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Spotlight: Worth the Fight Series by Sidney Halston *Series Review*

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Worth the Fight Series
by Sidney Halston

A Contemporary Romance Series
From Loveswept

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Love gets way more than a fighting chance in USA Today bestselling author Sidney Halston’s seductive MMA romances! Beginning with Against the Cage and continuing with Full Contact, Below the Belt, Laid Out and the upcoming  Fighting Dirty, the Worth the Fight series features loyal, hard-edged mixed martial arts fighters and the women who fall for them.

 

againstthecageAgainst the Cage (Worth the Fight, #1)

In her Loveswept debut, Sidney Halston turns up the heat as a sexy cage fighter shows a former bookworm how delicious a few rounds between the sheets can be.

For Chrissy Martin, returning to her Florida hometown always seems to bring bad luck. The day starts with a breakup text, followed by a jailhouse phone call from her troublemaker brother. Now a routine traffic stop has ended with her accidentally punching an officer . . . in a delicate place. Then Chrissy realizes that the hot cop on the receiving end of her right hook is none other than the man from her teenage fantasies.

Jack Daniels knows how to take a hit. After all, when he’s not chasing reckless drivers, he’s kicking ass in a mixed martial arts ring. So what takes his breath away isn’t the low blow, but the woman who dealt it: a gorgeous knockout with legs Jack wouldn’t mind being pinned under—who just so happens to be his best friend’s nerdy little sister, all grown up. Soon their instant chemistry leads to a sizzling affair, but Jack and Chrissy are fighting an uphill battle if they want to make love last beyond the final bell.

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fullcontactFull Contact (Worth the Fight, #2)

Sidney Halston returns to steamy Tarpon Springs, Florida, where a hell-raising bad boy prepares to get down and dirty for the woman he loves.

How could she have been so stupid? When Jessica Cross decides to give her violently jealous boyfriend—the otherwise influential and charming Dennis Stavros—a second chance, she very nearly becomes a statistic. After weeks of healing from a broken rib and collapsed lung, and with Dennis behind bars, Jessica finally feels ready to come out of hiding. But will she ever be able to take a chance on love again with someone new?

Mixed martial arts fighter Slade Martin knows he has a bad reputation. Hell, he’s probably earned it. So it won’t be easy to convince beautiful, vulnerable Jessica that she can trust him—that from the moment she walked into his life, she’s been the only one he’s wanted. Powerful and confident, Slade knows he can honor his vow to protect Jessica body and soul. Winning her heart will be another matter . . . but a woman like Jessica is worth the fight.

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belowthebeltBelow the Belt (Worth the Fight, #3)

In Sidney Halston’s latest sizzling MMA romance, a former title contender turns the tables on his knockout trainer with a lesson in seduction.

Once one of the most sought-after names on the mixed martial arts circuit, Antonio “Scarface” Marino watched his career go down for the count as he chased skirts and made tabloid headlines. Now he’s finally making a comeback, and it’s all thanks to Francesca Silva, a Brazilian bombshell as tough as any of her fighters. But who’s the real Francesca: the trash-talking trainer who rides him hard, or the vulnerable woman who blushes at his touch?

Francesca went to the mat to sign Tony because she believes he still has the potential to bring big success to her gym—if she can keep his head in the cage and out of her personal life. After a short-lived marriage soured her on love, a one-night stand is all she can handle. Now Tony’s kisses are stirring up complicated feelings—especially when he agrees to face her ex in the ring. Francesca’s used to freezing guys out. But Tony’s tempting her to give in to the heat.

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laidoutLaid Out (Worth the Fight, #4)

Perfect for fans of Monica Murphy and Cecy Robson, Sidney Halston’s scorching new MMA romance proves there are no holds barred when it comes to seduction.

Growing up an Army brat, Violet Channing could never meet her dad’s high expectations. But in the eyes of her best friend, she could do no wrong. He even insisted that he should be her first kiss. Now Cain Sorensen is all grown up, hardened by years in special ops and always looking for a good fight. Tall, with striking blue eyes and impossibly blond hair, he’s a modern-day Viking warrior. Of course, Violet’s all grown up, too, and she’s ready to surrender to his every command.

Cain knows he’s bad for Violet. His work is dangerous, and his hobbies are downright deadly. As a private mercenary and a mixed martial arts fighter, he could never let such an innocent soul into his world. And yet his most grueling combat training is no match for Violet’s killer curves, hot touch, and suggestive glances. Now all of Cain’s most explosive fantasies are coming true—but once they cross the line between friends and lovers, there’s no turning back.

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Fighting Dirty_coverFighting Dirty (Worth the Fight, #5)

If you love the MMA romances of Vi Kreeland and Kendall Ryan, Sidney Halston’s Worth the Fight series will knock your socks off! In Fighting Dirty, a geek-chic cage fighter proves that appearances can be deceiving . . . and oh-so-tempting.

