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Can't Hold Back: A Returning Home Novel

Can't Hold Back: A Returning Home Novel

4.5 26
by Serena Bell
In this tender military romance from the bestselling author of Hold on Tight—perfect for fans of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery—a war-shattered veteran gets a second chance at love with the one that got away.

No girl can resist a man in uniform—especially if that man is Nate Riordan. But after an injury in the line of duty


In this tender military romance from the bestselling author of Hold on Tight—perfect for fans of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery—a war-shattered veteran gets a second chance at love with the one that got away.

No girl can resist a man in uniform—especially if that man is Nate Riordan. But after an injury in the line of duty leaves Nate broken, body and soul, the soldier finds himself addicted to his pain meds, with no place to call home. Desperate for an escape, Nate reluctantly accepts a friend’s invitation to a new veterans’ retreat. Expecting a little R&R, Nate is shocked when the sight of his physical therapist opens up another old wound: heartbreak.

Years ago, Alia Drake fell hard for Nate, but never made her move. Instead, she set up her sister with the sexy, confident military man, a foolish decision that continues to haunt all three of them. Now, with Nate as her patient, she can make things right—even if it means getting too close for comfort. A healing touch and a little honesty work wonders, fueling a physical intimacy that crosses professional boundaries. This time, with desire in the air once more, Alia won’t hold anything back.

Praise for Can’t Hold Back

Can’t Hold Back is a lovely story of second chances and new beginnings. Wounds that go deeper than physical pain are the most difficult to heal.”New York Times bestselling author Kathy Clark

“With deceit and forgiveness, pain and addiction, healing and a second chance at love, Can’t Hold Back has it all. You do not want to miss this sexy story of a soldier coming home.”—Wendy S. Marcus, award-winning author of All I Need Is You

“This sweet story is full of physical and emotional healing.”Publishers Weekly

“It’s a heartwarming story and I enjoyed it very much. I look forward to seeing what else this series may bring.”—Hines and Bigham’s Literary Tryst
“A great love story.”—Becky on Books and Quilts
“I am absolutely loving this series and can’t wait for the next installment!”—Twin Spin

“Sweet, realistic and sexy as hell . . . I inhaled this book on a wet Sunday afternoon, and it was time well spent! Serena Bell writes some seriously smart, funny and sexy stories. They always hit you right in the gut.”—I Love Romantic Fiction

Can’t Hold Back is a wonderful example of great writing, careful weaving of emotions and reality into a special situation, and, of course, great, passionate and sexy romance. Grab this second-chance romance today.”—The Book Hammock (4 1/2 stars)

“By the end of the book you love not only Nate, but also Alia. Serena Bell did a fabulous job with this novel.”—Sam’s Ramblings

“Romance could do with a bit of examination of the problematic aspects of the female-as-caretaker role. Which is why, perhaps, I so enjoyed Serena Bell’s latest contemporary romance.”—Romance Novels for Feminists

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bell’s second Returning Home novel (after Hold On Tight) continues to pay homage to military servicemembers in this contemporary Cyrano story. Physical therapist Alia Drake’s life is defined by helping others. She thrives on being needed and jumps at the chance to help anybody, even if it means sacrificing her own desires. Veteran Nate Riordan was attracted to Alia the moment he met her, but to his dismay, she quickly passed him off to her beautiful younger sister, Becca, who suffers from low self-esteem around her learning disability. Alia helps Becca correspond with Nate when he’s deployed to Afghanistan, and her own feelings become evident in her writing. When Nate admits his growing love for his correspondent, the two women confess that Alia’s been writing letters under Becca’s name, and he ceases all communication with them. Years later, an injured Nick becomes Alia’s patient, and they’re both forced to face what might have been. This sweet story is full of physical and emotional healing, and it sets up several possibilities for future books in the series. Agent: Emily Sylvan Kim, Prospect Agency. (Oct.)

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Returning Home , #2
Sold by:
Random House
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1 MB

Read an Excerpt

Can't Hold Back

A Returning Home Novel

By Serena Bell

Random House

Copyright © 2015 Serena Bell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-101-88675-5


Two Years Later

"Come off the foam roller and take a moment to lie on your back," Alia told her class.

Four soldiers slid to their yoga mats in the dim studio.

"How does it feel?"

She held her breath, because she wanted so badly for this class to be a success, and now all she could do was cross her fingers and hope that her best had been good enough.

A few sighs and a moan answered her. The tall redheaded former comm officer said, "Like I'm lying in a trench."

"That's right," she teased. "While you were on the roller, I went around and dug trenches for all of you."

The sensation was an illusion, created because they'd been resting for so long on their backs on the foam roller, letting their shoulder blades sink toward the floor, opening the muscles along their spines. Now that they were on the floor, their brains were sending them the message that the ground was indented.

They'd all started class today with chips on their shoulders. Three of the four had shown up as a favor to Jake, who ran the R&R veterans' retreat and was Alia's new, temporary boss. The fourth had come willingly but tried to leave once he discovered that they weren't going to be using the Reformer machines, which resembled medieval torture devices more than exercise equipment. All of them had grumbled and sulked, and she'd indulged in a moment of worry that maybe this whole thing had been a bad idea.

Then she'd taken a deep breath, cracked her mental knuckles, and bulled through it. She'd jollied and teased them, leading them through stretching and strengthening and breathing exercises, until the starch had gone out of their attitudes, one by one. Big, tough, ripped men; men who'd shot and killed, fought for their survival, their countries, their buddies; men who were scarred, in chronic pain, struggling to learn to move with prostheses — limp as rags on their mats.

Now, finally, she let herself relax and savor her success — and their comfort. None of them showed the slightest sign of wanting to move, ever.

"Rest as long as you want," she told them. "No one's coming in for another hour. Raise your hand if you want me to bring a blanket to cover you."

They all raised their hands, and her smile broadened. She brought them blankets and covered them. And they let her, like they'd accepted her as Mama Bear.

These were not men who frequently let down their guards, not men who slept well at night — or ever. She'd given them something they needed desperately, and, God, she loved that.

She heard a tap on the studio's window and looked up to see Jake.

"I'll be right outside, guys."

