MINI-REVIEW: Nalini Singh’s ROCK HARD, Or “T-Rex and The Mouse”

Rock_HardMiss Bates knows Nalini Singh as a popular PNR author. Miss Bates doesn’t read PNR – not since she was traumatized by one Blackdagger Brotherhood title she picked up “impulsively” – but Singh’s Slave To Sensation was on AAR’s Top 100 Romance Reads and that left her curious. When it was cheaply available on audio, Miss Bates listened to it in fits and starts – because it bored her silly. The overwrought growly hero and tough-as-nails-but-really-vulnerable heroine – why must PNR heroines sound so pugnacious? – and keeping track of the various groups/packs and other growly males was tedious; she got through it, but doesn’t care to repeat the experience. As a result, she was wary of Singh contemporary romance “Rock Kiss” series, but wanted to give Singh one last try.

Singh’s Rock Hard is light on plot and primarily focussed on the relationship between Gabriel Bishop, former NZ rugby star, and office clerk, though soon promoted to PA, Charlotte Baird. Gabriel is brought in as CEO to save the luxury good store chain Charlotte works for. Gabriel’s specialty is to swoop in and ruthlessly but fairly, bolster failing companies and render them competitive and profitable. He recognizes Charlotte’s superior abilities under her diffident, bespectacled, mousy appearance and ensures she has the company position she fulfilled all along – doing others’ work. As he cuts a swathe through the company, rewarding loyalty, work ethic, and smarts, Charlotte guides and assists him. His attraction to her and hers to him is, of course, immediate and powerful. He recognizes her qualities, but also her “bitable” lips and soft blonde curls. her “pocket Venus” of a bod and beautiful smile. She’s smitten with him as well: his steel-grey eyes, broad shoulders, and sheer hugeness draw her. But something is very wrong in the city of Aukland (which, BTW, sounds magnificent): it’s obvious Charlotte was once hurt and is still traumatized, inspiring Gabriel’s protective instincts. He wants her to open up to him because he’s ready to ensure her safety and love her body and soul.

From Rock Hard‘s opening to closing page, Singh constructs her narrative on the foundation of a singular conceit: the analogy of Gabriel’s “T-Rex” size and personality to Charlotte’s “mouse.” It is charming and humorous (and also used to great effect epigraphically). Here is an early example:

“Ms Baird.”

Jerking around at the sound of that deep male voice, Charlotte said, “Yes.” It came out a squeak.

“Have you been here all day?” Gabriel Bishop’s eyes – cold, hard, incisive – pinned her to the spot, his big body blocking out the light.

She nodded, her voice having deserted her totally by this point. The man was a wall of pure muscle, like some Greek god carved by an adoring artist.

“In that case,” he said, “I’m sure you’re hungry. We’ll go to a bistro I know nearby for dinner.” It wasn’t an invitation but an order.

This early scene establishes Gabriel’s size, intelligence, and ability to protect and care for Charlotte. Charlotte’s trauma from an abusive ex runs deep, though she’s come a long way, getting a job, living on her own, and standing up to T-Rex. T-Rex/Gabriel is definitely an example of a man whose bark is worse than his bite. Soon, instead of uncertainty, Charlotte comes to feel defiance and her defiance results in confidence. Gabriel, in the meantime, is a goner for Charlotte. He realizes, however, how carefully he must tread to win her confidence, delectable bod, and heart.

Singh’s romance kept Miss Bates’ attention and the T-Rex/Mouse conceit amused her. Nothing really wowed her, though. Singh’s Rock Hard doesn’t deviate from what Miss Bates experienced when she listened to Slave To Sensation: alpha male, protective and big, meets broken heroine, helps her heal, and gives her sexual pleasure as she gains in confidence – in T-Rex’s/Gabriel’s case, he also gives her a diamond bracelet and a lot of frothy coffees and cupcakes. There is some complexity to Charlotte’s realization that Gabriel, thanks to his childhood trauma of paternal abandonment, is a workaholic. And she helps him with that. There is fun to Charlotte and Gabriel’s verbal sparring. And, if you’re into this kind of thing, the love scenes are quite explicit. In the first third of the novel, the writing is serviceable, but clunky and wordy too. It improves and the pace clips along, despite a dearth of plot – of course, the evil ex has to figure at some point. Miss Bates will let her readers decide if Singh’s Rock Hard is sufficiently intriguing to be worth a read. As for Miss Bates, she doubts she’ll be going back for more of the same. Miss Austen says of Singh’s Rock Hard “tolerable comfort,” Mansfield Park.

