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Below the Belt: A Worth the Fight Novel…

Below the Belt: A Worth the Fight Novel (Worth the Fight series Book 3)

by Sidney Halston

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Below the Belt by Sidney Halston
Book #3: Worth the Fight Series
Source: Author and Purchase
My Rating: 3/5
My Review:

OK, everyone knows there is one book in every long series that just doesn’t live up to the standard of the rest of the series. For me and the Worth the Fight series, Below the Belt is that book.

Francesca Silva is the co-owner of WtF gym. She is seriously badass with her sharp tongue, quick wit, no bullshit, totally well-dressed self. There is no messing with Francesca and everyone around her knows that. She is no nonsense and often cold which has left Francesca extremely successful in her career but lacking in the close friends and lovers department. What most people, even those she deals with on a regular basis don’t know is that Francesca doesn’t really want to be the person she has become but has found her armor to be a necessary evil meant to protect her from the pain she experienced when her only serious relationship broke up in a truly ugly way.

Francesca’s coup for WtF is the signing of Tony “Scarface” Marino, a world-class fighter with a reputation for partying, womanizing, and brawling. Tony’s public appearance is currently in the crapper and he has no interest in seriously training. Oh, and there is the small matter of his current temper tantrum related to the fact that he can’t have Francesca Silva. Tony has pulled out what he thinks are all his best moves and nothing seems to work on the ice queen. All Francesca seems to be interested in is yelling at Tony and nagging him to train. For the first time in his life, Tony isn’t getting his way and a woman isn’t falling over herself to be with him. WTF??? And I don’t mean the gym . . . .

If Tony wants to achieve his goal of getting Francesca into bed he has to get himself into shape and get serious about his wooing. When Tony finally begins to put his mind and body into his training the results are really good and Francesca notices. She yells less, Tony acts more like an adult than a petulant child, and the walls between the two begin to break down. Tony is surprised by Francesca’s relative inexperience and Francesca is surprised by Tony’s real personality that is often hidden behind his public persona. As the two become closer, each has to deal with their respective baggage and for both, there is a lot of baggage and a lot to overcome. Old habits die hard and despite their attraction one another, both Francesca and Tony have a tendency to retreat to their safe place which causes more problems for them as a couple.

The Bottom Line: Below the Belt is just an OK for read for me. I can’t honestly say I got fired up about either Francesca or Tony but I also can’t say I dislike either character. Their story is fairly tame given what’s come before (Jack/Chrissy and Slade/Jessica) which makes Tony and Francesca’s story less dramatic and crazy. They have some slightly crazy moments, some very sweet and tender moments, and even some funny moments but nothing over the top. Clearly, I need dramatic and crazy in my life  With all of this being said, Below the Belt is still a worthwhile read and necessary to the overall enjoyment and understanding of the Worth the Fight series as a whole. ( )
  arthistorychick | Apr 2, 2016 |
This is an excellent read and the third book in the WtF series from this author although it can most definitely be read as a stand alone. The writing is great and even though this couple, Tony and Francesca, are not my favorites in the books, the author did a great job a writing a story that made me enjoy them and pull for their HEA. Tony is a veteran MMA fighter who is at the end of his career. His partying and womanizing have taken a toll on his body and reputation but the WtF Academy is willing to give him another chance. Francesca is the hard as nails woman who runs the gym for her father, she plans on turning Tony around and reaping the financial rewards from his big comeback. These two are perfect for each other and this story is fantastic! I highly recommend it. ( )
  Bette_Hansen | Nov 3, 2015 |
Sidney Halston’s Below the Belt is a hot romance about a MMA fighter that falls for his feisty trainer. Antonio “Scarface” Marino plays hard and has a reputation as a womanizer that has impacted his career in a negative way. Despite his playboy persona, Francesca Silva sees Antonio’s potential for success and is determined to help him achieve it. Antonio is just as determined to claim Francesca as his own, but a bad marriage in her past makes Francesca wary when it comes to love. Things get complicated and messy pretty quick as the chemistry between these two sky rockets.

“You’re totally falling for me, Francesca Silva, and I can’t wait to see your reaction when you figure it out.”

At first, Francesca comes across as a no-nonsense hard ass and not exactly someone I would think would inspire romantic interest. She seems very cold and stand-offish. As the story progresses though her character reveals hidden vulnerabilities and in my opinion gives Francesca more depth which makes her more relatable to me. Also, I like how she isn’t afraid to stand up to Antonio when his jealousy gets out of hand.

“Really? ‘Cause that guy getting into his car right now,” he said, pointing behind them, “just eye-f*cked you. He must’ve noticed your sparkling personality.”

Antonio starts out as a hard core alpha male. He is a complete take-no-prisoners kind of bad ass and shows no signs of settling down. At least, until he starts to develop feelings for Francesca. Then his softer side reveals itself, and just makes him even more swoon worthy. He is constantly trying to break through Francesca’s walls and make her fall in love with him, despite the fact that she continuously shuts him down or gives him mixed signals.