She went to the door and slipped out. "Hey."

"You won them over."

She grinned, pleased with herself. "And you said movement therapy would be a tough sell for guys who got a little light exercise by running up mountains with a hundred pounds on their backs."

"I stand corrected."

The admiration was plain in his voice. Excellent. Because if she did a good job here during her two-week temporary gig, there was a chance he'd hire her on permanently. And that meant —

That meant not having to go back there.

At the thought of her old job, the tension crept back into her neck and shoulders. Sigh.

"So, hey," Jake said, more serious. "I screwed up. And I need you to not hate me for it."


"I could never hate you," she hazarded.

The hesitation in her voice made them both laugh, but he quickly got serious. "I'm taking off in an hour, but something's ... come up."

Jake was headed to the airport to take a five-year-anniversary trip to Hawaii with his wife, Mira, which was why he'd asked Alia to come to R&R for two weeks, to fill in for him during his absence.

"I totally forgot you knew him."

"Knew who?"

"Mira reminded me. That you guys knew each other."

"Jake, what are you talking about?"

She wouldn't yap that way at just any boss, but Jake was a good friend. They'd been at PT school together, not only study and drinking buddies, but also deep admirers of each other's work and perspective, which was why Jake had called her when he'd needed someone to fill in.

"Nate Riordan's here."

All the air went out of her lungs.

"I know it might be weird, since he was with Becca —"

Oh, if only that had been all of it. Nate had indeed dated Becca, and that alone — given that the relationship had ended badly — might have been awkward enough, but Jake didn't know the half of it. Or she hoped he didn't.

Jake sighed. Her wariness must have been all over her face.

"He was discharged — medical — a couple months ago and I tried to get him to come then, but he wasn't having it. He's been living in an apartment in Portland with his cousin, but his cousin met a woman he's serious about, so that's not happening anymore. Basically, all I know is that he had fourth-order blast injuries, moderate traumatic brain injury, some memory loss and cognitive impairment at first, but big improvements on that front. But it sounds like he also has some mystery pain. He's been back a couple months and he's been taking a lot of painkillers, but he quit a few days ago —"

"Cold turkey?"

"Just un-cold-turkey enough not to kill himself, I think," Jake said. "He's in pretty bad shape now. Out of the worst of it, but you know what that's like."

She did. There was no worse pain than the pain unmasked when an opiate haze lifted.

"Why'd he do that? Quit taking the pills?" She couldn't judge, without seeing and talking to him, whether quitting painkillers was the right choice for him, but going nearly cold turkey was brutal.

"All he told me is he has something important to do and he needs to be clearheaded. You'll have to ask him. He wasn't very forthcoming about anything. He mainly said he needed a place to go, and wanted to know if my offer of him coming here was still open. I said, 'Hell, yeah.' And then Mira reminded me about his history with Becca. So, look, if it's going to be too weird, we can figure something out."

She did not want to tell Jake she couldn't hack this. He was supposed to be on an airplane in an hour, and she was supposed to be the woman who could handle anything that came up while he was gone. In their phone conversation, when he'd called to ask if he could fill in for her, he'd made it clear that he thought the toughest part of the job was the emotional burden of dealing with psychically and physically injured soldiers. She had to show him she had enough strength and perspective to do this. She couldn't afford to be high-maintenance now over some guy her sister had dated. Even if —

Even if he wasn't just some guy her sister had dated.

But for all intents and purposes, that was all he'd been. Right?

And she did not want to go back to Elijah Bay Rehab.

The day before Jake's call had been a pretty typical day at Elijah Bay. Her last appointment of the day had been with seventy-two-year-old Mrs. Stenno, who'd arrived buoyant. She'd washed her own hair that morning for the first time since the stroke, and had gotten it squeaky clean. Her daughter had declared her capable of taking care of herself and was planning to move back home.

I get my house back, she'd said giddily.

Alia lived for those moments.

But then, after Alia ushered Mrs. Stenno out, her supervisor had called her into his office, in his ironside battleship voice.

"This isn't a yoga retreat, Alia. Chris Price says you were using some kind of tapping technique on Mrs. Stenno? And when I had to take Elisabeth Toole for you last week, she wanted to do 'the visualization stuff I do with Alia.' You're wasting patient time. You're wasting my time."

She took a deep breath. "I'm getting results."

She had proof, and not just anecdotal proof. She had better recovery times than the other PTs. She had better recovery times than her supervisor.

And that, she knew, was at the heart of this.

"I've told you before how I feel about the earthy-crunchy-granola stuff."

This wasn't the first time he'd confronted her, and her pent-up frustration threatened to break from its bonds. She made herself take a few deep breaths. "Tapping and visualization aren't earthy-crunchy. They're pain-management best practices."

"You don't decide what's best practices at Elijah Bay," her supervisor said darkly. "I decide what's best practices at Elijah Bay. And if I hear anything else about this kind of bullshit, you can find yourself another job."

She made up her mind then that she would. But it had to be a certain kind of opportunity. Because physical therapy wasn't just a job for her. Relieving other people's pain, helping them to live full, active lives despite setbacks or permanent disabilities — it was her passion. And she wanted to do it in a setting where she could really make a difference.

That was why she'd been so thrilled the next day when Jake had called her with the temporary offer. R&R was the perfect opportunity.

Some women her age — twenty-six — might not love the idea of going to live in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Not exactly the best place to build a social life or meet a mate. But Alia was different. She knew she didn't need romance to be happy. Friendship, yes; human love and kindness and companionship, yes — all of which she had in spades from her Seattle buddies and her amazing sister — but romantic love, not so much. It had a way of going awry for her, leaving her out in the cold. She wanted to walk a different path, a path of service and purpose. She wanted to be where she was needed.

She wanted to give something back to these men who had given so much themselves.

So, yeah, no way she was going to refuse to help Nate, regardless of history. She was a professional, a big girl with a mission that didn't include fussing over an old crush. If the cost of working for Jake at R&R was that she had to be in close quarters with Nate, she could handle that. Besides, she owed Nate. If she could give him some peace, some relief, maybe it would help compensate for — for what she'd done.

"Of course I'll work with him. The thing with Becca isn't an issue."