Nalini Singh’s Rock Hard is, Miss Bates believes, self-published. It has been available since March 10th, in “e” and paper, at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC, via Netgalley.

12 thoughts on “MINI-REVIEW: Nalini Singh’s ROCK HARD, Or “T-Rex and The Mouse”

  1. FWIW, I felt just about the same as you describe about Rock Hard, and I liked Rock Addiction (1st in series) about the same amount (OK, but no knocking off of socks), but totally loved the middle of the series novella, Rock Courtship. As is often the case with MissBatesReads, I enjoyed your review as much, or more, than the books themselves.

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    • Thank you so much for those kind words! Writing MissBatesReads means having great readers like you and that’s why I love doing it! Thanks for the tip regarding “Rock Courtship”: maybe smaller bites of Singh work better?

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  2. True Confession 1: I used to read all PNR, all the time. As a matter of fact, PNR is what brought me back into the romance reading. Nalini Singh’s Psy Changeling series was a series I loved and waited breathlessly for each new installment. Until about the fifth book. Then it began to fall apart for me. And yes, it was time consuming to keep up with all the minutiae. I was in information overload and couldn’t really enjoy the story. I began to feel I needed a notebook to keep track of all the Powers! Alphas! Groups! Oh my! At any rate, I never followed her over to contemporary.

    True Confhession Nhumhber 2: During my PNR phase I, too, phicked uhp a fhew of those Bhlack Dhagger (shorry! Erm, I mean sorry!) bhooks, but nevher opened the first one. By that time I’d rediscovered historical romance and PNR slowly fhaded ahway.

    Contemporary, for me, these days, consists of those delightful amuse-bouches known as HPs, be they 30 years old or hot off the press last month. They’re (usually!) a perfect little bite of romance, just the right size, packed with a ton of characterization and plot into a relatively small amount of pages, and generally leave me with a smile on my face.

    Your reviews are always delightful to read whether the book worked for you or didn’t, and I always finish them knowing exactly what worked, what didn’t, and why. Though I am intrigued with the “mouse” aspect of Charlotte’s character (I love when a “mouse” learns to ROAR!), I think I’ll stick to my HPs for now. 🙂

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    • I have to admit that the Blackdagger title, I can’t remember which one, I do remember the heroine had been very ill, and the hero was big and protective, fascinated me, even while I knew I didn’t love it as steady rom-fare. I found something quite compelling to it … but when I was done, I didn’t really want to go back. I think I may have even read one more BDBrohood book, with a hero who’d been tormented and abused: I really didn’t like that one at all. I would say the same for this, if the Mousy Who Learns To Roar interests you, it’s a read that clips along and is quite amusing.

      Sigh, I’m a sucker for the HP, or any category romance: they really are the mainstay of the genre. As for the alphas, betas, omegas, packs, rival packs etc. of PNR, my reader mind just can’t get around it: this is why I’ve never been able to read fantasy. I just can’t remember all the worlds and creatures and things. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I even had trouble with Tolkien … except when I could gaze on Viggo, I knew he was the good guy. 😉

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  3. I love reading your take on books I’ve read, even when we disagree 😀 I liked this one a lot better myself, and loved the focus on Charlotte’s overcoming of her issues. I felt that, for once, enough weight was given to the aftereffects of violence on a romance heroine.

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    • Aw, thank you: that means a lot to me! I agree with you: the novel’s focus really is on Charlotte and her recovery (she was half-way there) from what “Dick” did to her. I liked that too, but it seems to be, in retrospect, that her immediate trust in Gabriel was less palatable/believable. I don’t think it would come that easily. Mind you, he’s so utterly charming and funny … 😉

      I’m curious to know if you’ve read Tracy Wolff’s Unguarded, which treats the same issue in a sensitive and interesting way? I can’t remember that it’s wholly successful, but what book is, after all?

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  4. 1. I am entirely with you, Miss B, on PNRs. I struggle reading them. I could not bear the Brotherhood books but I see the appeal for their audience. The only PNR I did like (though did not love) was Gail Carriger’s Soulless.

    2. I visited Auckland for the first time last week. It was a fabulous city! I’d trust Nalini’s description of it 🙂

    3. I have tried to read NSingh’s books – both her PNR and straight contemporaries and I have yet to find one that gets me past the first few pages. Your review convinces me to wait for another title.

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    • I’d be hard pressed to be able to think of a PNR I enjoyed and there aren’t any in my keeper shelf. Yes, I agree on Ward’s Blackdagger Brohood books: I see their appeal, but they don’t appeal to me.

      Auckland was the best part of the book! You’re blessed you got to visit!

      After two books, I allow myself to say that I’d be loathe to try another book of said author’s.

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