With his preppy clothes and horn-rimmed glasses, Enzo Silva is the last dude anyone expects to find in a mixed martial arts gym. A wealthy Brazilian banker who never had to fight for anything, Enzo’s stuck in the amateur circuit—but he burns to make the pros. Maybe that explains the heat he feels whenever he’s around Jamie Lynn Calhoun. The pint-size, magenta-haired bartender with the Texas drawl is everything he’s not . . . and everything he craves.

Tough as nails and independent to a fault, Jamie Lynn—JL to her friends—works hard to pay her bills and keep life simple. Enzo is doing his best to complicate that. Even though she likes to bust his balls, he’s got some kind of a nerdy-hot vibe that makes JL wonder if she might finally be able to let her guard down. It might do the boy some good to spend some time in her world, where blood, sweat, and victory are as sweet as the first taste of real love.

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Series Review

4 stars

I’ve read my share of MMA Romances and what it comes down to for me to enjoy them is that perfect balance between the sport, the romance and the characters. Not too much drama but enough emotion to make me invested in the characters. Not too much fighting but enough sports talk to fell like a team member. And finally, an intense chemistry that while potent doesn’t overwhelm the other aspects of the relationship–mainly the connection between the hero and heroine.

This is what Sidney Halston has brought to the page in every single one of the books in the Worth The Fight series thus far.

With humor, sexual tension and subtle emotions Against the Cage paved the way for other books in the series. I loved Jack and Chrissy! Jack is a cop by day and an amateur MMA fighter in his spare time. He enjoys the rush of stepping into the cage and the camaraderie of being a part of a team. He has known Chrissy since childhood and although he never acknowledge it, he always felt protective of her. Was it brotherly love or attraction? He never gave it much thought–at least not until Chrissy came back to town to bail her brother out of jail.

Chrissy has always been straight-laced and has harbored an unrequited crush on his brother’s best friend. And although distance has kept her from being near, years later she still gets all tingly in his presence. He also infuriates her to no end, which only makes the sparks between them that much more intense. The fact that they meet again when she’s having one hell of a day doesn’t help their first meeting none, but it sure made for some entertaining reading.

What I loved the most about this story was the fact that I got to see Jack and Chrissy reconnecting on the page. It was great to see how Jack’s perception of Chrissy shifts from annoying little sister to potential lover. I also enjoyed their bickering, flirty banter and candid moments spent together. These moments served to make their intimate encounters that much more real and intense. That first kiss alone was worth all the anticipation! Of course, the addition of interesting characters, subtle emotions and a vicious little dog just amped my experience that much more.

It came as no surprise that by the end of Against the Cage I was excited to get to the next book. Full Contact tells Jessica and Slade’s story. I knew of Jessica and Slade from the previous book where Slade went to jail because he got into a fight because of Jessica. Acquaintances who shared a mutual attraction, Jessica and Slade were nothing more than strangers but after Jessica left her abusive boyfriend after a bad beating, it was Slade who took care of her while she recovered.

Although I also enjoyed this story, I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to see Jessica and Slade’s connection growing from the very beginning. The story picks up several weeks after Jessica got out of the hospital, so the reader doesn’t get a first-hand look of that time spent together. However, the author does a great job of bringing their connection to the page. Enough to satisfy my need to see it on the page.

It helped a lot that the story centered around them and their time spent together afterwards. What began as a friendship soon became something more, where their mutual attraction was explored while emotions were kept under the surface. Soon enough the emotions came into play right along with Jessica’s ex bringing forth a whole set of problems.

Unlike Against the Cage, I didn’t feel that light-hearted vibe from this story but I came to enjoy it nonetheless. The humor was present, if understated, but thankfully the chemistry, candid moments and the growth of Jessica and Slade’s connection made up for it.

Since the stories in the series overlap in places, I thought I knew what to expect from Below the Belt. In Full Contact Slade became a partner in WtF with Francesca Silva, the owner’s daughter, who is now running the gym. With the new partnership in place, Francesca decided to bring in Antonio “Scarface” Marino. Below the Belt tells their story. And what a story it was!

Francesca and Tony’s interactions stole the show for me in this story. I loved their bickering and heated exchanges–both the vocal and the physical. Francesca was strong-headed and completely unfazed by the eye candy in the gym–until Tony came into the picture. The man pushed her very button and try as she might she couldn’t help but give in to the attraction that simmered between them. Both stubborn and both with a hell of a temper, these two coming together made for an entertaining read.

Of course, it helped tremendously that their chemistry was as intense as their bickering. They butted heads just as much as they kissed, which only made the unraveling of their emotions that much more intense. And I have to say that their candid moments did it for me too. The unrelenting ‘cubanito’ with the ‘tough as nails’ Brazilian beauty hid their vulnerabilities well, but when they let their guard down it was worth all the posturing I endured from them.