That for sure was a lie wrapped in the truth. Nate's relationship with Becca might have been short-lived — maybe even doomed from the start — but there was nothing small or simple about the tangle Alia had managed to make of it.

Jake exhaled deeply, and Alia realized he'd been prepared for her to say no. "Well, good. I'll run past Sibby's desk and schedule Nate in today or tomorrow. Can't imagine anyone I'd trust more with his well-being. And can't imagine any hands I'd feel more comfortable leaving my patients in. This means a lot to me and to Mira."

She shoved him lightly. "Go on. Get out of here. Enjoy your trip. Don't give any of this another thought."

He saluted her, turned sharply on one foot, and marched off. She laughed.

But she wasn't laughing as she turned back toward the studio, where her relaxed soldiers were snoring in stereo.

I hope your trust in me is justified, Jake.

Because she'd been a fool more than once before, where Nate Riordan was concerned.


Nate lifted a kayak off the rack, and a spasm of pain in his shoulder caught him off guard. The kayak tilted, and he righted it quickly and lowered it to the ground. Cracking the resort's kayak wouldn't be a good way to return the favor Jake had done by taking him in.

He was damn grateful to Jake. For inviting him to stay at R&R, and for keeping the offer open even after Nate had stubbornly refused it the first time. And he was grateful to Braden and his grandparents, for giving him a project. A reason to get clean and stay that way, something to hold on to as he'd flushed the last oxys down the toilet. A purpose to cling to as he'd picked up the phone and dialed Jake's number and on the long drive down from Seattle, when the pain in his head and neck had filled his mind and almost drowned out the Mariners game on the radio.

But somehow he'd kept his eyes on the road and his foot on the gas.

I got this, J.J.

He rubbed his shoulder, shrugged it a few times, but that only made things worse. He was going to have to bull through it today. And tomorrow. And the next day.

He crossed to the shed for a life jacket and a paddle.

The pain was mysterious and ever-changing. Sometimes it was a stab behind his eyes or a wave of nausea, the migraines he'd been told to expect in a wake of the blast. More frequently, it was his neck, his shoulders, his back, all of which had taken a beating when the blast had thrown him. That made sense. But sometimes the pain obeyed no logic. It started in one place and spread, lighting up points all over his body until he felt patched together out of signal flares of pain. Here! And Here! And Here again! Or it was everywhere at once, like the flu, an ache that told him where he began and the rest of the world ended.

It had definitely been worse since he'd watched his pain meds spin in the water funnel.

He'd seriously contemplated snatching them back up. He knew what that meant. You only thought about putting your hands in the toilet to recover melting tablets if you were an addict. And of course he'd known, long before he'd flushed, that he was. But there was nothing like having it spelled out. This drug owns you.

This pain owns you.

But he didn't care about that right now. He was going to do this, keep moving forward, haul himself bodily over every obstacle, and cling to the incline with bleeding fingertips if necessary.

With effort, he slid the kayak to the edge of the dock and into the water. He wedged his paddle behind the seat and slipped in. He'd kayaked a ton as a kid, so he knew the ropes, including self-rescue. Still, he'd forgotten the particular gravity of a slim boat like this one, and as he pushed off, he almost capsized. The effort of stabilizing sent arrows of pain up the right side of his back. Damn.


There was a woman standing on the dock.

Alia Drake.

"We had an appointment." She frowned across the small but growing span of water between them, her arms crossed.

He didn't bother asking how she'd known to look for him here. When he'd headed this way, he'd walked past a group of guys sitting on the back porch. If she was hunting for him, she would have asked them if they'd seen him.

"Sorry," he muttered. Only he wasn't. He'd deliberately blown off the appointment, because — well, for a lot of reasons. Because he'd had enough physical therapy to be sure that whatever was wrong with him, PT wasn't going to fix it. Because he hated medical offices and doctors and nurses and PTs. And most of all, because the last thing he needed right now was Alia Drake.

The space between them was widening. The temptation to start paddling full speed away from her was strong, and the only thing that kept him from doing it was the fact that pain still had his neck in a death grip. He took a deep breath and waited for it to subside.

She turned away from him, and for a moment he thought she'd given up, but then she came toward him with a lifejacket and paddle in her hands. He watched as she lifted a kayak from the rack and dropped it effortlessly into the water.


She slid neatly in, surprisingly graceful for such a tall woman, and pushed off.

"I don't want company."

"Tough. I told Jake I'd help you."

"And this is helping me how?" He was mad enough to look her full in the face, and that was a big mistake.

She looked right back at him, utterly uncowed, and her gray-green eyes were generously fringed with sooty lashes. Her cheeks were pink with anger.

She was startlingly pretty. He'd privately thought her the more beautiful of the two sisters, even though Becca's beauty was more conventional. When Alia had made it clear that she wasn't interested — that her sister was the available one — Nate had given only one backward, regretful glance — metaphorically — before turning his appreciation on Becca.

But now he admired the thick, glossy strands of Alia's straight, medium-length dark hair. She wore no makeup, and he was charmed — against his will — by the freckles scattered over her nose and cheekbones. She was tall for a woman, and strong. On the dock, when her legs had been level with his eyes, he'd surprised himself with the impulse to run his hands over the muscle in her legging-clad thighs and strong bare calves. And yet — he'd noted, before the life jacket and spray skirt had covered most of her — she had curves, too. Nothing showy. Everything in proportion. She looked — real. That was it. As if she were built for purpose, not for any man's entertainment.


Excerpted from Can't Hold Back by Serena Bell. Copyright © 2015 Serena Bell. Excerpted by permission of Random House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

USA Today bestselling author and RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee Serena Bell writes stories about how sex messes with your head, why smart people sometimes do stupid things, and how love can make it all better. She wrote her first steamy romance before she was old enough to understand what all the words meant and has been perfecting the art of hiding pages and screens from curious eyes ever since—a skill that’s particularly useful now that she’s the mother of two school-aged children.

