19 August 2014

Review: Laura Kaye's HARD TO HOLD ON TO pulls the reader in with passion and power - and doesn't let go

As I'm writing this review, I'm still brushing away some tears. First of all, Laura Kaye's novella, HARD TO HOLD ON TO, is amazing. I'm saying that upfront, so if you want to stop reading this now and just hop over to whatever eRetailer you prefer - do. Simply said: Buy this book and read it.

The third title in Kaye's Hard Ink series about a now-disbanded Special Forces team is an unbelievably powerful read. The story picks up immediately following the events of Hard As You Can and the rescue of Sara (aka Crystal) Dean's sister, Jenna. If you haven't read Hard As It Gets (book 1) or Hard As You Can (book 2) - do. You could read each of these as stand-alone titles, because Kaye fills in just enough back story to let you know what's going on. But why on earth wouldn't you want to read these books. Kaye is a writer whose ability to share empathy and understanding of her characters flattens me. Guts me. Reminds me why I love to read.


When I read Hard As You Can, it was evident that there could be something special between Jenna and Easy. Sure, Jenna is an epileptic student who's been pretty sheltered by her sister and Easy is a soldier who knows both despair and loss, but truthfully they aren't so different under the skin.

From the moment that Easy carries Jenna into the apartment after rescuing her from the drug dealing gang, The Churchmen (and her sister's ex), their connection and tie solidifies. If you're expecting a lot of physical action in HARD TO HOLD ON TO, don't be disappointed. But the psychological action, as we learn about the demons that surround Easy and now Jenna, is equally powerful as any commando rescue.

I know many of us love stories about returning soldiers who are reintegrating into life in the states on black ops teams, as investigators, or bodyguards. It's a really popular trope. Many authors explore some of the steep tolls that warfare brings to these men and women. Well, my favorite authors do. However, I don't know if any author has really moved me to this extreme, as Kaye has accomplished so powerfully in HARD TO HOLD ON TO.

Perhaps it's because she knows her bromance that it all feels so real. But that's too simple an explanation. To me the most powerful, strong, and sexy alpha hero is the one who can show and embrace his softer inner core. Who doesn't need remain stoic in all things, but can reveal who he is deep down to those he cares about. With this story, Kaye lets us get into Easy's skin and there is a scene where I'm just bawling, because I'm taking every step of this journey along with him.

And Jenna. OMG, Jenna is key to this as well. Here is this relatively young (just turning 20) girl, who's been kidnapped, drugged, beaten and abused who's still trying to protect her sister from taking on any guilt. I totally buy into the connection she feels with Easy, because I can see her, tiny against this tree trunk of a man, brilliant red hair against his mocha skin, just drawing on his strength and caring to get through the day - and night. When he holds her, shelters her, as she's sick from the drugs. Scavenges in the kitchen for the making of a milkshake. Or when he's not even there, but she envelopes herself in his Steelers shirt that scents of him. It's as though the invisible bond between them becomes visible, like a golden string that ties them together.

It's not a one way street either as it's clear that Easy finds solace with Jenna. When he lays down with her the first time - and I'm not talking about a sexual bedding, but one where two souls find comfort and home in each other - I just smiled. It was so beautiful.

Yes, there's some humor here too. It's not all serious. But this book is a real reminder about what love is. How important it is to be open to our close friends - and to receive their care as well.

So, I'm hoping you all will be one-clicking through to add Laura Kaye's amazingly passionate and powerful, HARD TO HOLD ON TO, to your library. Your purchase these first two weeks will help support a program that aids veterans as Laura will be donating the profits from the sales. No one can wonder why Laura Kaye is at the top of my must-read, auto-buy list. She just ROCKS!

Hard Ink fans, remember to mark your calendars for November 25 and the release of book 3, Hard to Come By. I can't wait to read the story of Derek and Emilie!

From the Publisher
Hard Ink, Book 2.5
HARD TO HOLD ON TO: A HARD INK NOVELLA by LAURA KAYE
Avon Impulse (HarperCollins) ⎜ B00IMHS6EU ⎜ $1.99 ⎜ Aug 19, 2014
   Edward "Easy" Cantrell knows better than most the pain of not being able to save those he loves--which is why he is not going to let Jenna Dean out of his sight. He may have just met her, but Jenna's the first person to make him feel alive since that devastating day in the desert more than a year ago.
   Jenna has never met anyone like Easy. She can't describe how he makes her feel--and not just because he saved her life. No, the stirrings inside her reach far beyond gratitude. As the pair are thrust together while chaos reigns around them, they both know one thing: the things in life most worth having are the hardest to hold on to.