Title – Tough Enough
Author – M. Leighton
Publication Date – November 3, 2015
Series – Tall, Dark, and Dangerous #2
He’s a fighter who never loses, but is he tough enough to win her heart?
There was a time when I had everything–a wonderful family, a bright future. Love. But all that was taken away in a single night, torn from me like flesh from bone. Since then, I’ve hidden away in my second-choice job as a makeup artist. But I prefer it that way, actually. I’m comfortable in the shadows, where no one can see my scars.
Kiefer Rogan literally took my breath away the moment I met him. MMA champion-turned-actor, notorious playboy, charming to a fault—he’s everything I vowed to avoid.
But he just wouldn’t stop until I opened up and let him in. Maybe I should’ve tried harder to resist him. Maybe I shouldn’t have fallen in love with him. Because I, of all people, know that everyone has secrets. Scars. And that they’re usually ugly and painful and destructive to the people we love most.
I just never guessed that they could be deadly, too.
I really had no idea what to expect from Tough Enough, and I was definitely surprised by the direction M. Leighton took this story. Rogan’s book was far less action-packed than the first in the series and for the most part strongly focused on Rogan and Katie’s relationship. Tough Enough was definitely an emotional journey with Rogan and Katie both having significantly traumatic pasts. M. Leighton had me riding an emotional rollercoaster as I experienced this couple’s journey. Tough Enough made me feel in a very visceral way, sometimes overwhelming me with the intensity of certain moments. Rogan and Katie’s connection was well written, their chemistry palpable from the start. I enjoyed the growing tension and easy banter they shared, especially once they began to figure out how to push each other’s buttons. Katie’s reluctance to give into Rogan’s charms made for plenty of sarcastic and flirtatious moments that kept me grinning from beginning to end.
“Like sunshine creeping into the skies at dawn, I feel a ray of light break through the darkness that I’ve been drowning in for so long. It’s inspiration. It’s motivation. It’s the sight of someone rising up and overcoming. It’s Rogan.”
Katie’s growth over the course of this novel stole the show for me. Her tragic story made my heart ache and at times it was difficult to read, but the strength she found along the way was simply beautiful. As M. Leighton unraveled this complex character, I found myself connecting with Katie. She exhibited a duality that was often times mesmerizing. Every once in a while, her vulnerability and fear would fade away to reveal a feisty and vibrant woman who knew what it meant to really live. Getting lost in her internal struggle was effortless and I quickly became fully invested in her continued healing. I fell for Rogan hard and fast. M. Leighton has definitely written a swoon-worthy book boyfriend with Rogan, winning me over with his easy charm, genuine compassion, and deliciously dirty mind. He was the perfect balance of sweet and fierce, surprising me at every turn with the extent of his loyalty and dedication to everything and everyone he cared about.Watching his patience and understanding with Katie was magical. M. Leighton certainly knew what she was doing with Rogan.
“Kiefer “The Rain” Rogan. Yes, he brought the rain. And if I’m not careful, I might well drown in it.”
While I very much loved the carefully crafted characters, exquisite writing, and touching romance of this book, the overall storyline didn’t quite captivate me the way I wish it would have. After the exciting pace and intense mystery of the first book, I was looking forward to seeing how the plot would unfold in Tough Enough with regards to the military conspiracy. It wasn’t until the end of this book that I felt as if the plot in Tough Enough was more than just loosely tied to the overarching series storyline. As a result the pacing was a bit slower and I didn’t expect things to eventually resolve so abruptly. That’s not to say I didn’t really enjoy this novel and I have no doubt that many readers will appreciate the poignant love story and depth of the characters that M. Leighton has created. Despite the totally different tone of Tough Enough, I still found myself caught up in Rogan and Katie’s journey. If there’s one thing M. Leighton knows how to do it’s make her readers fall in love right alongside her characters. Rogan and Katie have something undeniably special and their story was one I won’t soon forget.
Being honest, I’m not entirely sure where to go with this review. After I finished the first book in the Tall, Dark, and Dangerous series, I was super excited and couldn’t wait to get my hands on Tough Enough by M. Leighton. However, upon finishing, I feel sort of torn. While the writing was great and the story was touching and beautiful, it unfortunately just didn’t grip me the way that Strong Enough did.
“We both fought to survive. But only one of us fought to live. Really live. And he won. He’s still winning.”
My favorite part about the book was the way that the hero and heroine interacted and understood each other on a soul-deep level. While it couldn’t be obvious to anyone but the reader, I felt like their kindred spirits and similar backgrounds made for a very poignant, emotional relationship. Rogan is cocky and fierce in all the ways that a survivor can be. He overcame a past nobody should be put through, and for that he became a better man. On the other side of the coin, Katie has been through more hell than anyone can imagine, but has chosen to run and hide, continuing to build new pieces rather than mend the broken ones. They complemented each other so well because of what each could offer the other, and that was something amazing to watch play out. I liked their interactions, but loved their inner thoughts. Those glimpses into their feelings, doubts, and fears brought their personalities to life for me. Further, I’m immensely grateful Leighton wrote a dual POV story, because I don’t think it would have been the same without it.
“I’m simply a girl who’s tired of hiding, who’s tired of being hurt. Who’s tired of only surviving. I am a woman who needs to stand up. To fight back. To get the missing part of myself back. To be whole again.”
My issue with the novel lies in the overall pacing and very little action. Not until the last quarter of the book did I feel the need to continue reading without pause. Given how highly driven the first in the series was, and the connection to Rogan, I expected there to be a similar pattern. Sadly, it was pretty much the opposite in Tough Enough. That being said, the romance was insanely perfect and the writing was superb, but it wasn’t able to hold my attention the way that I wished it had.
“He’s in his element when he’s in battle. And I’m in my own personal hell. I’ve never been more conflicted.”
While the pacing of the story was off for me, I don’t doubt that readers will love the romance and the characters themselves in the book. It was a touching story about the meaning of beauty and overcoming our own obstacles to really survive, not just to merely exist. The message was very poignant and heartbreaking, while also being inspiring. Though I didn’t love this one as much as the first, I am still very much looking forward to the next in the series by M Leighton! I can’t wait to see how she wraps everything up, especially given the events that occurred in this novel.
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Don’t miss the rest of the series:
Strong Enough (Tall, Dark, and Dangerous #1)
Brave Enough (Tall, Dark, and Dangerous #3)
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author M. Leighton is a native of Ohio. She relocated to the warmer climates of the South, where she can be near the water all summer and miss the snow all winter. Possessed of an overactive imagination from early in her childhood, Michelle finally found an acceptable outlet for her fantastical visions: literary fiction.
Having written over a dozen novels, these days Michelle enjoys letting her mind wander to more romantic settings with sexy Southern guys, much like the one she married and the ones you’ll find in her latest books. When her thoughts aren’t roaming in that direction, she’ll be riding horses, swimming in ponds and experiencing life on a ranch, all without leaving the cozy comfort of her office.