REVIEW: ‘Hard to Hold’ (2009) by Stephanie Tyler

by Sarah on December 14, 2009 · 8 comments

Genre: Romantic SuspenseHard to Hold

POV: Multiple POVs in the 3rd Person

Sensuality: Warm

Violence: Some but pretty tame

My Grade: DNF

As far as I’m concerned, Stephanie Tyler’s Hard to Hold would have been more aptly titled Hard to Finish. I can’t in all conscience assign a grade to this book because I started skimming from page 214 before reading the final chapter properly.

On a positive note, I know Hard to Hold is the sort of romantic suspense beloved by many readers. I can see why it’s popular. Unfortunately, it represents precisely the sort of romantic suspense which rarely works for me.

Before I start listing my problems with this book, here’s a brief summary of its premise: Hard to Hold is the first book in a trilogy which will be published back-to-back over the next couple of months. Lieutenant Jake Hansen and his two foster brothers, Nick and Chris, are all Navy SEALs. They’ve survived some tough times together, both while they were growing up and in the line of duty. When they rescue Dr. Isabelle Markham, an American hostage in Africa, Jake feels a connection which he’s never experienced before. The circumstances surrounding Isabelle’s kidnap are such that her ordeal is not yet over once she reaches American soil. Taking a position as a military doctor – ostensibly for her own protection – Isabelle is pleased when Jake is assigned as her bodyguard. Naturally, sparks fly and Isabelle and Jake fall in love. But before they can find happiness, they have to survive the evil machinations of Isabelle’s captor.

The basic set-up is fairly typical romantic suspense fodder and bound to appeal to many readers. I prefer my romantic suspense to be dark and gritty, and this certainly isn’t. It’s reminiscent of Suzanne Brockmann’s style in the sense that the story is told from multiple points of view, complete with the odd flashback. Whereas Brockmann usually confines herself to a maximum of four POVs, I stopped counting the number of POVs in Hard to Hold once I’d reached eight. I don’t respond well to multiple POVs, particularly in a book which is only 370 pages long and which is supposed to be a romance novel. By the time I’d read thirteen chapters, I was confused as to who everyone was and why I should care. Jake and Isabelle’s romance felt like one subplot among many. Admittedly, I stopped reading properly after page 214, but from skimming the rest of the book, I didn’t get the impression that this changed later in the story.

Jake and his two foster brothers seemed terribly clichéed. What’s the likelihood of all three becoming SEALs? Seriously? Also, their father,  Kenny is a rock band-managing psychic. Yep, try wrapping your head around that one. I wasn’t sure how that fit into the context of this story, but I’m sure it’ll become more relevant in Chris’s book as he’s Kenny’s biological son and has inherited his father’s abilities. Isabelle wasn’t a bad heroine but I never felt I got to know her well enough to really care what happened to her.

I struggled to read this book. From skimming the second half of the story, I didn’t get the impression I’d missed much by not continuing. If you like Romantic Suspense Lite, and can cope with head-hopping, this book might be for you. As you can see from the other reviews I’ve linked to below, my opinion is in the dissenting minority. I know I won’t be continuing with this trilogy.

Other Books in this Series:

Too Hot to Hold (05 January 2010)

Hold on Tight (26 January 2010)

Other Reviews of Hard to Hold:

Dear AuthorB-

Lea at ClosetwriterDesert Island Keeper

Pearl’s World of Romance9.7 out of 10

Book Binge4 out of 5

Avid Book Reader - C


Pearl December 14, 2009 at 14:51

Sorry to hear this book didn’t work for you. I am curious why you wanted to read it if this kind of romantic suspense rarely works for you? Did you expect it to be darker/grittier than it turned out to be based on blurb and/or other reviews?

I loved the multiple POVs and they didn’t bother or confuse me at all. They gave the book a richer feel IMO and gave me more understanding of Jake and Isabelle and loved the bonus romance between Sarah and Clutch. However, I can also understand that it might not work for others.

Leontine December 14, 2009 at 16:22

Quote review: The basic set-up is fairly typical romantic suspense fodder and bound to appeal to many readers.

*Raises hand* – I’m one of those readers ;D Bummer this one couldn’t keep you entertained Sarah :S

Sarah December 14, 2009 at 17:48

@Pearl I was in the mood for a romantic suspense and thought I’d give a new-to-me author a try. While it might not have been a keeper, I’m pretty sure I’d have enjoyed the book a lot more if it hadn’t been for the multiple POVs. Ultimately, it was this aspect which put me off finishing the book.

@Leontine I think there are two basic types of romantic suspense books: those which are heavily focused on the romance with the suspense adding a bit of external tension; and those which are more centred on the suspense with the love story serving as a subplot. There are a few books in which the romance and the suspense are equally balanced, but they tend to be few and far between. As a romance reader who also enjoys thrillers and mysteries, my personal preference is for the emphasis to be on the suspense. I realize many romance readers prefer the opposite, which is why I drew attention to that in my review.

heidenkind December 14, 2009 at 23:07

I usually have a problem with these types of books, too. That’s why I don’t read a lot of romantic suspense. :) I think I’ll avoid this one.

Keishon December 15, 2009 at 04:45

Don’t laugh but to avoid getting too bored, I started reading the ending and went backwards. Go me. I did read it all, unfortunately.

Sarah December 15, 2009 at 14:52

@heidenkind Do you like mysteries? If so, an author like Karen Rose might suit you better. Her books -particularly the Vartanian trilogy – are definitely dark romantic suspense with an emphasis on the suspense plot.

@Keishon Maybe that would have improved my reading experience!

Marissa December 16, 2009 at 11:43

Sorry to hear this story did not work for you, I still have to read it, it is somewhere in my tbr… I like romantic suspense books but the suspense part has to be believeable and just as strong as the romance part otherwise it does not work for me.

heidenkind December 16, 2009 at 23:19

Hmm, where’d the little reply thingie go?

@Sarah~I do like mysteries, although not as much as romances. :)

@Keishon~I do the same thing when I’m reading something boring! Especially if it’s a boring article I have to read for school. Backwards is totally the way to go. :P

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