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Can't Hold Back: A Returning Home Novel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
LynnLTX More than 1 year ago
Wounded Hearts In this second novel of Serena Bell’s Returning Home series, Alia, a physical therapist who specializes in pain management, goes to work at a new wounded veterans’ retreat center. She has been in love with Nate, a soldier whom she meet two years ago before he was deployed to the Afghanistan where he was seriously injured just before coming home. Nate was her sister, Becca’s, mostly long distance boyfriend. Becca has some learning disability issues so Alia wrote and messaged with Nate under the guise of being her sister. When he comes home injured both in mind and body, Becca tells Nate the truth which was a very cruel blow. Two years later, racked with pain and survivor’s guilt, Nate gives in to being treated by the woman he feels betrayed him on a deeply emotional level. Alia never meant for things to turn out this way; she hopes to pay back Nate by reliving his suffering so that he can go on with his life. Alia’s compassion for the wounded and suffering at the veteran’s retreat center shows what big a heart she has and tells how she got trapped in the situation with helping Becca until it blew up in her face. Because of a family tragedy, Alia ends up parenting her younger sister and feeling responsible for Becca’s happiness. Giving away the man she wanted to her sister does no one any good. This story has a lot of pain, heartbreak, and main characters who are both quite stubborn but still very likable though at times frustrating. Alia likes taking care of people to the exclusion of her own happiness. Nate feels he owes a debt to his former best buddy in the service. They both have a lot of work to do to find a life together and leave the personal baggage behind. Ms. Bell does a good job of representing what it might be like for soldiers who are hurt both emotionally and physically to deal with those scars after coming home from war. There are a lot of wounded hero romances; this one is particularly well done.
cutiephinphin More than 1 year ago
It took me a while getting into this book. Not that it wasn't a good read. There was quite a bit of tension between Alia and Nate and they were going back and forth with their attraction because of Alia's sister, Becca. However, knowing the insecurities Becca had, there was no way Alia could have ignored them so I had to commend her on her selflessness. Nate had his own baggage after returning from his tour. It was clear that he needed help and it was endearing to read how Alia came through for him. Of course, Alia got to know Nate more personally and that only increased her attraction to him. Combined with the therapy sessions, both were finding hard to fight off the attraction. This book is more than a second chance at love. It is emotional yet uplifting and also gives an insight on what the vets deal with when they return from their tour. This is my first book by Serena Bell and it's not going to be my last. ARC requested via Netgalley, provided by Random House Publishing Group - Loveswept in exchange for a honest review.
Anlenhart1 More than 1 year ago
Can't Hold Back is a modern retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac as seen through eyes of physical therapist Alia and her wounded soldier Nate. They have a complex history that began when Alia decides that Nate is the perfect person for her sister who has a learning disability. Alia starts to help her sister with letters to Nate when he is in Afghanistan, and after her sister loses interest, she become more intrigued. She keeps up the correspondence, until they break up. Both go on with life until Nate is injured and after 4 years eventually lands where Alia is working as a physical therapist. He is in constant pain, and as a result has become addicted to pain killers. Nate learns about Alia's deception, and both struggle to keep their relationship professional. Can they help each other to heal and overcome the past to find a happy future? This book was a worthwhile read that combined a romantic retelling of a classic story and a modern war story that featured a wounded warrior and a healer. It presented a realistic setting and wove the past and present throughout. I was given a free copy for an honest review by netgalley.com
RomanticReadsandSuch More than 1 year ago
Because Alia is so strong and independent I think it is a little harder to like her. Not that she isn’t likable but it makes her a little intimidating because she isn’t very … soft. She’s used to being the one who is strong that it is hard for her to let go. Nate is still trying to get over the incident that left him injured and out of the military. It’s left him in pain both in body and in heart, but now he’s back in Alia’s sphere for help. Neither expects exactly what that is going to mean for them. The history between the two takes a bit to get over, but not as much as you would imagine. It’s more of an issue with the people they are now, how they interact & what they expect from others and what they think their futures should be. It’s such a journey for them from where they were to where they think they are going to where they actually should be. It’s a rough trip but definitely worth it. (This is a follow up to Hold On Tight, but you really can read this one on it’s own. The little bit of influence the first book has here is minute and easily explained. It pretty much revolves around Alia and Nate.) Complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
Shanrock19 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this, and I liked that it was sort of a second chance at love story. Nate is a soldier that has been injured and is in need of rehabilitation, and he is working on his dependence of pain medication. Alia is a physical therapist, and she is working at a soldier rehabilitation place. Alia and Nate knew each other awhile back, and even though Alia was/is really attracted to Nate, she "gives him up" to her sister; which is just stupid, and of course the relationship between Nate and Alia's sister doesn't end up in a good place because Alia and her sister do something that was rather mean to Nate and really themselves. Alia's sister sort of has a learning disability, so Alia feels like she needs to give up her own happiness for her sister; mind you they are adults, so it's just odd, and I thought Alia's actions towards her sister were somewhat degrading. It was like Alia thought her sister couldn't handle her own life and that her sister was just helpless, and because of Alia's coddling, her sister is sort of childish, so that is something I didn't enjoy, and that's one of the reason I knocked this book down a rating. I enjoy reconnection stories, and I like the soldier aspect of this story, and I like to read about soldiers in general, so I like that this book is set at a soldier rehabilitation clinic. I thought Nate and Alia have good chemistry, but I wanted them to be a little bit more needy for each other; mainly Nate, I wanted it to feel more soul deep. There are some steamy scenes between them though! Alia is helping Nate with his physical therapy, so there is lots of contact, which leads to some sexy thoughts, and Alia wants to be professional, but Nate isn't making it easy. Nate and Alia have a few obstacles in their way to being together, the whole Alia needs to be professional thing, the problem from the past between them, both of them have issues, and a friend of Nate's died in the military, so Nate thinks he needs to fill in for him with the soldier's family and business. This book was heartfelt and the romance was sweet, so I would recommend this book to those reader who enjoy romance. I look forward to reading more books in this series!
ReneeEntress More than 1 year ago
