísa is independent, intelligent, and a mama bear. She has two younger siblings, who are not poppet material, I promise. They’re teenagers, and as someone who lives with early teenagers, I appreciate that Ísa’s siblings were not perfect angels—we see them get into scrapes and have to deal with difficult situations. Ísa is a schoolteacher–I believe she is an English high school teacher. However, for the majority of the book, she is a company executive. I would have liked to see her teaching more, but either way, we get someone who is good at their job, which makes me very happy. At the beginning of the book, we see her teaching poetry to adults, and for most of the book, we get to see a competent executive who handles whatever her boss/mother throws at her.

You may be wondering why a schoolteacher is spending her “free” time as an executive, and the only good answer is that it’s Romancelandia in New Zealand, just go with it. She’s generally not blowing off her job and spending an unreasonable amount of time emailing the hero. To be fair to Ísa, her decision to be a vice president of her mother’s company is absolutely in character, so I didn’t make any questioning noises when it happened. It’s part of her mama bear trait; in other mama bear news, when her siblings get into accidents, she drops everything to make sure they’re all right—including fun times with Sailor and work.

She has been emotionally abandoned, more or less, by the people in her life whom you would expect to care for her, so she is wary of falling in love with someone who has a lot of ambitions. However, she really wants a family of her own. I totally believed that her conflict-causing issues were logical; partly this has to do with the fact we’re shown how her parents treat her—her dad asks her to be the bridesmaid for his twenty-one-year-old wife—and her mom maneuvers her into being the vice president of her company for the summer. Not because Ísa secretly wants to be an executive and ran off to be a teacher as a rebellious action, but because her mother wants her to take over the company some day. The other reason I believed Ísa’s issues were logical is because we got to see her work them out, both in internal monologue and by talking with her friend and Sailor. That’s right, Sailor and Ísa had conversations, like real grown-ups and everything—actually, that’s one of my favorite parts of the books, and I would quote for you, except they’re very spoilerific. Trust me, though, it’s wonderful.

Sailor is the brother of a famous rugby player. Sailor also has two younger brothers, who are teenagers in this book. The brothers often show up to help out Sailor in his landscaping business. It’s free labor for Sailor, but also serves to show us Sailor interacting with his family, which I approve of. Sailor wants to do commercial landscaping, and he wants to prove to himself that he is nothing like his father, who walked out on his family when he was a child. Technically, this is a spoiler, but since there is a whole other book where you can find that out, I’m not too worried.

Sailor managed to court Ísa without coming off as a stalker or some dude that doesn’t understand the word no. When Sailor and Ísa actually meet up for the first time, he invites her out on a cookie bar date (which sounds wonderful), but waits for her to call him. When she doesn’t call him about meeting for cookies, he figures he’ll see her later—not in an I-quit-way, but in an I-happen-to-work-at-the same-place-and –I-can-try-again kind of a way. I enjoy seeing that kind of courting played out on the page. We see Sailor asking her out, giving Ísa unique gifts (no typical flowers here), and generally doing his very best to spend time with her, even though they are both busy people. At one point in the book, they have a picnic dinner at the site Sailor is working on so that he can get in a little more work but also spend time with Ísa. We also got an incredible groveling scene, which made me ridiculously happy.

I really liked that both Sailor and Ísa have friends outside of each other. Ísa has a close female friend, as well as her siblings and her assistant. Sailor mostly has his brothers, which is cool—there are three of them, and they get along, so a guy friend for Sailor might have cluttered up things. We get to see Ísa spend time with her friend—we’re introduced to Ísa’s friend in the first chapters of the book, and she appears throughout the rest of the book, and we know that their friendship isn’t just about men. They’ve known each other for years, and they encourage each other constantly (they pump each other up before attending a party, and Ísa texts and calls her friend often during the book). Sailor is really close with his whole family—except for his father—so we get to see him spend time with his brothers and parents, and we know that he’s close with his grandparents. He apparently spent time with them during the summers when he was a teenager.

There wasn’t anything I disliked about this book. It’s light, comforting and joyful. However, for the sake of anyone considering this book who hasn’t been convinced by everything I’ve said so far—or who wasn’t intrigued by the excerpt published on the blog earlier this month, I should mention a couple of things. This is part of a series, so if some of the characters don’t feel as fleshed out as you would like, it’s because they were fleshed out in another book. That conflict with Sailor’s father I mention? It’s not resolved in this book, so don’t be surprised if all you get is that wonderful epiphany/groveling moment from Sailor. And, if this matters to you, Ísa is older than Sailor; she is twenty-eight and he is twenty-three.

I really enjoyed this book. However, it relied a little on the fact that readers have probably read the book about Sailor’s older brother, which resolves some of the conflicts here in a slightly more concrete way. By the way, you should absolutely read Rock Hard.

Grade: A-

You can read an excerpt of this book here, or buy it here.

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