Raw Deal is an emotional read that tugged so hard on my heartstrings. I’ve enjoyed Cherrie Lynn’s writing in the past (Leave Me Breathless) and was excited to see her back with a new release. The premise delivers what it says and more.
The novel starts off with a sad and heartbreaking first chapter: the funeral of Tommy, Savannah’s brother. Savannah is holding on by sheer will so she can support her sister-in-law, Rowan. These two women are like sisters and love one another deeply, but both are dealing with their grief differently. Rowan holds such rage and anger at Mike Larson, while Savannah can see through her profound grief that it was a horrible, freak accident.
Mike Larson hasn’t fought since the night he killed Tommy, and the guilt is eating him up. He watches Tommy’s funeral from afar with his famous rockstar brother Zane for support, though Zane tells Mike bluntly he shouldn’t be here. Zane tells Mike he needs to stop punishing himself, but Mike doesn’t listen. Mike wants to desperately explain himself to Tommy’s family and he’s willing to shoulder and absorb any rage and grief they feel towards him. When Mike spots Savannah and Rowan, he talks to them, not knowing who they are.
Savannah is willing to give Mike a chance, but Rowan walks away, not able to be in Mike’s presence. And it’s after an emotional conversation that the seeds of attraction and a deep emotional connection forms between Mike and Savannah.
Raw Deal had many good things going for it. The writing is superb and I love Lynn’s author voice. She is so readable and she creates such memorable and engaging characters that suck you right into the story. Mike and Savannah have an instant connection and you just know even if Tommy hadn’t passed away and they hadn’t met in such tragic circumstances, these two would had connected and found each other someway.
Despite Mike being the person that ended Tommy’s life with one fatal punch, Mike becomes Savannah’s crutch and they lean on one another to help them through each other’s pain and anguish. Savannah and Mike’s romance is inevitable and the sexy times were so freaking hot. Lynn’s talent for creating simmering tension and heat between her characters is immense.
Savannah knows that this will cause Rowan and her family pain, so she keeps her true relationship with Mike a secret. Mike is there for Savannah 100%. He would do anything for her, and he soon opens up about his family history and what moulded him and made him into a fighter. I really loved Mike and I couldn’t help but root for him after what life had thrown at him since childhood. Then Tommy’s death brings everything crashing down upon him.
There is a degree of selfishness between Savannah’s defensiveness about seeing Mike, especially towards Rowan. And this is my biggest critique of the story. The pacing felt really iffy. It’s only a couple 6 weeks or so after the funeral of Tommy that Mike and Savannah started seeing one another. There was some heavy foreshadowing of a sequel that missed the mark for me also. Rowan had just lost her husband and hints of sequel bait between her and Zane, with Savannah making comments about them, was way too soon for my liking. I was like, woah, sloooow down.
While I enjoyed Mike and Savannah’s romance, I wished the pacing wasn’t so soon after Tommy’s death. Poor Rowan shouldn’t have had to deal with her sister-in-law forming and then sleeping with the guy who accidentally killed her husband.
There is a lot of tension in this book and Savannah has to deal with the fact Mike is a fighter and he will probably go back into the ring. So this book isn’t an easy read at times and my emotions were all over the place reading it, which is a testament to Cherrie Lynn’s writing. Rowan and Savannah love one another deeply and there’s a scene towards the end with Savannah’s parents that give some closure between them all for Tommy.
I can’t wait to read more in the series, especially Rowan and Zane, despite my issues with the pacing. I’m more interested in Mike’s other brother, Damien, who is a gambler and seems to play outside the rule of law.
Raw Deal is a deeply emotional and tense read. The romance is sexy and hot, but by no means is it an easy read because there is so much pain and grief, but also a whole lot of love between the characters.
I give Raw Deal a B