4 star The story has laughs, pain, sadness, and heartbreak. If you have not read the below I would recommend reading those books(s) first Hold on Tight (Returning Home, #1) This is Alia and Nate’s story. Alia and Nate knew each other years ago when he dated her sister. There were issues in the relationship when they broke up. Now Nate needs help and is sent to Alia to get the help he needs. Can he accept her help? Or is he still mad about the past? Can they ever overcome the past? Alia wishes she never gave her sister Nate. After falling for him and having to give him up she is not sure she can be around him again. When she agrees to help him she wonders if she will ever be able to apologize enough for the past. Can she ever make up for the guilt she feels? Will he ever understand what happened? When all the truth about the past comes out can they start fresh and build a future or will promises made by Nate hold them back from forever? I felt I was able to connect with the characters and the story was a great read. I recommend this book.
Linda_RochesterNY More than 1 year ago
Sailon More than 1 year ago
Sweet and Sexy, Can’t Hold Back is a military romance with heart and soul. Nate finds himself addicted to pain medication after a percussion injury while serving. Wanting to make a difference, Nate checks himself into a camp for Vets looking for R&R only to find the woman who helped break his heart, Alia. Alia met Nate at a picnic then turned him over to her sister, thinking he couldn't be romantically interested in her. To say it was a bad break up would be an understatement. Leaving Alia's sister and Alia herself both painful memories Nate could do without. Alia has a specialized treatment that might help Nate and Nate is running out of options. This is Alia's chance to heal the brokenness in Nate. This is a story of second chances. Life, love and happiness can all be found in the beautiful love story Can’t Hold Back. I received this ARC copy of Can't Hold Back from Random House Publishing Group - Loveswept in exchange for a honest review.
astroyic More than 1 year ago
Amazonly written story, full of heart, sexual tension, vulnerability, pain and happiness. Both of these characters are likable and have chemistry that is off the charts. Ms. Bell's writing is loaded with descriptive that pulls you in and keeps you till the end. This is a second chance romance but it is also a military survivor story that gives us insight into what these soldiers may deal with when they return home. Alia Drake is a physical therapist who met Nate Riordan at a picnic two years ago. Thinking that this sexy, confident, ripped soldier could not be romantically interested in her, she leaves, letting her sister Becca, the man magnet, to get to know him. But when Becca needs Alia's help writing letters to Nate, Alia finds that they have so much in common and she starts to fall for him. When Becca decides she doesn't want to continue with the long distance romance and ends it with Nate, she explains that Alia helped with all those letters that were written to him and it ends in heart break for all. Now two years later Alia has just been offered a temporary therapist position, to fill in at Jake's Veterans Retreat, when her friend Jake takes his vacation, only to come face to face with Nate again. Nate Riordan is an injured ex-soldier, who suffered a percussion injury while serving that ended his career and his friend J J's life. He is struggling to get his life back and to stop his dependency on pain medication. Wanting to recover and make a difference, he has come to Jake's Retreat for some R&R and to get through his need for pain medications, since he has thrown them all away. He also needs to get in shape so that he can fulfill a unspoken promise to his dead friend JJ that he will take his son on a kayaking trip that they had been planning. But he is in bad shape and although he needs therapy he doesn't want to have anything to do with Alia. But soon he can't stand the pain any longer, and her pain management practices that he doesn't think will help him, he is now willing to try in hopes of some relief. Alia feels that this is the perfect opportunity to help Nate heal. This is her passion, relieving other peoples' pain, helping them to live full, active lives despite setbacks or permanent disabilities. As soon as Alia touches Nate, all of her feelings that she thought she had buried come back to her and although she can't let her heart get hurt again she has to help Nate at any cost. She had to pay him back for their betrayal and to earn his trust again. The heat that is present between them is combustible. Sizzling! This is a Amazingly written story full of forgiveness, happiness, second chances, Love and a great amount of Hotness! You will not want to miss out on this great story. Highly recommend! I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
Lab228 More than 1 year ago
Two years ago Nate and Alia met at a picnic. While there was an immediate attraction between the two, Alia decided to “give” Nate to her sister, Becca. Ok so that was a little annoying. Who “gives” someone to someone else? But Nate went along with it since Alia did not seem interested. After suffering injuries while in the military, Nate finds himself addicted to pain medications and struggling to fit back into civilian life. His friend Jake encourages him to visit his veteran’s retreat. This retreat is geared toward helping veterans deal with not only their physiological issues but also their psychological issues. There is only one problem. Alia is a physical therapist at this ranch. While Nate still feels attracted toward Alia, he can’t forget her involvement in his relationship with her sister. But Nate needs her to help him learn to deal with his pain without pain medications. As they spend more time together, they realize there are still feelings between them. Alia realizes all the time she wrote to Nate it was really her feelings she was expressing not Becca’s. Nate becomes to realize it was Alia’s true feelings that came out in her letters/messages. Even though Becca and Alia were wrong in what they did to Nate, they did it for the right reasons. Alia was trying to help her sister. Alia always thought she had to help her sister, even at her expense. Once Becca confronted Alia, their sister bond became even stronger. There really is not one bad person in this book. This is a story about taking advantage of those second chances. The dialogue flows easily and before you know it you are done. There is not a lot of inner turmoil that takes away from the story. The sex scenes are tastefully and romantically written. I have read a number of other books by this author and this one did not disappoint. Perhaps we will see a story about Becca?
LynnB888 More than 1 year ago
A sweet "finding your way back to each other no matter what" type of story. Alia Drake met Nate Riordan years ago at a get-together at a friend's house. She felt sparks and was intrigued by getting to know him better, but instead she introduced him to her sister who was there with her, and stepped back to let her lil' sis have the nice guy. Things ended poorly, and hard feelings were felt from some secrets that were kept. Fast forward to a couple of years later, and Alia is helping out her friend Jake with his rehab retreat when Nate walks in the door as her patient. Can she get through to him and convince him that her physical therapy can help him manage his pain? Will their time together give them time to get over past hurts? And when they admit to how they feel, can there be a future for the two of them even after all of the past they share? ** Won an ARC in a Facebook Giveaway **
CCarroll More than 1 year ago
