In His Corner by Vina Arno
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They call him “The Juggernaut.”
At age 22, Tommy Raines is an Olympic gold-winning middleweight boxer. He’s got a promising career ahead of him and has sworn off women while he focuses on his training and preparations for turning pro.
Then he meets Dr. Siena Carr.
When Tommy walks into Siena’s emergency room in need of stitches, the physical attraction between them is strong. But they are the epitome of opposites attract. Siena is a 26-year-old ER physician with a blue blood upbringing. Her family owns three houses and frequently vacations in the Hamptons. Siena’s crowd consists of other successful doctors, of the same Ivy League caliber as herself.
Conversely, Tommy’s upbringing was the definition of working class. His father was a former Marine who taught him how to box when Tommy was just a young child. His dad would walk out on the family when Tommy was still a kid, leaving Tommy’s mom to raise him as a single parent. Despite these personal struggles, Tommy has become a successful boxer, making it to the London Olympics and taking home the gold.
She healed people. He knocked them out. They were opposites.
Despite their surface differences, Tommy and Siena pursue a romantic relationship. But it’s not easy for either of them. Although Tommy has an impressive list of accomplishments as a boxer, he feels somewhat unworthy of Siena. She’s cultured, high class, and refined. He refers to his friends as his crew/homies, and he knows nothing about the fancy food/wine/art that Siena’s so familiar with. On top of this, Siena’s ex, a fellow doctor, raises Tommy’s hackles and incites his jealousy, causing him to go a bit caveman and stake his claim on Siena.
A central theme of the book is that both Tommy and Siena feel that the other is trying to change them. Given that they’re such polar opposites, it’s human nature to want to try to please the other person, even if it means stepping outside of their comfort zone and doing things they wouldn’t normally do–whether it’s the way they dress, the way they talk, the places they hang out, the music they listen to, or the movies they watch. But at what cost? Eventually, resentments start to form. Tommy starts to believe that Siena’s too much of a snob to lower herself to his level. In turn, Siena feels that she’s compromising who she is as a doctor and healer because Tommy’s job as a boxer is, by nature, a violent profession. She doesn’t think she can support his career because she’s so uncomfortable with its violence and how it makes her feel.
I know I’m a novelty to you. But I didn’t realize that’s all I am to you.
I love a good opposites attract story. In many ways, Tommy and Siena are star-crossed lovers. They come from such different worlds and backgrounds–but their emotional and physical connection to each other is very real. On paper, it makes no sense for them to be together. The boxer and the doctor: no one saw this coming. Can they find a way to be together? Can they learn to truly negotiate and mesh their lives together? It’s a struggle for sure, but in the end, the reward is sweet. I cheered for Tommy and Siena to figure things out because even though it doesn’t make sense for them to be a couple, it’s clear that they’re both happiest when they’re together.
They were transforming each other. What was love but a continuous tide of change? What mattered was that it made them closer and stronger.
While I read a lot of sports romances, I don’t read many with boxer heroes, so I wasn’t sure if my interest would be held with regard to the boxing details. Surprisingly, I felt quite a bit of suspense during Tommy’s first big fight as a pro. The writing held my interest without being too technical or gory.
Something else that surprised me was how much the characters grew on me during the duration of the book. Initially, Tommy comes across as a bit crass and crude, but over time he becomes endearing and actually very, very sweet. I had trouble warming up to Siena since she’s so uptight, but as she learns to loosen up, I grew to like her a little more. She’s still a bit snobby at the end of the book, but at least she’s more aware of it and hopefully intent on reining in that personality trait.
Overall, I enjoyed In His Corner and recommend it.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my review.