Designed so they can be read independently from one another, the latest installment of this MMA-focused collection of novels, Winning Love, delivers the to-die-for characters and heart-wrenching dilemmas of the rest of Niles’ work. Heat is delivered in abundance as Love to the Extreme characters never just “sort of” want each other; they contract a flat-out, bad case of lust from the get go.
Mac Hannon has returned to Kansas to help out a good friend of his, despite his finding MMA success in his new life in Atlanta. It’s not easy to be around people who knew him when he was a laid back chef who loved his wife and enjoyed training for the ring. After the tornado that robbed him of not only his life but his future, Mac earned his moniker of “the Snake” by channeling all his rage into the cold way he cuts down his opponents. Shacking up at a friend’s farmhouse has the not so welcome surprise of the professor next door being anything but a gray-haired old maid. Gayle Andrews has killer curves and a smile that lights up a room. When she clearly sets her sights on Mac, he knows he’s in more trouble than if he was fighting against the #1 ranked contender.
Gayle is happy to help her neighbor and his cute daughter whenever they need her since she’s come to treasure friends and experiences when she can get them. Having had everyone close to her ripped away from her in her youth drove her passion with meteorology. Becoming one of the premier storm chasers allows Gayle to face her darkest fear on a regular basis and remind herself she’s alive. One of her favorite ways to do that is to find someone sexy to spend some time with, and Mac’s expiration date and proximity makes him the perfect fling. She can tell he’s into her and she’s going to lay it all on the line as she can see he needs to let go of the dark knight brood he’s got going and live a little. But when her job and his past collide, Gayle is despondent as the future she couldn’t help imagining despite her best intentions can never happen, no matter how her feelings are telling her otherwise.
Reasons I adored this book. Gayle is an effervescent, uber-smart woman who fiercely embraces life in order to get the most out of it, and her pigtail-sporting head has some serious seduction techniques trapped inside. Mac never stood a chance! And a chiseled fighter who has remained true to his wife’s memory who is also a restaurant-level cook? Ladies, where do we sign up? Kansas should use this book as marketing to get people to move to the state. Single women would be populating farmhouses in a heartbeat.
It’s impossible not to fall for these empathetic characters (and Niles provides her usual brand of strong supportive secondary sidekicks destined for a feature role in the next book in the series), but the conflict is so outstanding, I kept turning the page desperately trying to figure out how Mac and Gayle were going to work through their differences. Both of them were forced to confront their darkest fear in their desperate bid to see if they could be together and their version of compromise was nothing short of perfect while also being highly realistic. The sex was off the charts hot (another Niles speciality) but I honestly think that the muddy, obstacle course event Gayle suckers Mac into doing was one of the most sensual and emotional scenes I’ve read in some time. Well done, Abby!
This book is a full-length novel and the price of under $6 for the ebook and around $11 for the paperback reflects that. Abby Niles is one of those authors I will cheerfully pay full-price for as she delivers a quality of writing that I think is at the top of the contemporary romance genre.