I have to say, I fell in love with this amazing book. It started out like any typical romance book. Two sisters and one guy... not sure where that was going. But then you are introduced to some problems. Hurt and betrayal. Deeply emotional but a simmering love beneath it all. Alia and Nate are sweet and endearing characters that I really liked but then the author kicked it up by pouring her heart into this story. Amazing descriptions of an all consuming love that literally takes your breath away and leaves you misty eyed in places, wondering if they can ever figure it all out. Hot, sensual, sexy, and sooooo good! This is not the first book I have read by Serena Bell and I knew when I saw her name on this I had to review it. Amazing writing ability, loaded with description that sucks you in and will not let you go. Gosh, I loved the amazing writing talent shown in this book! This is more than a military romance. This is a military survivor story with the insight of what our vets deal with on a daily basis. A fabulous tribute to the caretakers and vets. It is rare I do 5 stars, but this one deserves it!
tsmb02 More than 1 year ago
Nate Riordan was recently released from the Army because of an injury and having a hard time of it. He started to become addicted to his pain meds and then quit cold turkey. He decided to go to his friend, Jake's place for rehab...anything to make the pain go away. What he doesn't expect to find is Alia Drake, who is working as a Physical Therapist at Jake's place. Nate used to date Alia's sister Becca, but always had feelings for Alia. When Alia finds out from Jake that Nate is there, she is determined to keep things professional. Just because she was the one pretending to be Becca and corresponding with Nate while he was in the Army, Alia thinks she can keep her real feelings for Nate locked away. Of course after all the time these two start to spend together, their feelings for each other start to emerge. I loved how these two tried to deny any feelings they had for each other. I really enjoyed how everything slowly opened up for them. It was a really sweet story with really great characters. I enjoyed learning about issues that veteran's can have after they are released and some of the things that can be done to help them. I really loved the Epilogue...very neat idea!
jeanniezelos More than 1 year ago
Can't Hold Back, A Returning Home Novel,  Serena Bell Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre:  Romance, I really enjoyed Serena’s Hold On Tight, where for once the problems surrounding disability were so accurately portrayed, so I was pleased to get this for review. Once again Serena has written a novel that doesn’t pull punches, doesn’t gloss over issues but lets us see just how devastating they can be to people’s lives. In this book its pain that’s the problem – its so easy to just think “pop a painkiller”, but that doesn’t always work and of course any medication has secondary effects on the body. Pain also is very mentally disabling, you know how for instance when wearing a pair of shoes that rub it affects your whole body, and dominates your mind. Well, imagine that for pain that crops up suddenly, unexpectedly and without warning – that’s the problem Nate has.  Jake, from the first book, runs a rehab centre for ex service personnel and Alia really wants to work with him. She’s really interested in alternative pain management and techniques such as Tapping and Meditation. She’s proved that it works for some people, can make a huge difference to their lives, but her current employers are dismissive of the benefits and won’t allow her to use these methods of treatment even though patients have requested it. Jake is very open minded though and she’s on a trial there while he tries to get funding for a full time post for her. One of her patients though turns out to be Nate, and she and her sister have a troubled past with him. Alia,. she’s such a lovely, passionate lady and yet she passed on her attraction to Nate years ago, leaving the way open for him to get to know her beautiful sister. Things didn’t go well though and there are regrets and bad feelings from that time. Alia is still really attracted to Nate and to her surprise he to her. They can’t get involved though, it risks her career and licence to practice and yet things do get hot and heavy, deliciously so! Alia wants her job here though and Nate has plans elsewhere so nothing can come of their attraction. I loved Alia, so devoted to her sister that she’s given up much for her, gets real satisfaction from her work and helping people back to a normal life, and she deserves a HEA. It doesn’t look like there’s one in store for her though :-( Then there’s Nate, still feeling a bit resentful of the deception practised by Alia and her sister, even though it was done with the best of intentions. His pain is bad though, he doesn’t want to stay addicted to the pain killers, and has plans that need him clean and able to deal with the pain. Alia seems convinced she can get him there even though he’s at first sceptical and very resistant to her methods, that’s true for many of the men. Somehow Servicemen and mediation, visualisation, and simple therapies like the tapping ones don’t really go together, and its been a hard sell for her. Once the first few saw results though others were convinced. That felt very real, people are sceptical about such therapies, pain does have its own irrational idiosyncrasies and become hard to control. I take a regime of pain medications constantly but also use techniques such as Alia describes because sometimes medication doesn’t work, pain needs a different approach and the body, spirit, mind connection are very strong and need a regime that works for all of it. Its a great read, feeling very real, with issues that are so true to life. I lo
Maria-Rose More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this story and the complicated relationships that developed due to Alia's misguided but well meaning attempts to help her sister Becca gain self confidence by essentially 'giving' her a boyfriend when they first meet Nate. It's clear that Nate and Alia have an initial attraction to each other, but Alia steps clearly out of the way. There's no physical cheating in this story, and while early on Alia discovers that her feelings for Nate are growing stronger, she only realizes it at the point where Becca is also realizing that Nate isn't going to be the one for her. After the break up, Alia and Becca's sister friendship remains strong, and it was good to see that Becca did not hold Alia's feelings about Nate against her. Though Nate is understandably hurt and upset by the break up (and for reasons which I won't spoil here) he puts it out of his head and gets back to his military mission. Thus it's two years later when Alia and Nate meet up again, under less than ideal circumstances. Alia is an accomplished physical therapist, and Nate is in dire straits, the pain of his injuries creating a drug dependency that he's determined to beat. Finding out that Alia is the PT at his friend Jake's veteran's retreat means he's got no choice but to face her again. And when she lays her hands on him for the first time, her ability to make him forget some of his physical pain, even briefly, is enough to have him determined to keep the past buried and let her help him. Nate's character therefore is one of a strong but wounded man. Realizing his slide into addiction won't get better without some kind of intervention, he's desperate for anything that will work. But along with the physical pain is the emotional impact of the friend he lost back in Afghanistan, J.J., and the family that's been left behind - a family he's pledged to help move forward, even if it's at the expense of what he would choose for his own life. His brief interlude at the retreat is meant to be a way to find means of coping with the physical pain, though Nate slowly finds that confiding in Alia helps with the emotional side as well. I really liked how well researched the story was in terms of pain and