Review: Further to Fall by Catherine Cowles

further to fallTitle: Further to Fall

Author: Catherine Cowles

Year of publication: Out today! The author kindly gave me a copy to read and review

The heroine: Schoolteacher Carter McCarthy

The hero: MMA fighter/gym owner Austin Lyons

The blurb: An up-and-coming MMA fighter trying to take on the world. An innocent teacher trying to make the world a better place.

He never expected her to become his best friend. But she fought her way into his life, one tongue-lashing at a time. Until one night, one mistake tore them apart.

Losing her… that gutted him. But now, as one of the top fighters in the world, he’s back and determined to battle for his girl. But, from the sidelines, someone watches. Someone who’ll do just about anything to keep them apart.

Their second chance might be over before it even begins…

Standalone or series: Standalone

The review: Carter McCarthy is an adorable heroine. She’s funny and smart and bubbly, and there’s a lot to like about her. One of her childhood best friends is Liam, now a famous singer. They both live in LA and Carter is just about to start a job there with her best female friend, Taylor. With another new friend in Ford, whom she meets through Liam, Carter is ready for this new phase in her life.

What she’s not ready for is Austin Lyons, a friend of Liam’s who used to be his bodyguard. He dismisses her as a groupie the first time they meet and Carter is less than impressed. Austin, for his part, has no time for women. Cheated on, betrayed and cleaned out financially by the woman he loved, he’s never going to trust another woman again. So he’s not really interested in playing nice with Carter, but when Liam calls him on his atrocious behaviour, he decides to wipe the slate clean and declare a truce.

After that, Carter and Austin become friends. He finds her adorable, nicknaming her Firecracker. They hang out together, and he grows fond of all her quirks, such as dipping fries into her vanilla shake from In-N-Out. For her part, Carter loves spending time with Austin. He lets his guard down and she sees his softer side. As the month pass, they spend every spare moment together.

When Carter reports her suspicions that one of her young students is being mistreated by his father, it sets off a chain of events that leads to her being attacked by the father in question. Austin races to her side, and it’s while she’s in hospital that he realises she’s wormed her way into his heart in a way he never intended for her to. Still, he resists his attraction, convinced a sweet, sunny Carter could do so much better than a broken man like him.

In the meantime, Carter realises she has fallen in love with Austin, but is convinced he doesn’t feel the same way. She realises it’s time to lay all her cards on the table and take a step back for her own sanity. When an incident involving a drunk Austin leaves her in tears, she meets him for breakfast and tells him how she feels about him. Stupidly, he denies feeling the same way and gets all huffy because Carter says she needs for them to take a break from each other. He doesn’t bother fighting for her, just gets up and walks away, and I wanted to smack him so badly for being so stupid.

A whole year passes. Austin goes on to become a champion MMA fighter in his category as he’s always wanted to be, and is now famous; he’s bought the old gym he used to train in. Carter has started dating a fellow teacher, Kyle, but there is no spark like she had with Austin and she eventually ends it.

Austin thinks he has it all now, but he realises that something is missing in his life. Someone is missing, and he’s determined to get her back, even though it’s been an entire year. Liam agrees to put him back in touch with Carter, and Austin asks Carter to help him with a youth program he wants to start at the gym. She agrees, because she’s missed her best friend, the man who makes her world brighter. This time, it’s Austin who’s up front: he doesn’t want to be her friend. He wants much more than friendship from her.

Carter is wary. Austin broke her heart a year ago, and she’s not going to just jump into a relationship with him. So they take it slowly, but when it’s clear that Carter has a stalker, Austin refuses to leave her side, and they eventually give in to the heat between them.

This was a beautifully written, slow burn, friends to lovers romance – a wonderful debut from this author that will suck you in and keep you reading until the wee hours. I loved both of these characters so much and they were so great together, I didn’t want this book to end. A fabulous debut from an author worth watching.