Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Book Review: REAL (Real, Raw & Ripped, #1) by: Katy Evans
My Review: I stumbled upon REAL by accident and I must say it is the best damn "accident" to fall into my hands in quite some time. The book is so good, that I pushed other reviews to the back burner so that I could purge myself of these overwhelming emotions that bombarded me during my fast and furious reading session (finished REAL in less than 6 hours and that was with me forcing myself to slow down). Let me put it into perspective as to how good this book is if I still haven't convinced you yet. I had just finished reading the highly anticipated Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire which left me feeling a bit unsatisfied and right after that flew through Gina L. Maxwell's Fighting For Love series (Seducing Cinderella and Rules of Entanglement). Can you guess what these books are about? Yup, hot, hunky cage fighters. I was starting to get burned out with the genre and theme but I figured one more couldn't hurt. I wasn't prepared to fall in love with REAL. I wasn't prepared to love it more than Beautiful Disaster-- after all, Beautiful Disaster was a first of its kind and that book set the bar for others that came out after it, and trust me, these cage fighter romances are starting to pop up everywhere. So if I now have your attention, you are probably wondering why REAL is so good? How can it be better than Beautiful Disaster?
First, let's talk about characters. The book opens quite similarly to that of Beautiful Disaster. Brooke is dragged reluctantly to an Underground boxing fight by her best friend Melanie. She finds Remington "Riptide" Tate and all of his animal magnetism absolutely irresistible and overwhelming. But it's when their eyes meet that a connection is forged between the two. Thanks to her mischievous bff giving Remington her phone number, she is contacted a few days later by his people and is offered the job of a lifetime-- to travel with him as his personal PT for the next 3 months. So it sounds like your typical, fluffy romance, right? But Katy Evans is a clever author. Why? Because she makes her characters believable, relatable.
Brooke is not just some one dimensional character with no flaws, or a perfect body, or a skinny body, or a body with killer curves. What I am trying to get at is Brooke was an athlete with dreams of achieving gold. But at her first Olympic tryouts she suffers from an earth shattering injury that ruins all of her years of hard work and dedication. But instead of letting it completely destroy her, she reevaluates her life and decides to go to college and study sports rehabilitation, something that she feels may have helped her during such a tragic time of her life.
Turning a negative into a positive is something I myself am quite familiar with. Call it the story of my life. Even though Brooke and I are very different, there are things we have so much in common. Several pages in, Brooke says something that I could completely relate to which is: "When you need to accept the fact that your body sometimes can't do what you want it to, it hurts almost worse than the physical pain of being injured." Can I get an amen? I am only 30 and people automatically assume that 30 year olds are at the prime of their lives. I should be able to go out and run a marathon, go dancing all night long until the sun comes up, you get the point. But it's not until I tell people that the handicap placard outside in my car is not my grandmother's but mine that it sinks in I am not like most 30 year olds. I had major back surgery at the age of14, two leg surgeries by 20, and a few others and some hospitals stays in between then and now. Am I saying this for pity? Hell no. Because despite all of the hardballs that keep coming at me, all it makes me want to do in return is catch them and throw them back that much harder. But as Brooke had to learn, the first step is accepting what happened, knowing your limits-- but these limitations don't have to break or stop you. It's all about being creative and finding the way around them.
I wasn't even 2 chapters into REAL and I was already a fan of Brooke. I also liked how the author describes her physically. Sorry, but I am so tired of reading books where female characters are either bombshells or skinny with no curves at all. It makes sense that Brooke would have an athletic body but now that she is not "training" for competition, she has allowed herself to gain a little weight to fill out her curves. For example, while she was competing, she barely had breasts, but now with muscles going a little softer and not having vigorous training and diet restrictions, she has started to fill out. I love how Katy Evans gives us these details. It doesn't mean that Brooke is plus size or that she doesn't exercise-- on the contrary, she loves to eat healthy and work out. I just think that Evans did an amazing job with making Brooke such a realistic character.
Now to Remington...strong, enigmatic, beautiful, dangerous, yet vulnerable Remy. Again I have to give Katy Evans props for not only keeping the sexual tension going between Brooke and Remington but also the mystery surrounding his character. I went into the story thinking Remy was going to be like so many other dominant, possessive alpha males I've read before, not that that is a bad thing because if you've read any of my other reviews, you already know I love alphas. But Remy was not easy to read. He is a man of few words which I found incredibly sexy because when he does say something it felt all the more important. He doesn't try to get into Brooke's pants as I expected (and to Brooke's disappointment) even though the sexual tension kept stretching like a rubber band ready to snap at any moment. In many romances with alphas, it's usually the male that pursues the woman, chipping away at her defenses until she gives into temptation. But Katy Evans does something different. Somehow she makes Brooke the pursuer while still maintaining Remington's raw, possessive, dominant nature. Now I don't want you to think that Remy doesn't want Brooke because he does. Oh, how he wants her and the things he does to show her that. Like the way he "scents her" and goes about marking her, like the animal instincts in him are brought out because of her. But Brooke thinks the hot make out sessions and his reluctance to take things further in the bedroom is his way of toying with her when really it is his way of...courting her. And of course it's revealed why it is so important to Remy that Brooke gets to know him, to truly know him...which of course is for me to know and you to find out!
I can't talk about Remington without mentioning the true or real reason this book sets itself apart from others. It is revealed pretty early that Remy has a temper. And as I was reading, I kind of shrugged it off, thinking, okay, so he has a short fuse like Travis Maddox from Beautiful Disaster. But as the story progressed and pieces started clicking together, I realized this story has so much more depth than originally believed. Katy Evans is a brave woman to write about a topic that is not only misunderstood but, until recently, hasn't really been talked about. I am being vague on purpose because I don't want to completely give it away since Evans truly does a great job at keeping readers wondering what actually ails Remington. But I will give you a hint-- think Silver Linings Playbook. If you've had the chance to see the movie starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro, then you will know what I am talking about. If you haven't, I highly recommend everyone see it because it truly is an eye opener about a topic that more people need to be made aware of.
Katy Evan's REAL became real for me during--in my opinion-- the most pivotal part of the story which is when Remington goes into an uncontrollable rage during a party after another victorious win. Again, I don't want to get too detailed here to refrain from spoilers but when you see through Brooke's eyes what they have to do to contain him and he whispers, "Don't let her see," it was at that point that I shed a tear. Because I knew what Remington was dealing with was larger than just having a short fuse. I wasn't prepared for the book to become so serious, but I quickly embraced it because with such a topic comes a sense of realism and with realism sparks a honest, emotional reaction.
I am not under any illusions. I know the book isn't perfect and has a few flaws. Could the editing have been a little better? Yup. Was the beginning a little shaky? Yup. Were there parts that seemed repetitious? For sure. But you know what? All of those things I can overlook for a first time author because Katy Evans not only delivered in every other way, but she far exceeded my expectations. I have every confidence that those little kinks will smooth out as Evans hones her skills over time. But there is no doubt in my mind that she has the "it" factor and I can see REAL becoming a bestseller the more word gets out about it. Hell, I can even see movie potential and I am not just putting that out there lightly. But for now, I look forward to sitting back and watching REAL climb to greatness and anxiously await for its sequel, MINE.