Review: Can’t Hold Back by Serena Bell


No girl can resist a man in uniform—especially if that man is Nate Riordan. But after an injury in the line of duty leaves Nate broken, body and soul, the soldier finds himself addicted to his pain meds, with no place to call home. Desperate for an escape, Nate reluctantly accepts a friend’s invitation to a new veterans’ retreat. Expecting a little R&R, Nate is shocked when the sight of his physical therapist opens up another old wound: heartbreak.

Years ago, Alia Drake fell hard for Nate, but never made her move. Instead, she set up her sister with the sexy, confident military man, a foolish decision that continues to haunt all three of them. Now, with Nate as her patient, she can make things right—even if it means getting too close for comfort. A healing touch and a little honesty work wonders, fueling a physical intimacy that crosses professional boundaries. This time, with desire in the air once more, Alia won’t hold anything back.



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(excerpt obtained from authors website. We own nothing and copyright infringement is not intended)

Copyright © 2015 Serena Bell
All rights reserved — Penguin Random House


“Is this seat taken?”

From her perspective in the grass, he was a giant, with broad shoulders and a luminous smile. She’d always thought it was exaggeration when women said they lost their breath in a man’s presence, but she just had.

She got a grip and shook her head. “Pull up some turf.” She patted the lawn beside her, and he sat.

He was vivid, like a soldier in a movie: ripped, swaggering, grinning, golden-haired. He’d smiled in her direction earlier, and for a split second she’d thought, Who me? before she remembered that she was standing next to Becca. Her sister was a man magnet. All the two of them had to do was idle in a patch of sunlight admiring the garden, and sexy six-foot-plus men in butt-hugging jeans and black T-shirts materialized from nowhere—

Abracadabra! Hot guy for Becca.

In the car on the way over here, she’d told Becca that Jake’s picnics boasted not just amazing food, but other earthly delights. “We’ll get you back on your feet,” Alia had promised, sneaking a glance at her sister, slumped in the passenger seat. Ever since Becca’s boyfriend had left her three months ago, she rarely smiled.

Becca had been hoping for a proposal, and Alia was almost as disappointed as Becca was. She wanted her sister to be happy. Settled. Cared for.
Hot Guy for Becca set his plate on the grass. He sat cross-legged, and his thighs and calves, which looked like they’d been hewn from wood, were generously decked with curly golden hair.

“My sister just went to get some food,” she told him, pointing.

He cast a glance at Becca, standing by the salad table, loading her plate with potato chips. Tall, beautiful, blond, and glowing with vitality.
“You guys don’t look anything alike.”

“We don’t.” She forced a smile. It wasn’t only blindingly obvious differences, like Becca’s blond and Alia’s dark hair, but everything else, too—Becca was slim, with hourglass curves, while Alia was “athletic”; Becca had porcelain skin and Alia was generously freckled; Becca’s features were classic and even, and Alia was—well, she’d be kind to herself and say “cute.”

She sighed.

“Nate Riordan.” The man beside her reached out his hand for a shake.

“Alia Drake.”

Big hands. Warm. A moment ago, the world had smelled like summer. Like grass gone somewhere to seed, roses in bloom, and the mingled marvels of mesquite smoke and grilling meat.

Now her head was filled with a different scent entirely—soap, shampoo, the faintest whiff of some spicy male deodorant or cologne.

He was going to have no difficulty making Becca forget her romantic troubles. He could probably make any woman blank on her own name.

She retrieved her hand before she could reflect any more on that. He was Becca’s hot guy.

Alia worried about Becca a lot. Probably too much, considering they were now both adults and capable of standing on their own. But it was an old, old habit, born after their father’s death and during their mother’s long depressions, when Becca had struggled to keep her head—and her self-esteem—above water.

They were both adults now, but Alia totally got what parents meant when they said your worry didn’t vanish just because your kid had taken off for college.

“You friends with Mira?” Nate asked, hoisting his burger for a bite.

“Jake. We went to PT school together.”

“You’re a physical therapist, too, huh? I’ve always thought that was a cool job.”

“I love it. Love the work, love the people.”

“Yeah? You’re lucky. Not too many people get to say that about their jobs.”

“You don’t love yours?”

He laughed. “Caught that, did you? I don’t have a story like Jake’s, all that post-Nine/Eleven conviction. Going to college for me meant a staggering amount of debt, and the only way I could hope to get myself out from under it was to join up. So that’s what I did. And it’s not that I hate it. I just . . . I guess . . . you find meaning where you can, you know?”

She did, or thought she did, and it made her want to glide straight past small talk and delve in, but instead she asked, “Are you a Ranger, too? Is that how you know Jake?”

“No, actually—Army grunt, between deployments. And I met Jake when he gave a talk. ‘A Life of Purpose’ or something like that. I was a senior in college, it was career week, and I almost didn’t go because I knew I was enlisting, so I figured I knew my purpose, or at least my purpose for a little bit.” He gave a wry shake of his gold-streaked head. “But some of my friends were planning to go, and I thought I should at least check it out. And I was, like, okay, here’s a guy, a Ranger, out of the Army, missing a leg, doing all this great stuff—competing in triathlons, going back to school, helping other soldiers—”

“Jake’s amazing.”

“He is,” Nate agreed, suddenly serious, and that was almost more dazzling than the smiling version. She found herself sucked into his blue-eyed gaze, a little dazed, nodding. “So fu— freaking inspiring. I mean, not some saint, but a guy who suffered and figured out how to come back stronger, to be a dad and a husband, and how to help tons of people, but also not bragging about it.”

She smiled, because, yeah, that was what she loved about Jake, too. Not just the bravery, but: “He won’t take any credit for doing what needs to be done.”

