When I think of Lori Foster, I think of MMA fighters and bodyguards; therefore, I was not surprised to learn that the hero in Hard Justice is a former MMA fighter, who is now a bodyguard. Ms. Foster definitely has a knack for writing these protective, tough alpha-males, and she’s written a lot of great books with them as the romantic leads. The problem is that these heroes are beginning to feel like clones of each other; they no longer stand out individually, and their stories are becoming indistinguishable. While Hard Justice is entertaining, it also feels very familiar. I actually thought I might have previously read it and had to verify that it is not a re-released book. It isn’t – it’s a new release and the second, stand-alone book in the Body Armor series. You do not need to follow the series order.
Justice Wallington loved competing in the MMA, and he was a good fighter – but he wasn’t a great one. He achieved moderate success, but at thirty years old he had to accept that his career as a professional fighter was over. He started working as a bodyguard for the security firm, Body Armor, and he’s enjoying his new profession although he isn’t as passionate about it as he is about fighting. His newest assignment is to protect the heiress Fallon Wade, and he’s not thrilled by the idea of guarding her. He assumes she’s a pampered, frivolous and annoying rich girl, but she surprises him and is nothing like he expected.
Fallon is hard working, considerate and doesn’t appear to be affected or spoiled by her family’s remarkable wealth. She’s twenty-four and has been sheltered by her well-intentioned but over-protective parents, making her quite naïve for her age. She’s ready to spread her wings and have the normal experiences of someone in her early twenties, and her parents are reluctantly allowing her to do so – as long as Justice guards her while she’s out sowing her tame wild oats. At first it is not clear to Justice (or the reader) why her parents are so controlling or why she needs a bodyguard, because there is no apparent imminent threat to her safety. No one is forthcoming with any explanation; therefore, he assumes her family’s fortune makes her a target for nefarious sorts of people.
Both Fallon and Justice are attracted to each other when they meet, and these feelings grow rapidly as he starts escorting her on her outings, which include things like drinking a beer at a local bar, going out dancing and exploring a street festival. Justice also suggests new adventures for her, such as attending an MMA fight. From the very beginning of their working relationship, Justice does not act how a typical bodyguard would act. He’s not wearing a suit – he’s in jeans and a t-shirt. He’s not standing in the background watching Fallon drink a beer – he’s sitting with her at the bar having a beer too. He’s not escorting her out with her friends – he’s taking her to his friend’s parties and introducing her to them. They never maintain a professional relationship, which blurs the line between employer and employee and makes it easy for them to get more personal and eventually begin a romance.
Of course, dating a client is against Justice’s employer’s rules, and he’s moderately conflicted by breaking the bodyguard ethics, but it is not much of an issue for anyone and is easily resolved. This feels overly simplified – especially considering how protective Fallon’s parents are – and their relationship falls flat without any conflict. They have moderate chemistry, but everything about Fallon and Justice as a couple feels tepid, and it’s difficult to connect with their feelings.
Not everything is smooth sailing – small, surreptitious acts start occurring that threaten both Fallon and Justice. It is not known who is behind these deeds or their intentions, and Justice finally has the opportunity to act like a bodyguard and solve the problem while also keeping Fallon safe. The identity of the villain is not obvious, and this makes the story more interesting, but it is not a particularly riveting mystery.
Hard Justice is an enjoyable book, and Lori Foster writes well, but it feels like she’s telling the same story over and over again. If you’ve never read anything by her, you’ll definitely appreciate Hard Justice, but if you’re a fan of Ms. Foster and have enjoyed her previous books, you might consider re-reading one of your favorites and skipping this one.