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Jessica Lemmon’s HARD TO HANDLE is the second book in her Love in the Balance series. If you read CAN'T LET GO, the companion novella (that’s how I refer it) to TEMPTING THE BILLIONAIRE, then you know what happens between Sadie and Aiden. If you haven’t read it or TEMPTING, never fear-Lemmon provides enough background information and you won’t feel lost. It’s not necessary to read these prior to HARD TO HANDLE, but you’ll have a better understanding of the events and situations if you do.
HARD TO HANDLE picks up a year after TEMPTING THE BILLIONAIRE ends. Crickitt and Shane are now married and Aiden is back in town for the wedding. At first, both Aiden and Sadie put on fake smiles for the sake of their friends wedding, but deep down they are both suffering. Aiden doesn’t anticipate seeing Sadie again other than the occasional chance meeting at Crickitt and Shane’s house. When Sadie runs into him a month later, she’s shocked and angry that he can make or break her career. Sadie wants to be the named the number one sales person for Midwest and she fears Aiden won’t sign the coveted contract. Aiden is willing to sign it provided Sadie agrees to go out on date. Will Sadie and Aiden put aside the past and realize they belong together or will Sadie be prepared to walk away from a second chance at love?
Sometimes it’s difficult for an author to redeem a hero who purposely walked away from the woman he loves without making him into a jerk. Lemmon does a great job writing about two emotionally flawed people who needed to do things the wrong way before finding their footing. We have good character development and it was great getting to know Sadie and Aiden better. Both of them have a lot more in common than they want to admit. We also have a wide cast of secondary characters that play an important role. I adore Aiden’s nephew, Lyon! Of course we get to see Aiden’s brother, Landon (which I’ll confess, I’m DYING for his story because I’m in love with him). In the end, what made HARD TO HANDLE, amazing? Crickitt and Shane! I loved the advice both gave and how both of them were upfront on what Sadie and Aiden needed to do. Everyone should have someone in their life that can speak from the heart and isn’t afraid to tiptoe around the issue.
The writing is engaging and it is a fast paced read. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Lemmon has a talent for writing flawed characters and making you become emotionally invested in them. She can pull on the heart strings and have you crying one moment and laughing the next. I won’t lie, I was grinning ear to ear when Aiden and Sadie were together. I have several favorite scenes, but the one I adore takes place at Axle’s and it involves a female customer Aiden is helping. Oh and I loved the scene where they both attend a party thrown by one of Sadie’customers. Once again, Lemmon includes a few Easter eggs throughout HARD TO HANDLE. One hint is in relation to her favorite movie genre and Sadie going to Axle’s because she forgot something.
One thing that was missing in CAN'T LET GO, was the explanation as to why Sadie’s engagement ended and when we’re told the story, I couldn’t help but feel Sadie’s heartache. Trey is a jerk of the first order especially when he explains how Sadie was responsible for their engagement ending. While we don’t get the Trey and Aiden confrontation I had been secretly hoping for, we do have Aiden standing up for Sadie at an event they attended. No, it’s not with Trey, but a different person. I have to hand it to Lemmon for redeeming this person when she didn’t have to. I also appreciate how Lemmon showcases both Sadie and Aiden’s families and how different they are. I like to think had Sadie’s father lived he’d be right at home with the Downey’s.
What I really like about HARD TO HANDLE? Lemmon doesn’t rely on cheap thrills for the conflict. It would have been really easy to incorporate Aiden’s ex-wife to provide drama or his ex-business partner. Instead, she chucks them aside as excess baggage that belongs in the past and focuses on the now. HARD TO HANDLE may frustrate some readers with regards to Sadie and Aiden refusing to forgive their past mistakes. Here’s the thing: there’s a slight play on the title. In CAN'T LET GO, Sadie says, “She knew the truth about herself, how she’d always been a little too hard to handle.” Aiden agrees with that assessment, but he too has that in common with her. It wasn’t obvious to me until we get about 3/4ths into the book and then it hit me. I’m pretty sure you’ll see it too and appreciate the meaning.
Oh, I just adored HARD TO HANDLE and can’t wait for the next book in the series. If you’re a fan of lovers reunited or are looking to try a new author, I highly recommended Jessica Lemmon’s HARD TO HANDLE. Just don’t start it late at night because you’ll want to read it one sitting.