Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Release Day Celebration for Can't Hold Back by Serena Bell (Review & GIVEAWAY)

Readers who are drawn to emotionally intense reads that put you through the wringer will find themselves captivated by this tale of overcoming pain, reunited loves, and loyalty.  Keep reading to get a tantalizing taste of Can't Hold Back by Serena Bell, along with my impressions of it, and then add it to your bookshelf.  In honor of this second installment in the Returning Home series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a $10 Amazon GC too!  In further celebration of this book, visit Facebook on December 17th for a party from 5-8PM CST with special guests and prizes!

In this tender military romance from the bestselling author of Hold on Tight—perfect for fans of of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery—a war-shattered veteran gets a second chance at love with the one that got away.
No girl can resist a man in uniform—especially if that man is Nate Riordan. But after an injury in the line of duty leaves Nate broken, body and soul, the soldier finds himself addicted to his pain meds, with no place to call home. Desperate for an escape, Nate reluctantly accepts a friend’s invitation to a new veterans’ retreat. Expecting a little R&R, Nate is shocked when the sight of his physical therapist opens up another old wound: heartbreak.
Years ago, Alia Drake fell hard for Nate, but never made her move. Instead, she set up her sister with the sexy, confident military man, a foolish decision that continues to haunt all three of them. Now, with Nate as her patient, she can make things right—even if it means getting too close for comfort. A healing touch and a little honesty work wonders, fueling a physical intimacy that crosses professional boundaries. This time, with desire in the air once more, Alia won’t hold anything back.


You didn’t have to be a pain-management guru to see it. It wasn’t the tapping that had hurt him. It was talking about what had happened. It was remembering.
The tender points on his body told her that his brain was overreacting to pain signals. He was feeling more pain than there was, like a mic and speakers in a terrible feedback loop. It was pretty common with trauma, particularly trauma that had both a physiological and a psychological component.
The first step was breaking the loop.
She put her hands on his shoulders.
His skin, even through his T-shirt, was much warmer than she was expecting, and the sensation surged through her fingers with a shock that she’d failed to brace herself for. That sheer, electric human connection.
If a physical therapist has natural feelings of attraction toward a patient, he/she must sublimate those feelings in order to avoid sexual exploitation of the patient.
Words to that effect had been all over her ethics textbook.
She pulled her hands away for a moment. Recalibrated her mind. Put her hands back on his skin.
The sensation was less intense this time, but still there. Like the heat in his body threw a switch beneath her surface.
She knew what it meant, but she really wasn’t sure how the hell one accomplished it. She’d never thought to ask.
Maybe this was a bad idea. She’d thought of it as making reparations, but it was starting to look more like making the same mistake twice.
It wasn’t like she had a lot of choices here. She had a man in pain on her table. He’d been treating his pain with an addictive painkiller. She was currently the only physical therapist on staff. A litany of facts that didn’t give a shit about her feelings, natural or unnatural.
Surely treating him—despite any stray “natural feelings of attraction”—was a lesser evil than kicking him out of her office and probably sending him back to the pill bottle. Especially since she’d already screwed up his life once because she couldn’t control her attraction to him.
A physical therapist stands in a relationship of trust to each patient and has an ethical obligation to act in the patient’s best interest and to avoid any exploitation or abuse of the patient.
Noticing that her body reacted chemically to the nearness of his wasn’t exploitation or abuse. And it was pretty clear that it was in Nate’s best interest right now to break the pain loop.
Tentatively, she sent heat into her own fingers, warmed the area over his collarbone. So much tension vibrating in him. Maybe that was all she was feeling, the live-wire coiled energy of a man who’d been wound too tight. She was used to all kinds of electricity pouring off people, the accumulated impulses that a human body stored and shed. What she’d felt a moment ago was just that, another form of strange energy. Nothing to make herself crazy over.
She felt more confident now. Right. Nate was in pain. She could help.
She pressed his shoulders gently down, trying to give his neck a little more room. She kneaded with her thumbs, urging the thick knot of muscle to let go. A firm, businesslike touch. Professional strokes.
God, his skin is smooth.
She watched as his lips, which had been pressed together, softened. Loosened, relaxed. Felt something uncoil in her own body. In her chest.
Damn it.




