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Love on the Ropes    by Pat White order for
Love on the Ropes
by Pat White
Order:  USA  Can
Love Spell, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Wrestling ring hi-jinks and romance are the order of the day in Pat White's Love on the Ropes. DEA agent, Jason McBain, has spent the last three months working a grueling undercover operation and is not impressed when his annoying boss announces his next assignment: playing a professional wrestler at BAM to nab whoever's distributing steroids to high school kids. He's even more incensed when he learns that he's going in as a heel (bad guy) by the name of Jack the Stripper. Knowing his asinine boss will make his life hell if he refuses, Jason reluctantly agrees, figuring that posing as a professional idiot will be a cakewalk. He could endure a few body slams and sleepers any day of the week. But his cocky attitude gets rearranged only moments after setting foot in the practice ring and gets even more stirred up when BAM's beautiful physical therapist, Sandy Ryan, ministers to his cuts and bruises.

Sandy has been involved with BAM her whole life: both her dad and her older brother are part of the franchise and she knows well that the profession ruins lives. Her mother walked out years ago and her dad's use of steroids has compromised his health. One day she hopes to leave BAM behind and set up shop on her own. She's also determined to never again get romantically involved with a pro wrestler. But when Jack the Stripper walks in with his attitude and skimpy costume, Sandy wonders if she'll have to rewrite her golden rule. However, she quickly senses that under the flash and bravado is a man with very real vulnerabilities and self doubt - ones she somehow understands, relates to, and wants to fix. She knows she should run the other way before her heart gets trampled on again, but when BAM's boss teams the pair in the squared circle, Sandy finds that she has nowhere to run except right into Jack's waiting arms.

Pat White scores another winner with Love on the Ropes. Genuinely quirky characters - especially some of the other wrestlers (most portrayed as real gentlemen outside the ring) - add depth, as well as wonderful moments of wry humor to the story. But they never detract from Jason and Sandy's sympathetic portrayal or their poignant and fiery relationship. And while the ringside antics of BAM's heels and good guys are sometimes hilariously over the top, White reins things in at exactly the right moments, keeping her story fresh, funny and eminently readable while still adding a bit of mystery surrounding the identity of BAM's steroid dealer. If you like contemporary romances that are out of the norm, then add Love on the Ropes to your reading list.

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