Title: Running Back
Author: Allison Parr
Series: New York Leopards #2
Release Date: October 21, 2013
Natalie Sullivan is on the verge of a breakthrough most archaeology grad students only dream of: discovering a lost city. Her research points to a farm in Ireland, but to excavate she needs permission from the new owner: the Michael O’Connor, popular NFL running back.
On TV Mike seems so charming and good-natured that Natalie figures getting his cooperation will be a breeze. So she’s not prepared to deal with the arrogant—and adamantly opposed—man she meets in person. Or the way one look from him sends shivers down her spine…
Determined to kick-start her career, Natalie travels across the Atlantic and finds herself sharing an inn with Mike, who has come to Ireland in search of his roots. She tells herself her interest is strictly professional, but the more she gets to know him, the harder it is to deny her personal attraction to the sexy sports star. And when Mike confides why he refuses to allow the dig, Natalie must decide if she can follow her heart without losing sight of her dreams.
Allison Parr delivers another smart, sassy and sweet addition to the New York Leopards series with Running Back. Mike and Natalie’s story is an adventure from start to finish and I found myself instantly lost to this fun, sexy couple. From the beginning, Allison Parr pulled me in with Mike and Natalie’s unconventional first meeting and the fascinating premise for this novel. I was incredibly intrigued by both the unexpected connection between this couple and their mutual reluctance for romance. Allison Parr crafted a palpable chemistry with Mike and Natalie that was only made more complex by their frustrating and addictive push and pull. I absolutely loved the undeniable electricity this couple carried throughout the story and the gradual development of their deeper connection. Witty banter, heady tension, and adorable flirtations peppered this story, making for one seriously entertaining and utterly enchanting read.
“Not all of us dig just for dirt.”
I raised a brow. “No, some of us dig for the reality buried beneath it.”
Running Back was very much a departure from the first book in the series. Not only was it set away from the world of the New York Leopards, but the author also kept the sports aspect of the novel fairly small. While I was initially concerned about the lack of crossover between the players/other couples with Mike and Natalie’s story, Allison Parr didn’t disappoint in that regard. Although not a major component of Running Back, we do see enough of the rest of the Leopards to feel as if this novel is connected to the series as a whole. Plus, we also get to meet a bunch of new, vibrant secondary characters that helped bring this story to life with their colorful personalities and heartfelt contributions to Mike and Natalie’s journey. I especially enjoyed meeting Mike’s family and experiencing their unique and endearing dynamic. Natalie’s family also played a part in the development of the story and in Natalie’s character growth.
“No matter what had happened, he had always believed in me. We were both lost and confused and broken, but we believed in our passions. He believed in me. I believed in Kilkarten.”
While I was curious about Mike from what we saw of him in Rush Me, I really didn’t know what to expect from this character. I was pleasantly surprised by not only how sexy and sweet he could be, but by the incredible depth and emotional diversity this character embodied. Allison Parr did a fantastic job exploring Mike’s family history, utilizing his relationships with his mom and sisters to grow the character in unexpected ways. He was so much more than a famous football player and I thoroughly enjoyed unraveling Mike’s many layers alongside Natalie as their relationship developed. Natalie also had complicated family ties that made for interesting points of character growth. While she initially seemed so sure and steady in her determination to unearth the secrets of Kilkarten, it was her exploration of Mike’s family secrets as well as her own that revealed Natalie to be a vulnerable, flawed, and incredibly genuine heroine. I loved seeing the insecure side of this character, her need for someone to lean on – for love, allowing me to connect to the character and ensuring my total investment in her story.
“I’ve never known someone like you. And I don’t think you would be happy bound to one place. I don’t want to bind you. I just want to go with you.”
The thing I love most about Allison Parr’s writing is the incredible intellect with which she crafts her stories and Running Back was certainly no exception. Natalie was driven and smart, her passion and knowledge as an archaeologist bleeding from the pages of this novel. I found myself mesmerized by Allison Parr’s bold and beautiful imagery and the brilliant picture of Ireland and Kilkarten that she so effortlessly painted. I was fascinated by the rich history Natalie sought to uncover and was unquestionably invested in not only her romantic happily ever after, but her success on the dig as well. Admittedly, there were a few instances where the story was too descriptive, too intellectual and in those moments, it felt a little inaccessible to the average reader and briefly took me out of the story. However, the overall tone wasn’t significantly affected and I continued to be captivated by Natalie and Mike’s unique journey. Running Back was every bit the charming and emotional story I hoped it would be and then some. I can’t wait to see what Allison Parr has up her sleeve next for the New York Leopards.
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Don’t miss the rest of the series:
Rush Me (New York Leopards #1)
Imaginary Lines (New York Leopards #3)