With current events surrounding the plight of returning veterans readers will find this second installment in the Returning Home series a timely addition to the discussion. From start to finish this story will captivate readers as it touches on the pain of returning veterans, feelings of survivor's guilt, and the lengths people will go to in the name of love.  With two strong protagonists readers will find themselves cheering them on towards HEA one moment while shedding a tear over their misguided choices the next moment.

Because of issues surrounding her parents Alia has always felt more like a parent than a child, especially when interacting with her learning disabled sister Becca. Seeing how her disability has shattered her self-esteem Alia's main concern in life has been putting a smile on Becca's face, often to the exclusion of her own happiness. That becomes very apparent when the sexy and self-assured Nate meets Alia and makes an instant connection but inexorably finds himself with Becca through Alia's machinations.  Alia's matchmaking takes an unexpected turn as the letters she writes on her sister's behalf start reflecting her own feelings and has her wanting things she's long denied herself which leaves Nate feeling disillusioned and alone.  After hurting Nate earlier though she doesn't want to hurt him again even though she's the only one who can help heal the chronic pain a tragic wartime explosion has left him with. Being in such close quarters reignites the feelings she tried to bury but their plans for the future, and fears of holding each other back, leaves their HEA in doubt once again unless they finally claim their heart's desires.  Alia's immensely likable with her kind heart and selfless nature.  She enjoys being needed, craves it as it gives her life purpose, but being around Nate shows her that her needs are just as important.  She helps heal Nate, but he heals her too as she finally goes after what she wants, letting others help her for a change, which was empowering to see and left me cheering for her.

Nate was once self-assured and outgoing with his meeting Alia a moment that changed his life completely.  He felt a connection to her but ended up with her sister with Alia's blessing.  After the truth came out he was left emotionally confused and feeling a bit betrayed, but the explosion that killed his teammate shortly after left him even more bruised and battered.  Chronic pain that he refuses to admit is more than physical has him leaning on Alia, and her unconventional treatments, and resurrects their combustible connection.  When we meet Nate again he's clearly in pain with shadows marring his soul.  He's much quieter with his pain palpable which had me aching with him.  He feels as though his life is lacking so to find purpose he focuses on a promise made to a dying teammate which is admirable but misguided as it keeps him from living for himself.  As his physical pain dissipates Nate becomes the flirty and boyishly playful man he once was which made his interactions with Alia fun to watch with their witty banter teeming with sexual tension.  Nate's survivor's guilt is more than apparent in his choice of aiding JJ's family, and though this choice was the impetus to getting clean and seeking help, it ultimately left me sad for him but happy it opened his eyes to the truth of his own life having worth.

This was an intensely emotional read with compelling characters, both primary and secondary, and a good flow with no big misunderstandings.  Alia and Nate are both kind hearted and long to help others, often forgetting about their own desires until their buttons are pushed.  Their connection crackles with sexual tension resulting in numerous steamy scenes that brought out some truly profound and romantic insights from Nate.  Along with two such strong main characters comes a cast of equally engaging secondary ones that have me wanting to learn more about them.  Becca's as kind as her sister, popular for being pretty, but shamed for being learning disabled.  She's unlucky in love due to low self-esteem that leaves her too hard on herself.  The other injured soldiers at the retreat (particularly Griff) also have self-esteem issues with their painful pasts, and returns home, that brought a tear to my eye. They all deserve a HEA and I hope Ms. Bell doesn't leave me hanging too long where they're concerned. On a whole this was a read full of emotional highs and lows telling the story of two people just trying to do right in a world full of wrongs and I was captivated from the first page to the last.

My rating for this is an A-

*I got this book from NetGalley for review in exchange for my honest opinion.


USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes richly emotional stories about big-hearted characters with real troubles and the people who are strong and generous enough to love them.
Serena loves to embrace new hobbies, and has at various times enjoyed birdwatching, backpacking, violin, Ultimate Frisbee, skiing, tennis, ice-skating, dance, needlepoint, kayaking, paddleboarding, meditating, and swimming laps—to name just a few.
Her supportive husband lovingly accepts each new hobby and all the equipment it requires, and her two school-aged children provide opportunities to explore new activities like coaching basketball and remembering just how much math she's forgotten.


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