how the body processes it. I found that aspect really interesting and it was essential to Alia's character, and to the relationship that develops between her and Nate. Alia herself comes across as a competent and caring person, willing to always put her patients first. This causes her some ethical dilemmas, as she knows that the feelings she had for Nate have only been buried and seeing him again in the flesh brings them out again, to her dismay. Nate however doesn't have the same qualms. Once he realizes that his feelings for Alia are equally as strong as hers are for him (after she proves she's worthy of his trust again), he's all for getting a chance to demonstrate just how much she can do for him, in bed and out. The result is a somewhat illicit but steamy affair between them, as Alia juggles her guilty conscience with her desire to be with Nate, and he constantly reminds himself that whatever they have here at the retreat won't extend to the real world once he's back doing what he's supposed to be doing - supporting his fallen comrade's family. As the story develops they come to an impasse, one that won't be broken unless a compromise is reached. Happily for the reader, the conflict gets resolved eventually and the couple gets their happy ending. 4.5 stars.
mamalovestoread22 More than 1 year ago
Nate Riordan is a broken man who is in need of help, he is relying on pain killers to numb the pain of his injury and the loss of his friend. He has returned stateside, only to discover he doesn't really have a home to return to. He's suffering from survivors guilt and feels like he owes it to his friend to take care of his friends family, so he steps in to help, and begins to put their needs in front of his own, and ends up adding more stress to his life than he can handle. He is in need of an escape, so when another friend invites him to a veterans retreat he jumps as the chance to have a little escape, not expecting to find himself face to face with a woman from his past... Alia Drake has always had a crush on Nate, but instead of making a move for him, she let her sister have a chance with the sexy soldier, and it's something she has always regretted. So when he walks back in to her life a part of her is hoping for a second chance with him, but the other part of her, the therapist side of her, says it's inappropriate to make a move on a patient. When she begins to see how much he is suffering, and how much he needs someone in his life, she begins to cross lines she knows she shouldn't, but she just can't help herself... This story really struck a cord with me, and drew me right into the character's lives, which made it really hard for me to put this book down, it was so addictive!. The story was intense, passionate, thought-provoking, heartbreaking, and gave me a true glimpse of what life is like for soldiers returning home, and the struggle they go through to readjust to civilian life. Definitely a series everyone should add to the top of their reading lists, it is sure to satisfy all of your reading needs and then some!! ARC requested through NetGalley, and kindly provided by Random House Publishing in exchange for a honest and unbiased review.
ljtljtljt More than 1 year ago
I love military romances with a happy ending and Can't Hold Back by Serena Bell fits the bill perfectly. The two main characters, physical therapist extraordinaire Alia Drake, and army veteran Nate Riordan, complete in each other in every way. Alia and Nate met years ago when Alia set-up Nate up with her sister Becca. Due to many reasons, their relationship did not work out. Now Nate is Alia's patient, and she is working her multitude of tried and true techniques on his pain ridden body. Over a very short period of time, Alia helps Nate manage his pain, while they both share some very steamy encounters together. Their respective pasts continue to haunt them, as love begins to shape their future. Nate believes he should fulfill a pseudo promise to his buddy from the army who lost his life, while Alia must be honest with Nate about her feelings. Overall, I liked this book. Ms. Bell pours amazing passion into her writing and as a result, her characters are well-developed and full of intensity. This is a well-conceived story that I would have loved, if only there was a little more plot and a little less sex. Although I have to mention that Ms. Bell pens some of the hottest sex scenes I have ever read. If you are in the mood for a military romance with a lot of heat, pick up a copy of Can't Hold Back. Complimentary copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
IreneC More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars Can't Hold Back was a beautifully written second chance love story, I loved it. The characters Alia and Nate were likable and very relatable. I was drawn into their emotional story from the first page. They had this strong attraction/connection, you could see it from their first meeting and their chemistry was off the charts. I enjoyed watching them reconnect and work together to get to their HEA. Serena Bell is a talented author who gives her readers heartwarming and memorable romance stories that leave you full of happy feels. I really enjoyed Can't Hold Back, I highly recommend this book and the Returning Home series.
bouncyberthaCR More than 1 year ago
4.5 - "What about happy endings?" Stars! One of the main things that I love about Serena Bell’s writing is that she always manages to add a little something different to every one of her stories. Nate, an injured ex-serviceman is struggling to fit back into a civilian life, in Alia he finds a woman who offers him physical therapy for his injuries and mental clarity for the other issues he is currently trying to come to terms with. The only problem being is that he and Alia have a past, and that past is built around her involvement in his relationship with her sister, and its eventual demise. ”Can we do this now and regret it after?” As I have come to expect with Serena, this couples story grabbed me from the beginning, I think it’s the ’down-to-earthiness’ of her couples the situations they find themselves in, and the obstacles that are thrown in their paths along the way, and how they ultimately deal with those things are what make her stories so special. You can also tell that a lot of research goes into each and every aspect of the book, from Nate’s Injuries to the therapy Alia offers him, and the rest of the soldiers she treats. ”You make me feel so good… I want to do that to you.” This was an absolutely stellar read from beginning to end, the sexual tension, the vulnerability they were both experiencing whilst they tried to work through the issues between them from the past, and decide where they wanted to go in the future and just the general coming together for Nate and Alia as the story progressed, it was beautifully paced and perfectly set out. "I need your hands on me." I hope that at some point we get a book for Alia’s sister; Becca. Being someone else who doesn’t fit in the perceived bracket of ’normal’ I certainly think she has a story to be told from what we see of her in Can't Hold Back, and if Serena tackles it, it’s almost certain to be another winner. To Have and to Hold the next book in the Returning Home series is down for release in July 2016, and I cannot wait to see what this super-talented author has in store for her readers next. ARC generously provided via Netgalley, and it was my pleasure to provide the above honest review.
disneytothemax More than 1 year ago
