Warrior Fight Club, Book #1
Heat Factor: There’s some intense can’t-stop-won’t-stop sex and then oops the feels crawl in after
Character Chemistry: In the end, I got the point of Kristina’s pulling away, but as I went through the chapters I really felt like, as his best friend, she should have been the one to understand that Noah was really not okay and romantically treating him like a normal guy was a weird choice
Plot: Noah is not okay. He can’t accept his new feelings for Kristina, and she can’t accept him holding her at a distance anymore.
Overall: If you like angsty military heroes who won’t allow themselves to have what they want because the LI deserves better, I have a book (and probably a series) for you.
Blah review, schmeview. This book was well constructed and thoughtfully, if dramatically, written. It’s emotionally dark – medically discharged soldier with a traumatic brain injury and massive depression, hello – and at the end of the day wasn’t really a narrative that pushed my buttons, so it didn’t come with an exciting emotional roller coaster, at least for me. But that’s not why I want to talk about it.
I’ve realized that one of the things I really love about romance is when one protagonist (MC1) really sees and understands the other protagonist (MC2), even though MC2 is really struggling and hard to love.
This book was basically the complete opposite of that.
Honestly, Kristina behaves in a completely reasonable way for a woman who is not being treated very well by the man she loves. The fact that he is dealing with anxiety and depression and grief over the ways his life has changed doesn’t excuse his hurtful behavior. And realistically, he has to want to take care of himself, Kristina cannot do it for him.
And yet, as the book progressed, I really struggled with Kristina’s actions. Even as I could acknowledge that it was totally reasonable for her to cut herself off from the ways that Noah was hurting her, I couldn’t fully get behind her point of view. In this case, my response stemmed from the fact that, romantically speaking, Kristina pretty consistently responded to Noah as if he weren’t experiencing very serious mental health struggles, as if he were simply a normal guy and not a survivor of trauma with severe depression, even as she treated him like a survivor when she found him after he’d had an episode.
For example, at one point Kristina walks into Noah’s room and finds that he’s punched a hole in the mirror and then passed out for more than a day (I can’t remember if that instance was migraine or depression, but either way it’s pretty serious), and she takes care of him in a sensitive and supportive way. But when she texts him to check in after they kissed and he doesn’t reply, she immediately jumps to conclusions like he’s avoiding her like a dudebro and not like he might have been passed out in bed the whole time.
I just couldn’t ever stop thinking: “You are supposed to be his best friend in the whole world, and yeah, you’ve both caught feelings and sex complicates the relationship, but why can’t you see how much he’s struggling, especially when you’re the one person who actually has seen it with your own two eyes?”
AND THEN, after (not unreasonably) cutting him off when he’s at his lowest (like he’d lost 16 pounds in a month, so he’s gaunt and also an emotional mess), she sees him at his brother’s wedding after he’s gotten help, and her first thought is:
“…he’d gotten better without her. And that probably hurt more than it should.”
Like. WTF Kristina? You ruthlessly (though again, probably not wrongly) cut him out of your life. Did you want him to be in even worse condition?
At the end of the day, the loss of Kristina combined with the support of his new veteran friends from the Warrior Fight Club is what Noah needs to fight for his own life. In which case Kristina couldn’t have stuck by Noah’s side because he never would have felt the need to fight for himself while he was still slapping all those emotional band-aids on himself. And Kristina would have been helping him to do it.
Was this a satisfying romance?
The problem that needed to be overcome was keeping them apart, certainly. Should it have been a problem they needed to overcome together? For me to have been satisfied by the romance narrative, I think that my expectation there was YES, or at least more yes than what was present. Then, too, Ingrid has that boiled-down line of questioning: 1. Do they see me, 2. Do they choose me, and 3. Can I count on them? The only conclusion I’m left with is that my dissatisfaction is due to my gut feeling that, from Noah’s perspective, the answer for Kristina is “no.” Even though she left Noah for totally valid reasons, at the end of the day, I was not convinced that she truly saw him or that he could count on her.
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