“Right. Damn, couldn’t have said it better. Exactly.” He grinned.

Oh, my God, that grin. Confident but not arrogant, his eyes bright, corners crinkled, a crease that stopped short of being a dimple in one cheek.

She was staring at him, and the moment had stretched too long. Right. She looked away and took a hasty bite of potato salad. Wow. Really good. Mira’s work.

“Now he’s building the retreat—have you seen it?”

He shook his head. “Not yet. But he was telling me about it, and it all makes sense. That he’d end up doing that, helping other guys with the transition. He had a tough homecoming.”

Jake had come back from Afghanistan with an above-the-knee amputation, having lost both his leg and his teammate to an IED explosion—and promptly discovered he was the father of a seven-year-old he’d had no idea existed.

They exchanged knowing glances, then both turned to watch Jake, who was tossing a football with Sam.

“But he turned it into something. And he’s made this great life for himself, you know?”

Yeah, again, she knew, but suddenly she couldn’t quite get the words to come out around the feeling in her chest. The tightness was caused by thinking about Jake and what he’d lost and found, yes, but it also had something to do with the sympathy, admiration, and longing on Nate’s face when he watched father and son together.

“Anyway—” Nate’s lopsided smile and half-shrug said, Back to lighter topics. “I went up after the talk and said how much I admired what he’d done, and we ended up getting drunk together. So now I’m on the picnic invitation list.”

“And once you’re on the list, you’re on forever. And Jake and Mira know how to throw a party.”

They smiled at each other, and he raised his red plastic party cup to hers in a toast. “To the picnic list.”

“Hey, guys.”

She’d almost forgotten about Becca, who was now standing over them with her plate, looking faintly uncomfortable. As if she were waiting for an invitation she wasn’t sure would be extended.

She’d seen that look on her sister’s face far too many times. The expression Becca wore after of years of being unsure of herself.

Becca, who hadn’t learned to read till she was ten, who called herself dumb way too often, who still found writing almost impossible. Becca, whose boyfriend had told her he needed to be with someone who was his intellectual equal.

Becca, who was Alia’s family. Because their dad was gone and their mom was—well, she was who she was—and the two of them had still somehow made a childhood out of the muddle.

Becca needed a guy like Nate Riordan way more than Alia did.

Plus, Nate really wasn’t Alia’s type. Alia’s life, for better or for worse, had made her into someone who thrived on taking care of people. It didn’t tend to work out well for her with guys who were more the fiercely independent alpha types.

And if there was something she knew about Nate Riordan after five minutes in his company, it was that he knew what he wanted and how to get it.

So Alia said, “Nate, Becca. Becca, Nate,” and caught Becca’s eye and grinned at her sister. Look what I found for you!

Nate stood to shake Becca’s hand.

See? That right there. The kind of guy for whom chivalry wasn’t dead. He could take care of Becca the way she deserved.

Alia stood, too. Becca was—she was actually smiling at Nate. Or at least most-of-the-way smiling.

God, she’d missed her sister’s smile.

Nate smiled back at Becca. Her hand was still in his.

Perfect. The handshake would do its magic, and Becca could handle the rest.

Alia watched the two of them, golden in the sun, and felt—

She wasn’t sure. The pleasure of a match well made, maybe.

“I’m gonna grab some lemonade. Either of you—”

“No, thanks,” Becca said.

“I’m good,” Nate said.

Alia walked away.

Half an hour later, Becca caught her arm beside the dessert table.

“Are you sure? He talked to you first. You guys looked like you were enjoying yourselves.”

What Alia wanted, she reminded herself firmly, was to make her sister happy.

When she answered, she made herself do it casually, with so much confidence there could be no doubt.

“A hundred percent positive.”

She was. A hundred percent positive about wanting to make Becca smile. All the way. All the time.


(All information obtained from the author’s website)

serenabellUSA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes richly emotional stories about big-hearted characters with real troubles and the people who are strong and generous enough to love them.

Serena loves to embrace new hobbies, and has at various times enjoyed birdwatching, backpacking, violin, Ultimate Frisbee, skiing, tennis, ice-skating, dance, needlepoint, kayaking, paddleboarding, meditating, and swimming laps—to name just a few.

Her supportive husband lovingly accepts each new hobby and all the equipment it requires, and her two school-aged children provide opportunities to explore new activities like coaching basketball and remembering just how much math she’s forgotten.


Now for those of you who have followed us for a while you know that I will first thank Netgalley and Random House Loveswept for providing us with a copy of this book so that we could bring you this review.

Well this is kind of a second chance love, but with a small twist. Where Nate and Alia never really dated they did have feeling for each other, but Alia is so selfless and pushes Nate onto her sister who needs the confidence boost of a sexy man in her life. What Alia does for her sister is awesome, and I have to say as the mom of a Dyslexic child I know how much of a esteem boost they need. Something that Alia wants to give her sister, and her heart is in the right place when she decides to give her that boost via a sexy soldier. The only problem is that she falls in love with that soldier along the way. Now sometime later that soldier comes back into her life, but at this point he is hurting not only physically but mentally as well. He needs Alia’s help. Even though Nate doesn’t want to accept that he needs the help and a source of his pain comes from his inner ghosts more than his physical injuries. He thinks he can easily solve the problem with medications, until the moment he realizes those meds are helping him, and seeks help elsewhere. Nate is surprised that Alia’s alternative ways of pain management help him. But they also help open his heart to finding love with the woman he thought he fell in love with before. He needs to know if she is the one that he poured his heart out to or if that woman was all just a figment of his imagination.

I give this book 5 therapeutic kisses…

Happy Reading… Adri

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