In this seventh book in Julie Brannagh’s Love and Football series, Necessary Roughness, Tanner Cole’s football career is over. He’s been sidelined by a torn ACL and he’s pretty darn bitter about it. He grumpily starts working with a new physical therapist, Jordan Muller, and soon makes progress towards having control over his body again. Well, actually, let me take that back, because his attraction to Jordan begins to take over his life. The feeling is reciprocated and the two spend most of this book fighting the inevitable happily ever after.
If you’ve ever read an athlete/PT book before, then you’ve read this book. It hits most of the same beats of that category – the ‘he’s a client’ phase, the ‘I don’t care if I’m fired’ phase, and then the inevitable ‘oh, but it’s true love’ conclusion. Jordan is good at her job and knows it, but is unsure of how that’s going to affect a relationship, and Tanner is going through his own crisis over who he is as a person now that his career has ended.
There’s a lot of this book that’s fine. If you’re looking for a literary equivalent of cotton candy – delightful, but fleeting – then this may work for you. I know the athlete/trainer or post-career athlete tropes are popular and so this may work if you want to scratch that particular itch.
I, however, had two main issues with the book that mean it is going to fall out of my head as soon as I’ve finished this review. The first is that the pacing was just… off. The first half of it felt like one long conversation stuck around ‘should we? Wouldn’t it be wrong?’, exacerbated by complications of crazed female fans and exes (y’all, I am so over the mentally unstable ex-girlfriend). Then Tanner and Jordan’s fairytale hits the accelerator and I feel like I blinked and they were married.
The other issue is less significant, but it irked me so strongly that I actually started twitching a bit. Tanner calls Jordan ‘DP’, which stands for ‘Disney Princess’. Originally, he adopts the term because she physically reminds him of exactly that, but it sticks around because it becomes his term of endearment for her. As the DPs he’s referencing are not the ones that have agency, but rather the ones for whom woodland creatures sweep up and make dresses, it was hard for me to buy that the nickname came with respect. Yes, he adores Jordan by the end of the book and is devoted to her, but adoring a woman and respecting her enough to build a life together are different things – which should be connected but often aren’t.
Like I said earlier, this book is fine. It wasn’t my favorite, and some of it really irked me, but I can see some readers enjoying it.