Below the Belt definitively made it to my favorites’ shelf, so I was hesitant to start Laid Out because I didn’t know what to expect from Cain’s story. In the previous stories, Cain seemed so closed-off that I thought his story would be overwhelming angsty. Thankfully, although there were plenty of intense emotional moments, Sidney Halston managed to bring in some of the humor, camaraderie and care-free vibe I’ve come to expect.

Cain is troubled and uses fighting to ‘deal’ when he feels weighted down by his emotions. His friendship with Violet goes back to their childhood and now that she has moved to town, he can’t seem to get a handle on himself. He’s rude, short-tempered and downright unbearable to be near. Violet, however, takes it all in stride. She’s determined to make a new start for herself now that she’s not under her father’s watchful eye. But having Cain near only brings to the surface the attraction she tried to put behind her when she decided to marry their best friend. Soon Cain and Violet find themselves fighting rampant emotions, troublesome libidos, their pasts and a their present.

What I enjoyed the most about this story was the way the author went about bringing the friends to lovers concept to the page. Yes, the concept has been done before, especially the part of having the friends coming together to ‘prepare’ the other to undertake the ‘dating world’. But what made this story different was the way the author didn’t wrap it up all pretty-like and called it happily ever after. Sidney Halston didn’t make it easy on these two, which was what ultimately upped my enjoyment of this story.

Cain and Violet both dealt with different emotions and issues that in the end allowed them to come together as a couple, and it was their journey what truly kept me engaged throughout. There were the fierce moments that showcased how stubborn they were, the tender moments when their guards were down and the intimate moments when their lust overtook them and their chemistry shined through. It also helped that I got a chance to glimpse how deeply connected they were as teenagers and that the author developed their connection as the story progressed.

Although not as upbeat a story as I’ve come to expect, Laid Out had a mix of well-balanced elements that made Cain and Violet’s story worthwhile throughout.

I admit that Fighting Dirty was a surprise for me, since I was expecting Travis’ story. I didn’t really know much about Enzo Silva–other than he was Francesca’s cousin–but thankfully, I had come to know a bit more about Jamie Lynn Calhoun. In the end, I decided to give it a shot, because after reading the blurb I became curious about how these two would come together.

Jamie Lynn is Travis’ twin sister and Violet’s best friend. She leads a simple life centered on her friends, her job at the bar and her art. However, her art is a secret she has kept from her friends and family. So of course it comes as a surprise to her when she attends her art class and finds her brother and his team members there. More surprising, however, was seeing clean-cut rich boy Enzo as the nude model for the class.

Enzo is finally free of his wife and mostly leading the life he wants since moving to the US. He’s an amateur MMA fighter trying his best to fit in his love for the sport with his work responsibilities while attempting to land a date with the ever-elusive Jamie Lynn. Who knew it would only take a lost bet for him to have his chance at her?

Initially disappointed that I wasn’t getting Travis’ story next, I was glad I came across Fighting Dirty because in the end it was a pleasant surprise. I especially enjoyed how the author played out a ‘first date’ for a couple of days and allowed me the chance to get to know Enzo and Jamie Lynn along the way as well. I enjoyed how Enzo and Jamie Lynn connected over the simplest of things and the undercurrent of attraction they shared throughout their time together.

Of course, once that ‘first date’ was over and they returned to the real world was when the story truly picked up. With Jamie Lynn pursuing her passion for urban art and Enzo’s role in its success coupled with both of them dealing with issues from their personal lives, it was bound for emotions to make their appearance.

Enzo’s struggles with his dad’s expectations showed a whole different side to his personality. His caring protective side came to the surface, which added to the conflicting emotions he was experiencing. Jamie Lynn also showed another side to her through her struggles with dealing with her Mom. There was more to her flighty persona and she didn’t allow a lot of people to see it. It was a treat to learn that she was a strong independent woman hiding many vulnerabilities.

Needless to say that these two shared a great deal of chemistry. How could a first date last as long if there wasn’t a spark between them? Although I enjoyed those moments thoroughly, it was the unguarded moments that defined the relationship for me. I loved their flirty banter and good-natured bickering just as much as their honest confessions and candid moments of conversation. I also loved watching Enzo come fully into himself and fight for what he wanted and I was glad that Jamie Lynn got some closure with her relationship with her mother in the end.

As you can see, this series has a varied collection of stories that range from the fun and flirty to the more emotion-driven. But what these stories all have in common and what I’ve come to love about the series is the great cast of characters, the fantastic sense of camaraderie between the characters and the perfect balance of romance and heat.

*I received copies of these titles in exchange of my honest opinion.

 

About The Author

Sidney_Halston
Sidney Halston lives her life by one simple rule: “Just do it.” And that’s exactly what she did. At the age of thirty, having never written anything other than a legal brief, she picked up a pen for the first time to pursue her dream of becoming an author. That first stroke sealed the deal, and she fell in love with writing. Halston lives in South Florida with her husband and children.

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