Cherish Hard is the first novel in the Hard Play series by Nalini Singh.
Finished on: 11.4.2021
[Here’s my review of Rock Hard that is the last of this series, but also second of her Rock Kiss series.]
Ísa dreams of having the kind of stable family she never had growing up. But for that she first needs to find a partner who is just as ready to settle down as she is. The hot gardener working at her school, Sailor, does not fit that bill. Running his own business with ambitious plans for his future and a few years younger than her, he is certainly not the kind of guy she is looking for. And yet, Ísa can’t keep her eyes off him. When fate, or rather Ísa’s CEO mother, forces them to work together, it’s the possibility for Sailor to convince Ísa that he is in it for the long haul – because he is head over heels for her.
Cherish Hard is a fun read, but not one of Singh’s best novels, I’d say. I liked both Ísa and Sailor, but I wasn’t as invested in their story as I would have liked – or even expected to be.
Ísa and Sailor were definitely a nice couple and I enjoyed reading about them, no question about it. But I was a little taken aback by how far they really went into the heteronormative dream. I mean, Singh’s novels generally aren’t the most subversive in that regard, but in this one it’s really honed to a fine point: Ísa takes care of everyone and wants to have babies asap, while Sailor is obsessed with his career and has to figure out how to give enough space to family (but not at the cost of his career, no sir).
I think it was that dynamic most of all that kept me at a bit of a distance from their story. I noticed that I was most engaged whenever the book gave us quick glimpses of Ísa’s best friend Nayna and her adventure with Raj (the protagonists of book 2 in the series, so I guess I’ll be continuing). In any case, I was nowhere near as deep into it as I was with Gabriel and Charlie (the protagonists of Rock Hard).
But I don’t want to make it seem like I didn’t enjoy the book, because mostly I enjoyed it a lot. I was looking for something light and fluffy to read, and Cherish Hard absolutely gave me that. I liked how Ísa and Sailor worked through their problems (by actually – gasp – communicating with each other), and I liked that Sailor was (a little) younger than Ísa and it was not that much of a deal.
There is an overall warmth to the novel that is definitely nice to have in a romance novel. And even if I didn’t burn with those two, I did bask in that warmth.