HOLDING STRONG – Lori Foster
The Ultimate Series , Book 3
Harlequin
ISBN-13:  978-1-4603-8054-3
March 2015
Contemporary Romance

Present Day

Denver Lewis is sitting at the bar enjoying his fellow MMA fighter friends after one of them had a fight, and trying to ignore Cherry Peyton.  As mixed martial arts fighters, Denver and his friends train at a gym owned by two of the other fighters and have dedicated themselves to their sport.  Well, they are not too dedicated to notice women, but Denver prefers to ignore Cherry.  She is always hanging around the group as the roommate to one of the fighter's sister, and it takes all his willpower to stay away from her, and he's done a pretty good job until she comes up to him that night.  When he agrees to walk her to her hotel room, he knows this is serious for him, and he's scared to death.  But several hours later he can tell Cherry is ill with a fever, dizziness and a headache, but also freezing.  Then when Denver's friend Armie comes in their room and tells him three men were looking for Cherry at the bar and drew a knife on him, Denver knows something is up.  But the first order of business is to take care of Cherry for the next day before asking why those men said they were related to her.

It's a while before Denver tells her about the men who said they were her brothers, not until the oldest, Carver, calls her cell phone.  They are the three sons of the foster parents she lived with after her own parents died.  All of them taunted and teased and played jokes on her until her foster mother gave her money to run away over seven years ago.  When the foster mother caught them with Cherry tied up to a tree and all their friends around laughing as they tortured her, it was the last straw. Despite being as independent as she can be through the years, she is deathly afraid of what they want from her now.  Not only that, she is afraid of what they might do to Denver and his friends, despite their being competent fighters.  Carver, Gene and Mitty aren't to be trusted, and Cherry figures the brave thing to do is to call them to find out what they want.

After that first night, Denver knows his fate is sealed, and there's no other woman for him but Cherry, whether that leads to something more serious he isn't sure himself.  Denver's family situation isn't that great, either; his father threw him out of his house five years ago, and he hasn't talked to him since.  But Denver has his fighting, his friends, and now Cherry in his life, until the reason for the fight with his father—his stepmother—shows up at his gym.  Cherry and Denver need each other to confront their pasts and come out on top.  But will Cherry's foster brothers cause harm to her friends?  That is something she will do whatever is necessary to prevent.

Lori Foster introduces us to some of the hunky and hard-fighting men of the MMA, mixed martial arts world, and Denver is one of the best.  He's the best because he prepares, trains, watches his diet, and is determined.  He has a past with his father and stepmother that has made him consider his fellow fighters his new family.  Cherry also has a past; her parents were killed dealing drugs, and the foster family she then lived with did the same thing, along with having three boys who made her life unbearable.  Carter, the oldest brother, was the instigator and was only held back from doing more by his father because of her age; and now he has found her again.  When Cherry approached Denver at the bar, he knew if he gave in she would become something more than a one night stand, and he wasn't sure he was ready for that or good enough for her. 

Secondary characters are wonderful, and several of them are on the verge of getting their own stories.  Stack is another one of the fighters, and he's determined to remain alone until Vanity offers him a special night together for taking her to another one of the fighter's weddings.  How can a man live for months with that on his mind?  And Armie, another fighter, is determined to stay away from his friend Cannon's sister, Melissa, with everything he can.  The problem is, these women all need a fighter in their lives and aren't taking no for an answer.

HOLDING STRONG is part of the Ultimate Series , and while this is the third story, each book mainly features one couple, along with others trying to fight their attraction.  Lori Foster always crafts stories with fun, laughter, action, emotional pain, and true love.  The next in the series is TOUGH LOVE (August 2015) featuring Stack as he goes out with the woman he has tried to ignore.  HOLDING STRONG is a definite buy for you this month if you enjoy stories that will draw you in and leave you wanting more.  

Carolyn Crisher