“You say you don’t want me, but you don’t pull away either. You’re fighting it, and I can’t understand why. I’m not a boy cariño. I know what I want, and I want you.”

Overall, Below the Belt by Sidney Halston was a very enjoyable and steamy romantic read. I have not read the other books in the series yet, but I would like to go back and read the first two. Although, this can be read as a standalone, I think I would have a better sense of some of the background if I go back and read the series in order. If you enjoy steamy romances set in the world of MMA fighting, I recommend you grab a copy of this book and read it. It is a fun read to unwind with at the end of the day.

**An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  azprettygrl | Aug 4, 2015 |

If Tony has any chance of salvaging his flagging career, he’s got to get himself together, train hard, and stop getting distracted by booze, barfights, and women. But that’s a lot easier said than done when his new boss is a fiesty, tough as nails bombshell with legs that won’t quit.

The Verdict:I have to be honest; it took me a while to warm up to both Francesca and Tony, and for a while there, I wondered if I should just move on to the next book. But after a while, more of their personalities were explained, and the occasional glimpses at their vulnerabilities led to my liking them a whole hell of a lot.

Francesca (or Frankie or Frances, depending on who you ask) is 99% ice queen. She dresses the part of sexy business woman, but that’s just it — she’s all business. She doesn’t really socialize outside of work, seems to care only about making the center a success, and has her walls up so high that she’s practically two-dimensional. Tony, on the other hand, is all machismo. Francesca is a challenge he can’t seem to overcome, and no amount of flirting or innuendo works with her. His idea of flirting, however, is more along the lines of sexual harassment, and his lack of concern for pretty much everything else was quite irritating for a while. But then things began to change.
Francesca isn’t the strong, cold woman she projects. In fact, she’s very much still affected by the ugly end of her first real relationship, and she’s so terrified of being hurt again, so convinced she’s lacking, that she lives a passionless and solitary life. And while Tony is very definitely the dirty-minded lothario he comes across as, he’s also incredibly considerate and more than willing to be patient and gentle with Francesca when she gives him even a hint of a shot with her.

But even though they both began to show hidden sides that were instantly intriguing, they didn’t completely change, which made me love them even more. Tony was rough around the edges and easily provoked into jealousy. And Francesca was still incredibly strong and capable, never hesitating to stand up to Tony’s often Neanderthal ways. It’s what made them so perfect for each other even after they’d gotten past the major hurdles.

While Full Contact may have have given Jessica a happily ever after following her escape from an abusive relationship, Below the Belt is the one about characters with more emotional damage, and while I certainly loved the previous two books, Tony and Francesca’s story seemed to delve much deeper. It’s a hot, angsty, sweet journey for two characters who are absolutely made for each other. ( )
  ysar | Jul 8, 2015 |
Francesca was running her dad's place, Worth the Fight Academy, since his health had kept him from doing it. She'd always been a part of it since she was a young girl and now, with her business partner, Slade, she'd do what she had to do to make it work…for her dad. She took on a fighter who had been getting slack with drinking, parties, and women. She knew she could get him back on track and back in fighting shape. Considering all he ever did with her was flirt and constantly ask her out, she thought it may be tougher than she thought. To Tony, Francesca was the one woman he really wanted to get to know, but she wouldn't give him the time of day…except to give him a hard time about his fighting. Maybe they could work out a deal…

Below the Belt was engrossing and thought provoking, with a unique set of soul-stirring characters you'll never get enough of. Tony is always provoking someone and Francesca is always trying to smooth things over until he pushes her peaceful attitude into a passionate meltdown. Waiting for those meltdowns will keep the reader on edge and further intrigued with not only the characters, but the intense storyline. The hero and heroine's jealousies, verbal sparring, and ultimate make up sex will warm you through and through. Below the Belt is another sexy fighter romance, but one you won't want to miss! 5 Stars! ( )
  Bookshellz | Apr 17, 2015 |
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In Sidney Halston's latest sizzling MMA romance, a former title contender turns the tables on his knockout trainer with a lesson in seduction. Once one of the most sought-after names on the mixed martial arts circuit, Antonio "Scarface" Marino watched his career go down for the count as he chased skirts and made tabloid headlines. Now he's finally making a comeback, and it's all thanks to Francesca Silva, a Brazilian bombshell as tough as any of her fighters. But who's the real Francesca: the trash-talking trainer who rides him hard, or the vulnerable woman who blushes at his touch? Francesca went to the mat to sign Tony because she believes he still has the potential to bring big success to her gym--if she can keep his head in the cage and out of her personal life. After a short-lived marriage soured her on love, a one-night stand is all she can handle. Now Tony's kisses are stirring up complicated feelings--especially when he agrees to face her ex in the ring. Francesca's used to freezing guys out. But Tony's tempting her to give in to the heat.… (more)

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