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this amazing book!! OMG what a heart felt story!! I loved this book and couldn't read it fast enough! Serena Bell is such a good author and it just makes me so happy when her books are exactly as I love!! Nate was injured in the line of duty and unfortunately he's left broken in more ways than one! A friend invites him for some R&R at a veteran's retreat. Nate is addicted to pain meds and feels pretty useless, so he decides to go. Everyone wants a little R&R, right? Well, he was until he saw Alia, a physical therapist AND a girl whose sister he dated. Alia, a physical therapist sees Nate at her work. She liked him years ago, but instead of her acting on her crush, she let Nate date her sister. I loved this book...all the characters were awesome! This whole book was SPOT ON!!
Rhondaz More than 1 year ago
Can't Hold Back, is a emotional, two sisters and second chance romance. Wow it holds you from the beginning until the end, wondering what is going to happen. Serena has written a beautiful gripping story that is sweet, loving, emotional and sexy with great characters. You will fall in love with Nate and Alia and be pulling for their love. Serena Bell knows how to tell a story that you can't put down. Do yourself a favor and read this book. I was given this book by publisher via NetGalley, for my honest review.
asgoodrich More than 1 year ago
I received a free copy of this book to read and review for Wicked Reads. I loved Bell’s writing in her second-chance romance Turn Up the Heat, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read another of her books to find out if it was the book that I enjoyed or the author’s writing in general. I’m pleased to say that I found Bell’s writing to be just as enjoyable in Can’t Hold Back as I did in Turn Up the Heat. I devoured this book, reading it in one sitting because I had to know if Nate and Alia could move on from the secrets in their past. The prologue introduces us to Nate and Alia, and while Alia doesn’t see it, it was clear to me that Nate’s interest was in her and not her sister. But Alia has plans, one being that her sister finds a good man who can be there for her and even though he’s in the service, Nate seems like a good candidate. So Alia takes one for the team, so to speak, and steers Nate toward Becca. Fast forward two years and we find that Alia has finished her physical therapy degree and is working with injured veterans, using proven yet less-mainstream techniques to relieve their pain and help them through the rehabilitation process. Well, it’s a temporary gig as she covers for her friend and former classmate, Jake, for two weeks while he’s on his honeymoon, but she’s hopeful that if she can prove her worth, that he’ll offer her a permanent position. There’s just one catch. Nate is coming to the retreat and the history between him, Becca, and her makes for a hella awkward situation. Yep, that’s where I got hooked because Bell doesn’t reveal exactly what happened to cause Becca and Nate’s relationship to go bad, but she reveals just enough that I knew Alia was involved to a point and she had TONS of guilt over it. My interest was piqued further when Nate attempts to blow off his sessions with Alia and she won’t let him, no matter how uncomfortable she is in his presence. Her determination to help Nate is driven in part by guilt over what happened, a need to prove she can be a professional, and the belief that she can help Nate learn to deal with his pain. But it quickly becomes obvious that her attraction to Nate has not waned over the years and she begins to question whether or not she can maintain her professionalism. As someone who works in a field with strict codes regarding patient-provider relationships like those Alia was faced with, I felt for her. She was in an unenviable position because of her past relationship with Nate (even if Bell takes her time doling out all of those details). Her attraction to Nate predates their professional relationship, yet she beats herself up mentally when the close contact with Nate reignites that attraction. In real life, I would never encourage a therapist to cross that line. But in Can’t Hold Back, I was cheering her on. I wanted her to take a chance with Nate because as I learned what happened, it was clear that they belonged together. Even with Nate’s plans to help his squad mate’s family, I wanted to see her risk it all for Nate, because they both needed that happiness, no matter how fleeting. Besides, they had no chance of a future otherwise. Of course, this didn’t keep my heart from breaking for the two of them when Nate left the retreat, but I had faith that the author would make it all work out in the end. And the end was even better than I imagined. I loved this book and look forward to going back and reading Hold On Tight so that I can get Jake’s story.
ButtonsMom2003 More than 1 year ago
Part of a series but no cliffhanger! This is the first book I’ve read by Serena Bell and I liked it a lot. Alia and Nate first meet at a picnic hosted by Jake, a friend they have in common. Nate is in the Army and between deployments. Alia was attracted to him right off the bat but she felt her sister Becca needed someone more so she set them up. Becca has very low self-esteem due to a learning disability that wasn’t diagnosed until too late in school to help her much and her boyfriend had just dumped her. Nate and Becca begin a relationship before he deploys again. While he is deployed Becca asks Alia to help her with her letters and emails to Nate because she lacks the confidence to do her own writing. During this time Alia begins to put more of herself into the letters than she meant to. Becca also begins to realize that she and Nate aren’t really suited to each other; the chemistry between them just isn’t right. When Becca breaks up with Nate she comes clean about Alia’s help with her correspondence and he feels betrayed by both Becca and Alia. Jump ahead two years… Nate has been injured during his deployment is dependent on narcotics for pain relief. He recognizes he needs to get clean and goes to Jake’s R&R veterans’ retreat to learn how to manage his pain without meds. He also has a huge amount of guilty feelings because a good friend was killed when Nate was injured. Alia, a physical therapist, has a temporary job at R&R and she has been conducting programs to help the residents relieve their pain without meds. Alia still has feelings for Nate but he wants nothing to do with her. He reluctantly keeps his appointments with her for PT. He’s very skeptical that her techniques will help with his pain and can hardly believe it when they work. Nate comes to realize that he was always attracted to Alia, more than Becca, but he believes that Alia feels nothing for him. As her patient, Alia is ethically bound to not have a relationship with Nate but she loves him and has trouble resisting the temptation to be with him. She lets Jake know that she is attracted to Jake but feels she can handle it if he takes over Nates treatment. The story of Alia and Nate and how their relationship progresses during his time at R&R is complicated and kept me glued to the book. My emotions were all over the place. Jake has misplaced feelings of guilt and loyalty to his friend that died. Alia feels guilty about loving Nate when Becca has no one. This is a complete story with no cliffhanger but I’d loved to read more about Becca. I don’t know if more books are planned in this series but I hope there are. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Blsfan68 More than 1 year ago
This was my first time reading Ms. Bell's work. It is a fresh look at second chances and military romance. It is well written and flows nicely. The characters are likable and well developed. It was nice to see a different problem affecting returning veterans and the treatment available. ARC received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
syeager More than 1 year ago
Finding love, despite messing up the meet cute by pushing the guy off to your younger sister. I wasn't sure about the whole dating your sister's ex story line, but Bell did it in a way that it made perfect sense. A fun update on a Cyrano de Bergerac storyline.