Kiss Hard by Nalini Singh
Hard Play #4
May 3, 2022, by TKA Distribution
Review by Melanie
Well, this was a delightful surprise from one of my very favorite authors, an unexpected contemporary romance announced less than a month prior to its release. Fun fact: I actually discovered Nalini through her contemporaries first! Back when I was under the misguided impression that PNR wasn’t really my jam, I started reading her contemporaries and immediately fell in love with her voice. It’s been quite a few years since we last had a Nalini contemporary and reading this book was wonderful in so many ways, not least of which is that it allowed me to catch up with some old friends from previous books.
Set in New Zealand, we are back in the heart of the Bishop-Esera clan, who have featured in 3 of Nalini’s previous contemporaries. Kiss Hard is a charming best friend (er, I mean nemesis or is it frenemies?) to lovers story between the 4th and youngest of the Bishop-Esera brothers, Daniel Esera, a young hotshot professional rugby player and Catie River, a Paralympic sprinter and sister to the wife of Daniel’s older brother, Sailor. Sailor and Ísa were featured in their own book to kickstart the Hard Play series in Cherish Hard which is also where we first met Danny and Catie.
Since Danny’s brother and Catie’s sister married, Danny and Catie have been in each other’s orbits for many years, having practically grown up together. They’ve always had an interesting relationship, one in which they are constantly bickering much the way siblings would, teasing and fighting and pranking each other. As they grow older, that bickering makes its way into social media where the two of them are constantly teasing each other to the delight of their many followers. I do like that none of it is mean spirited and it’s evident from the opening scene of the book, when Catie happens upon Danny at a bar and realizes he’s been drugged without his knowledge, that these two deeply care for each other no matter how much they may act like they’re really enemies.
Due to certain stipulations in Danny’s new contract, the 2 decide to pretend they’re actually dating in order to avoid Danny getting in any kind of professional trouble. To that end, they start spending lots of time together, some of it just the 2 of them alone in a cozy apartment for a weekend and some of it out and about, all lovey dovey in public. And obviously, when these two, with their shared histories over the course of many years, start pretending to be a couple, they slowly start to realize that the line between frenemies and lovers is very, very thin.
I loved both of these characters a lot. Danny has a lot to live up to, what with being the baby of the family with 3 older brothers who are all highly accomplished, and a tight knit family who really love each other and support each other at every turn. I have to say the Bishop-Esera clan is one of my favorite fictional families and I’m kind of sad that there are no more brothers left in this family.
Catie, meanwhile, has had a much different upbringing. Her mother is a workaholic CEO and her father is an unreliable gambler who has left Catie hanging a lot in her life. In fact, it’s her half-sister Ísa who has been the major consistent adult figure in her life, up until the Bishop-Esera family entered her world. She is so unused to having people be there for her, she is always waiting for someone to leave her, and thus, when their feelings turn from fake-dating to a very real relationship, it’s Danny who is all in while Catie is the one more reluctant to let herself trust in the burgeoning relationship.
I really adore the way that Danny picks up on Catie’s emotional fears and the quiet way he nurtures her and protects her without ever coddling her or ever making her feel like she’s incapable of taking care of herself. Catie, who is a double lower-limb amputee and wears prostheses is equally protective of Danny – as I mentioned above, the opening scene is one where Danny is the one in a very precarious and vulnerable situation and it’s Catie coming to his rescue.
I also loved catching up with the rest of the Bishop-Esera brothers. I’ve read and loved each of the 3 previous books featuring Danny’s older brothers, Gabe, Jake, and Sailor. And catching up with the brothers and their respective wives and children was such a fun treat, almost like an extended epilogue into their relationships. And as much as I loved how Danny’s family had his back, I also loved how much they adored Catie. Given Catie’s complicated relationship with her own family, it’s really the Bishop-Esera family and especially Sailor, her brother-in-law, who have been there for her in her parents’ absence.
Truly this was such a feel good, wonderfully warm, and sweet book. And the slowly developing relationship between Catie and Danny was so tender and romantic, full of heart and hope. I love this entire series a lot and even though Danny is the last of the Bishop-Esera brothers to find true love, I hope Nalini can find a way to extend this series a bit more. I’d love the opportunity to catch up with these characters as often as I can.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, I loved this book and highly recommend it but with the caveat that this book would be far more enjoyable if you read the series in order. Nalini has 2 contemporary series – Rock Kiss is her first series and the spin-off series is Hard Play. While I recommend both series in their entirety, if you want to read about the Bishop-Esera brothers specifically, I definitely suggest you start with Rock Hard which features Gabriel Bishop and is the 2nd book in the Rock Kiss series. You can then jump to Cherish Hard which is the 1st book in the Hard Play series and features Sailor Bishop, followed by Love Hard which features Jacob Esera and is the 3rd book in the series. (But really, trust me and read both series in their entirety – they are fantastic).
Content notes: off page car accident and extended hospital stay, problematic parental relationships, character gets unknowingly drugged at a bar, side character suffers health issues and is hospitalized;