Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey
Book Three of the Romancing the Clarksons series
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
This time, she's calling the shots.
Peggy Clarkson is returning to her alma mater with one goal in mind: confront Elliott Brooks, the man who ruined her for all others, and remind him of what he's been missing. Even after three years, seeing him again is like a punch in the gut, but Peggy's determined to stick to her plan. Maybe then, once she has the upper hand, she'll finally be able to move on.
In the years since Peggy left Cincinnati, Elliott has kept his focus on football. No distractions and no complications. But when Peggy walks back onto his practice field and into his life, he knows she could unravel everything in his carefully controlled world. Because the girl who was hard to forget is now a woman impossible to resist.
What I Liked:
I hate to say it, but I'm actually surprised that I enjoyed this book! I had pretty low expectations, because there are several tropes in this novel that I absolutely hate (and I'll get to them). Don't get me wrong, I adore Tessa Bailey and the vast majority of her books that I've read. But I wasn't sure that I would enjoy this one. If you'll recall, I was fairly certain I wasn't even going to read this book, after reading Too Wild to Tame. I'm happy to report that I liked this book much more than I expected!
Peggy and her siblings started their road-trip from California to New York, the four of them, and now it's just Belmont and Peggy (and Sage, Peggy's best friend). Aaron is in Indiana with his new girlfriend, and Rita is in New Mexico with her new boyfriend. Peggy knew the trip would take them through Cincinnati, where she went to university, and where she met a man that would change - and ruin - her life. Coach Elliott Brooks is known around the nation as the "Kingmaker", a legendary college football coach who has sent many football players to the NFL. He has always been focused on football and his religion, and so many Peggy came into his life three years ago, he isn't prepared for the temptation. Even three years after she left Cincinnati, Elliott has never gotten over, and Peggy has never gotten over him. Peggy was out to make him suffer, during alumni weekend, but it isn't Elliott alone who will suffer, and it isn't suffering along that they'll share.
I didn't even think I liked Peggy, after reading Too Hot to Handle and Too Wild to Tame. Sure, she's young fun and bubbly, but she seemed a little too much for me. And it was painfully clear that she was in some sort of denial, with four engagements broken (by her). But I liked Peggy a lot more in this book. It was clear to me that she has a lot of depth, she's friendly and kind, and she goes after what she wants. Yes, she wanted to make Elliott miss her like she missed him, and she wasn't planning on sticking around, but I liked how Peggy went after him again and again. She's relentless, even if she was totally clueless as to if she wanted more with him.
Elliott is an extremely successful college football coach and definitely not the type of guy that would bang a cheerleader. He has at least ten, maybe twelve or thirteen years on Peggy, and at the time, his wife had died about a year ago. At first it seems like Elliott didn't like how Peggy made him feel, but it became clear that it was because he didn't think he deserved her. Fast forward three years later, and he's still sinking in the guilt and shame. Elliott seems like a cold, hard man who is almost robotic, with his love of football and his religion. But he, like Peggy, has a lot of layers to peel back. I actually really liked how intense and sometimes scary Elliott is, with his commanding football coach nature.
The two of them are such an interesting pair. One is hard and unfeeling, the other is bubbly and vivacious and flirtatious. But they are a great match, and this shows from page one. I like that Elliott only ever had eyes for Peggy, and vice versa. You know that annoying thing that some girls do, in which they flirt with other guys in order to make the one guy jealous? Yeah, I'm glad Peggy didn't play that head game with Elliott. Peggy may have been out to make him feel bad for breaking up with her years ago, but she wasn't malicious.
The chemistry is pretty hot, between these two, as expected. With Elliott's inner struggle, you can see him pulling Peggy close and pushing her away. There are a number of tug-of-war scenes that are unfinished and yet very hot. Bailey always does well with cooking up a good amount of tension and chemistry in a romance novel. I like how each of her romances are different, and the smoking chemistry too. Elliott and Peggy like things a little rougher than your average couple, which was interesting to see play out.
Okay, so I mentioned before that I really didn't think that I would enjoy this book, because it contained three tropes that I don't usually like (or just absolutely hate): 1) second-chance romances, 2) children, and 3) older man/super young woman. I actually found that NONE of these tropes bothered me, in this story! The romance was really swoony, sweet, sexy, and occasionally heart-breaking. But it wasn't too dramatic or angst-ridden - well, not as I expected. And the children part - Elliott has a young daughter in middle school. I mentioned that his wife had died a year before he met Peggy. Elliott has never had a wonderful parental relationship with his daughter Alice, but that changes a lot in this book. And the third, the older man/younger woman thing. I'm pretty sure there is at least a ten to fifteen age difference between Elliott and Peggy. And it comes up from time to time. But I actually didn't mind it that much, and it never really bothered me.
So, in a nutshell, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would! Probably because the drama/angst wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and those three tropes that I hate that are in this book didn't seem to bother me as much as they usually would. Even the ending of this book didn't irritate me - Elliott's grand gesture to win Peggy back was sweet, and very much warranted. Cute cute cute!
What I Did Not Like:
I kind of wanted more of a resolution in terms of Elliott and his religion. You know from the start that he is Catholic and his religion is very important to him. But then that aspect kind of disappears, towards the end of the book. I don't think Elliott turned his back on his religion - the whole religion thing just kind of disappears. Since it was such a big part of the story in the beginning and sometimes in the middle, I expected it to reappear or have some sort of progression, towards the end.
Would Recommend It:
While this isn't my new Romancing the Clarksons favorite (sorry, Too Hot to Handle still claims that spot!), I really enjoyed this book. It's nice when a book filled with tropes that you usually hate surprises you. If you're like me, and hate second-chance romances, books with children, and older man/super young women tropes, don't let these aspects of this book deter you! I'm not saying this book is for everyone, but I am saying that I was pretty convinced that it wasn't for me.
4 stars. I liked this book! I'm actually not AS excited about Belmont and Sage's books (like most Romancing the Clarkson fans are), but I will definitely be reading it when its publication date rolls around. But I think I'm even more excited about Too Close to Call!
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