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.
*Blurb from Goodreads*
When I read Parr’s debut novel earlier this year, I couldn’t wait to find out more about these football heroes, and the ladies who would win their hearts. I love that Parr writes older new adult heroines, women who are in their mid to late twenties and are in grad school and focusing on that transition from college to the workforce.
Natalie has worked her entire life for the opportunity to find a fabled and ancient sea port in Ireland that she believes traded with the Romans. While the city of Ivernis is considered to be highly unlikely from other in her field, she and her professor have been branded as the black sheep of anthropology, so any find in the excavation would launch her career, and fulfill all her dreams. But right when her plans are finally coming to fruition, Natalie has to contend with a new land owner, none other than the sexy NFL running back, Michael.
Mike hides behind a charming smile, but inside he is wounded from the death of his father when he was a boy, and the strain it put on his family. Returning to Ireland with his family is not exactly how he wants to spend his off season, but spending time with the pesky and annoying Natalie is turning out to be better than Mike expected. Now if only they can find a way to navigate a relationship while Mike refuses to let Natalie dig, and Natalie keeps hoping and pressing.
Overall I really liked this story, but I did struggle a bit with Natalie’s character. She reminded me so much of the TV show Bones and it’s heroine Temperance Brennan. She was smart, but her views on relationships and love were quite a bit off center from the normal human. Because of it, it put a huge strain on her relationship with Mike. Natalie constantly talked about how she didn’t believe love could last, how she couldn’t believe in a happily ever after. It was obvious to me that Mike was head over heels for her, and yet given her constant sprouting of her viewpoint, Natalie was not only oblivious to Mike’s feelings, she crushed them a little each and every time she opened her mouth. I was more than a little hurt on Mike’s behalf.
I liked Mike, despite the fact that he continued to let Natalie crush him time and again. He had the tortured, brooding thing going on, especially as his family secrets slowly came out in the open. I wish we would have gotten to see him in action on the football field, as I am such a huge fan of sports heroes. However, given that this book takes place primarily during the off season, we only get to see Mike dealing with the emotional stress of his family.
I also struggled a little bit with the romance, mainly because of Natalie’s pessimistic and often childish outlook on relationships. Given her parents history, I wasn’t surprised by her distrust of long term relationships, but the fact that she was so close minded to it, even after realizing the depth of her feelings toward Mike, turned me off a little to her character. I felt so horrible for Mike, because I could see the signs of him falling in love, and hated that he continued to feel like a short-term affair by Natalie.
All in all I enjoyed the story overall. I absolutely LOVED all the archeology aspects, and found the dig and excavation process and descriptions to be so amazing. It made me want to go back to school and become an archeologist. I do wish that Parr would have taken the romance in a different direction though, as Natalie didn’t always work for me.
I give Running Back a B-