My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Hold 1 of Hold Trilogy is my first try at Jayne Blue’s writing. Have to say, apart from a few typos here and there, I didn’t have a lot to complain. The storyline was pretty fleshed out, with characters you’d like to know more about. And it’s only the beginning of Craddock and Cassidy’s journey.
Cassidy is an orphan and has been raised in different foster homes until she met Bev, a kind, generous woman who over the years has become her big sister of sort. With her help Cassidy has grown up to be a brilliant student, with excellent grades. But grades come at a price, as do living all on your own. One day, when she finds herself looking at the ‘hiring’ sign at the Great Wolves Gym or GWG, Cassidy was desperate for a job. She was almost penniless and on the verge of being thrown out of her shabby little apartment. What she didn’t know that her life would be changed once she stepped into that place and met Craddock Flynn.
Whitey, the elderly boss and the trainer of the gym, meets Cassidy. She’s instantly hired when it seemed Whitey also needed help desperately as he had no idea about how to go ‘digital’. The computers send by the company is still sitting there as it came in as were all the paperwork that needed to go into the ‘system’. Cassidy jumps right in to help, even though she’s probably the only woman in that gym where future MMA fighters train. Her efforts are also appreciated and rewarded soon enough.
Eventually, Cassidy learns to not only enjoy her job, but she also comes to know some fighters. The first and foremost, would be the best of the bunch, Craddock. Then there was his ‘mortal enemy’, Zeke Powell; as light as Craddock looked dark. Both can’t seem to stand each-other because they’re so close in rank (Craddock #1 and Zeke #2) that rivalry is an everyday thing for them. Whereas Craddock is intense, broody with a bad temper, your veritable ‘bad boy’, Zeke is called The Preacher’s Son for a reason. He’s warm and funny, jokes around; all clean cut, good boy image. It helps that his father is also a preacher. He becomes Cassidy’s friend in a short time, garnering more of Craddock’s wrath.
Though she likes bantering with Zeke, Cassidy was more drawn to Craddock intensity. It doesn’t take them long to fall into bed because when Craddock wants something, he finds a way to get it. There’s no escaping Craddock’s intense perusal. He becomes more adamant when he saw Zeke’s interest in her. But Craddock felt genuine attraction for Cassidy, who returned it, if reluctantly.
Craddock is, as far as I could understand, of Irish descent. His father left his mother a long time ago and has no connection with them whatsoever. His mom has been mom and dad both for him and Craddock loves and respects her. He also has a mentally challenged elder brother, Dylan and loves taking care of him too. Craddock has always known that a career in education was not for him. He loved sports, which finally led him to where he is today. Craddock found a passion he enjoyed, pursued with the same intensity he’d been pursing Cassidy with. He’s very focus and wants to win the upcoming U21 which will pave the way for his career… and the much needed financial back that his family needs desperately. But there’s only one human being he hates and that’s Zeke. Craddock thinks Zeke’s entire ‘good boy’ aura is fake, a show and they clash with the slightest hint of trouble, of which Cassidy becomes a focal point as the story goes on.
When Cassidy becomes entangled with Craddock she had no idea what she’s getting into. She knew about his hatred of Zeke, but not to what extent. The problems with hot blooded, adrenaline junkie males pursuing the same woman seems to rattle the gym too. Everybody noticed that Craddock has staked his claim on Cassidy, they already knew of his bitter rivalry with Zeke. Whitey begins warning them all not to get into trouble but that doesn’t keep these two away. Cassidy feels torn apart. She has fallen in love with Craddock, yet Zeke is a very good friend of hers. She can’t seem to make Craddock understand that no one is going to take her away from him.
But the problem with Craddock was, not only he was hot tempered, he was also the suspicious type. The all caveman-ish attitude. He can’t stand Zeke anywhere near Cassidy and would just react out of that instinct. Completely territorial. For a while I found it extremely hot, not to mention the HOT sex scenes helped. However, as the story progressed, Craddock’s behavior begins to become problematic. As the pressure of Mo Town Smack Down comes down on them all, which is where the fighters for U21 would be chosen, everybody is on edge. Craddock seemed to be handling it worse because he becomes snappish, extremely short tempered. He’d already f*cked up with Cassidy a few times and though he’d apologize, hurt stems from these misunderstandings and things begins going downhill.
When they finally reach their destination to compete in MTSD, Cassidy is torn between what to do. She has come to like these players and would be supporting every one of them from the gallery. However, her relationship with Craddock is wearing her down; the edge, the tension of the competition and Craddock’s never-ending snippy attitude whenever Zeke was near her for any reason at all. She didn’t know what she’s gonna do when they finally fight face-to-face. Seeing their ranking and form, it was a big possibility. One will win, another will lose. Cassidy doesn’t wanna lose her friendship with Zeke over this, yet she doesn’t know if she can handle Craddock if he loses. She knows it’s his lifelong dream; sole focus and goal. So far, Craddock hasn’t known one single defeat, how will he take it? How will she handle his reaction for that matter? Cassidy’s not sure if she wants to find out.
Things turn rather ugly on that day when Zeke and Craddock finally come face-to-face on the ring. It was Zeke who actually taunts Craddock over Cassidy, which I thought was very dirty of him. In turn, Craddock acts on instinct and does something that sees him disqualified from the match. Not only that, it seemed this maybe the end of his career! I was scared of this happening, and wouldn’t even wanna go where his and Cassidy’s relationship is concerned. Loads of drama later, they leave each-other on a silly but big misunderstanding. Craddock thinking Cassidy has already become Zeke’s, with Cassidy thinking Craddock doesn’t want her anymore.
Well, I initially didn’t know if I’d ever like Craddock. He did get on my nerves a few times with his temper tantrums. I don’t like men with bad temper for a reason; they’re very difficult to deal with when they’re into one of their rages. But no matter what, I never doubted his feelings for Cassidy, his one weak spot if you don’t count his family in. He never shied away from acknowledging it, thought he went about it all wrong. Cassidy, well, I don’t know. Though can’t blame her for reading Craddock wrong after that messy end to the tournament, she should’ve made a little more effort to find out what was happening. How come Craddock never checked his cell phone and find Cassidy’s concerned texts for that matter? That should’ve told him she was trying to reach out to him... And frankly, I’d be super annoyed if she finally goes and gets involved with Zeke as I don’t like him any longer. I hate love triangles too!
In the end, Craddock is given entry to a reality TV show that stars MMA fighters, with a wild card of sort which just may see him into the U21. I have to find out where this goes... 4 stars.
PS: This ends in a cliffy, not a favorite thing of mine. If that’s how you feel too, may wanna wait until all 3 installments are out.