***FicCentral received a free copy of this book from The Romance Reviews.***
To be honest, I expected To Win Her Love to be rather formulaic, and that wouldn’t have necessarily been a bad thing. But while it did employ somewhat standard plot, the way everything played out was pleasantly different than the same old same old that I anticipated.
Gracie’s got virtually no family. She’s never met her father, her mother died when she was a teenager, and her only sister passed away three years ago. But now that her sister’s husband has died, someone’s got to take responsibility for her twin six-year-old nieces, and while Gracie wouldn’t have picked these circumstances, she’s more than happy to step up and be the family they need. The last thing she expects is for that custody to come with a challenging condition.
Jake’s a player both on and off the field, and he’s made quite a name for himself in the NFL and the gossipy media. Called out to his late father’s ranch for details of his will, Jake really wants nothing to do with the man, dead or not. After all, his so-called father abandoned his mother, even threatening to ruin her if she expected anything from him when she found out she was pregnant, and while Jake may have followed in his father’s career footsteps, he’d rather pretend the man never existed. So when it’s revealed that he’s now at least partially responsible for two little half-sisters he didn’t even know he had, his entire life is thrown into turmoil.
Grace and Jake have a bit of background, as it turns out, and though it’s minor, it’s not pretty. Grace, a successful football blogger, didn’t hold anything back in her online criticism of the star player, and he responded with sexism and insults. Now, though, they’re forced to live together at the ranch, competing for the affections of six-year-old twins, while hoping the media doesn’t tear them apart. Grace has no choice if she intends to keep her promise to her late sister, a promise to take care of the girls as if they were her own. And with Jake’s reputation having taken a beating in the press, he certainly can’t walk away now from two innocent little girls enamored by the idea of having a big brother.
It goes without saying that sparks of attraction fly, but not in the utterly predictable way one might expect. Grace and Jake are pros at trading barbs, and while neither is immune to the other’s charms, they’re not exactly looking for a ready-made family with each other. Both are surprised by the terms of the will and determined to see it through, despite the havoc it may wreak on their lives, but keeping each other in the friendly acquaintance zone simply isn’t possible. Before they’re really able to think it through, or perhaps unwilling to force the realities of the situation against their own biases when it comes to relationships, they’re in over their heads. That part may not have surprised me, but how they handled it definitely did. Their teasing, past their initial awkward meeting, didn’t really cross into the area of insults. Sure, they picked at each other, and they seemed to have a healthy sense of humor about it, but it never really felt like they were battling things out. That’s actually a bit rare for a story with this sort of premise, and it was a welcome change. While second-guessing the longevity of their arrangement, they didn’t constantly suspect each other of ill intent, and they never lost sight of what was really important — the girls.
There was also the interesting addition of a secret in Grace’s background, one that intertwined with Jake in a way he never saw coming, and besides adding another intriguing dimension to the story, it allowed for both Jake and Grace to show some vulnerability. Even when I thought I had it all figured out, I was wrong, and I love that the author let that mystery stew right up until the big reveal, leaving us readers in the same surprised boat as the characters. It was just another way a seemingly predictable story delivered some unforeseen twists.
To Win Her Love is part sports romance and part family story, complete with lots of humor, drama, and awesome chemistry. I thought I was picking up just another love story with a typical famous jock, but what I got were characters I couldn’t help but love and root for, two adorable little kids, some great secondary characters, and a wonderful twist at the end that I never saw coming. I’m definitely gonna need the rest of this series!