Hard to Hold (Hold trilogy, #1) by Stephanie Tyler

Published November 24th 2009 by Dell, Mass Market Paperback, 370 pages, ISBN13: 9780440244349

 THE SPECIAL OPS HERO FEARED NOTHING — UNTIL HE MET A WOMAN TOO HOT TO HOLD.…

Lieutenant Jake Hansen has survived some of the riskiest missions known to man. But now the wounded Navy SEAL faces his toughest job yet: smuggling Dr. Isabelle Markham out of Africa without triggering an international incident. Not easy to do when the gorgeous hostage happens to be a senator’s daughter—and about as easy to resist as an oasis in the desert.

If it weren’t for Jake, Isabelle would still be halfway across the world, where rebel forces left her for dead. The special ops warrior may have saved her life, but she doesn’t need him to protect her now. Tell that to the ruggedly handsome hunk in full battle fatigues who’s just been assigned as Isabelle’s personal bodyguard. Close quarters aside, Isabelle won’t let Jake anywhere near her heart—until danger throws them together again. And nothing in the jungles of wildest Africa could prepare them for a passion this wild. This crazy. This hot…

**Spoiler Alert!** If you plan on reading this book, do not read any further. … okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Jake Hansen, Navy SEAL, gets a transmission in the middle of an African jungle while on their way out: a doctor with Doctors Without Borders had been kidnapped and left for dead, not a mile from his current location. Splitting up, his team continues on, one man goes with him.

Finding Dr. Isabelle Markham nearly brought Jake to his knees, although he doesn’t know why. She’d been stripped of her clothes, bound, gagged, and beaten to a pulp. He gets her out of there, and home.

Two months later, Isabelle is still trying to recover. The slightest human contact makes her agitated, and claustrophobia is beginning to set it – something that never once bothered her before.

But getting over it isn’t simple. With the man who did the damage now behind bars, she should be able to move on, but is finding it difficult. She cannot function the way her mother wants her to. She wants to go back to Africa – she needs to. Her mother, a U.S. Senator doesn’t agree with that, neither does her uncle, Admiral James Callahan. So he pulls strings – several – and gets her a position on base, doing consultant work for the Department of Defense, and actually working at the Naval Hospital.

Running into the man that saved her … she knew it was going to cost her. But she also knew that he would be the only one to understand her, how she felt. Question is: Can she get him to open up?

**Not bad.

Okay, so first we have Jake. Alpha to the core, he’s actually more of an a$$#@!&. He’s hard as nails, and is so completely determined to keep people at arm’s length, he comes across as a complete jerk. Jerk – Jake … hunh, 4 letters. But even before he’d made it home, having rescued Isabelle, she somehow, unintentionally, got under his skin.

Isabelle. In the prologue, I came close to actually disliking her. Was she brave? Yes. No matter how bad she was hurt, no matter who had done it to her, she wanted to make sure she didn’t come away from it feeling like a victim. I get that – more than you realize. But, while down, avoiding gunfire, she wants Jake to put his hands on her? WTF??? Okay, yes she’s in shock, yes she’s traumatized… but after what she went through, having trusted a bodyguard her mother hired, that was supposed to guard her, to keep her safe, was the one that kidnapped her, raped her, and all within 24 hours, she wants Jake’s hands on her? That was a bit over the top for me.

I have to admit, I ended up liking Isabelle. She was fighting back, on her terms. She tried to live the way her mother wanted her to, engaged to a man she didn’t love, practicing in a big hospital… she was being smothered, and was determined to get out. Behind her mother’s and Uncle Cal’s backs, she signed up with Doctors Without Borders again, determined to go back, to fight her fears. But her biggest fear was yet to come – she’d been lied to. The bodyguard, Rafe, was supposed to have been caught, was supposed to be behind bars. He wasn’t, and now he’s after Isabelle.

I really liked how Isabelle got to Jake, and vice versa. How she was able to open up to Jake, knowing that he’d understand. How Jake’s defenses crumbled, bit by bit, because of Isabelle. Neither one judged the other.

The action scenes, in and out of the bedroom, were really good, and I liked the suspense. I enjoyed learning about Jake’s brothers, Nick and Chris, and their father-adoptive father, Kenny. I loved the banter between the men, whether joking or arguing. I did find, however, that the ending was rather too abrupt, but no matter. Do I recommend this? Yes. Am I saying to run right out to your local bookstore or library and snag it? Well… you can walk instead of run.

Rating: .5

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