Punching and Kissing, by Helena Newbury

Punching and Kissing

Grade: B+

Doing it at: 43%

Catnip: I’m No Good For You, MMA Fighter, Johnny Castle Complex, Deep Dark Secret, Guilt, Million Dollar Baby, Irish Brogue, Public Sex, Girl With A Hard Knock Life, Gym Shorts Bulge, Dangerous Criminal Villain

Shame Scale: Medium Low. It’s standard romance fare.

Fantasy Cast:  Jai Courtney, Elizabeth Gillies

Book Description:

Unless he can teach me how to fight, I’m dead. But our feelings for each other could destroy us both.

When an illegal underground fight leaves my brother in the hospital, I make a desperate deal to save his life: I volunteer to fight in his place. In thirty days, I’ve got to walk into the ring, a woman in a man’s world…and I’ve never even thrown a punch. I have one chance to survive. I need a badass who can teach me to be as tough as him. I need Aedan O’Harra, the blue-eyed, Irish beast of a man who everyone fears.

But training together means getting close. Every touch of his hands makes it harder to control my feelings. I begin to see the man inside him, the one no one else can. Can I help him break free of the dark secrets that haunt him and can we save each other, or will we both be defeated? Because neither of us is ready for how dark and desperate this fight will become.

Confession. The whole time I was reading this, I thought it was actually by Helena Hunting, who wrote Cleone’s beloved Pucked. I kept texting C things like, “This book is so good! I can see why you love her!” I didn’t actually figure out that it’s by Helena Newbury, who is a completely different person, until about five minutes ago. Sometimes, I’m kind of a moron. BUT. This book was really good! So now there are two Helena’s on our You Can Sit With Us authors list.

Things open up with Sylvie down at The Pit, waiting to watch her brother Alec fight. He’s currently undefeated, but the fights are anything goes till someone can’t get up anymore, i.e. super scary and dangerous. They are down on their luck though, and really need the money to pay the bills.

Aedan is at The Pit to watch the fights – he’s ‘retired,’ but he still gets a rush from watching, and he rescues Sylvie when she gets into trouble with some awful dudes. He’s giant and ripped and super gorgeous, with an Irish brogue to boot, but he’s got a bit of the ol’Johnny Castle complex; firm in his belief that he’s a life-ruiner, he vows to never see her again and disappears.

Sylvie’s night goes from bad to worse, when her brother Alec gets absolutely destroyed in the fight. The fight promoter lost a ton of money on him and is out a fighter for the next month, and he starts beating on Alec’s unconscious body. In an attempt to save Alec from his wrath, she volunteers to fight in his place.

I volunteer

Which is really generous and all, but she is a tiny little white girl who doesn’t even work out, let alone know how to fight. But she knows someone who does! She tracks down Aedan and guilts him into agreeing to train her. Aedan doesn’t think it’s a good idea for her to associate with a lowlife like himself, but he realizes she’s probably worse off if she goes into The Pit and just like, dies.

It was sort of reminiscent of Million Dollar Baby, except she doesn’t want to be a fighter, her trainer is crazy sexy, and the ending made me happy rather than suicidal. Or maybe more like The Next Karate Kid, except with loads of sexual tension and a threat to her life. I guess what I’m saying is that the story is loosely about a girl learning to fight, and I kept thinking about Hilary Swank movies when I was reading it. (Also, this is totally unrelated, but my husband’s celebrity doppelgänger is Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry. Cleone, I know you’re laughing your ass off right now.)

The romance was a nice slow buildup, with both trying to focus on training and ignoring the growing attraction. When things finally reached a boiling point it was hotttt.

“Wait,” he muttered. He tore himself away from me and stepped back, but only half a step. “I’m nothin’ if not a gentleman,” he said breathlessly. “I have to check you’re not concussed. You seeing double?”

There was only one gorgeous, muscled Irishman in front of me. “No,” I panted.

“Follow my finger.” He moved it back and forth in front of my eyes. I tracked it, resting the urge to grab it and shove it into my mouth.

“What day is it?” he panted.


“Friday.” He shrugged. “Feck it. Close enough.” And he was grabbing my head between his hands again, cupping my cheeks as he kissed me.

I can also report that there was some good gym shorts bulge talk, since they were in gym clothes for most of the book. No DISP though, sadly. 😦

There’s quite a bit of plot in this one, I don’t want to give too much away because there were some secrets and some twists, and everything unfolded at a really nice pace. I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone who’s into romance; it was the kind of book you devour in a night or two, with no big hangover afterwards. I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of the books in this series (now that I’m actually looking up the right author).

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