Updated: Jan 22
Too Hard to Forget
by Tessa Bailey
Published by Forever
Book #3 in the Romancing the Clarkson's series
This time, she's calling the shots.
Peggy Clarkson is returning to her alma mater with one goal in mind: confront Elliott Brooks, the man who ruined her for all others, and remind him of what he's been missing. Even after three years, seeing him again is like a punch in the gut, but Peggy's determined to stick to her plan. Maybe then, once she has the upper hand, she'll finally be able to move on.
In the years since Peggy left Cincinnati, Elliott has kept his focus on football. No distractions and no complications. But when Peggy walks back onto his practice field and into his life, he knows she could unravel everything in his carefully controlled world. Because the girl who was hard to forget is now a woman impossible to resist.
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Steamy Romance Feel Good
Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey is the third book in the Romancing the Clarkson's series, and continues the epic road trip the Clarkson siblings take to fulfill their mothers final wish for them to jump in the Atlantic Ocean on New Years Day, just like she did when she was younger. At this point, Rita, the oldest daughter, and focus of the first book Too Hot to Handle, stayed behind in Hurley, New Mexico, to start a new life with Jasper, a man she had just met and fell in love with. In the second book, Too Wild to Tame, Aaron, the youngest son, stayed behind in Iowa not for the job he went there to get, but because he fell in love with Grace. Too Hard to Forget continues with Belmont, Peggy and Peggy's best friend Sage, just entering Cincinnati for Peggy's stop, with the ultimate plan to make her ex, Elliott Brook's life hell, and get some closure after he broke her heart.
I was looking forward to Peggy's story. Not necessarily because she is was overly interesting in the past two books (they didn't really focus on her that much), but because this is the first romance in the series that is starting out with history and knowledge of one another, whereas the past two books were love at first sight type romances. This might be my favorite of the series so far. There is the forbidden love element, because when their relationship started, she was a 22 year old senior college student, and he was a 35 year old football coach, who was recently widowed. We learn through flashbacks that it wasn't just sex. Peggy fell in love with him, and fell hard. Elliott did too. Not only did he find himself finally understanding what people were talking about when they talked about love, he felt passion like he had never felt before. What destroyed them ultimately was Elliott's guilt. He felt intense guilt for loving Peggy when he didn't love his wife. He faults himself for her death because he was ignoring her phone calls, and when she left the house, she slipped on ice, hit her head, and went into a coma after laying there for hours. He felt guilt for being attracted to Penny.
It wasn't the healthiest relationship though.
Peggy was always there. She listened to him while he told her things he never told anyone. She took care of him. He loved her, but his guilt made their relationship dirty. He frequently punished her during sex, and while she liked it, it made her feel like she was his ruin. He would tell her during the acts that she was his damnation, and he would pray, making her feel like a sin. It wasn't his intent, but it happened. He drove it home when she wanted to stay after graduation, and be with him, and he said awful things to make her leave.
That was the past though. Their relationship in the book was interesting as hell to read. We've always known about Peggy's engagements, and how she left them all before the weddings. She hinted to Rita it was because she never could get over one man in Cincinnati. We learn in this book, that she never stopped loving him. Didn't see herself good enough for those men, because she was walking, talking, sin. Never was able to have an orgasm even because she wasn't being punished for it. While Elliott never did get over her, she couldn't get over him, not just because she loved him, but because she didn't think she deserved love. When Elliott finally woke up, and realized what he had done, his game play to not only win her back, back make her believe him when he says those were his issues, and she isn't bad, I loved it. It was no longer about Peggy trying to drive him crazy. It was them learning a new way to love one another. A healthier way.
The other plots in the book is interesting as well. I love that Elliott has a teenage daughter. It adds that little twist to an already complicated relationship, and when Alice ends up liking Peggy, it's a win for this little family unit. Alice gets a dad back, who has been like a zombie since Peggy left, and she gets a mother figure and friend. Peggy's relationship with her siblings only continues to improve. Sage is hinting at a dark past. With every book, more and more layers are added to these characters, and I went from cautiously liking them, to loving them.
In the end, I totally recommend this book. The whole series really. It's not just head over heels love and insanely hot sex. There is a lot of dialogue that makes these characters and their relationships grow stronger. Not just the featured couple, but the Clarkson family as well.
Top 3 Favorite Moments
1. Peggy pretending to be Alice's acting coach when she locked herself in the bathroom at school.
2. The flashbacks to their previous relationship, especially the one on her birthday
3. Alice and Elliott's conversation about Peggy after Alice learns about their relationship.
4. (bonus) Peggy, Bel, Sage, Elliott, and Alice heading to Kyler Tate's farm to save it
5. (bonus) Elliott's speech when changing Peggy's tire
6. (bonus) Elliott and Peggy's date in the cave
7. (bonus) When winning the football game, Elliott hugging his daughter and apologizing, promising to be a better father.
8. (bonus) Elliott's speech and proposal
Where to Buy
Peggy: "Elliott. You look exactly the same."
Elliot: "Three years isn't all that long."
Peggy: "No. I guess not. It was long enough for them to put a giant statue of you at the entrance. I bet you hate it, don't you?"
Elliott: "Yes. They could have waited until I was dead or retired."
Peggy: "When it comes to you, I don't think those things are mutually exclusive. Anyway, they already think you're a God, so your immortality is a reasonably assumption."
When she took a step closer, he almost dropped the clipboard. In favor of staving her off or yanking her closer? He had no idea. But she only lifted a finger, trailing the smooth pad across the seam of his lips.
Peggy: "The sculptor didn't get your mouth right, though. It's much more generous, isn't it?"
Elliott snagged her wrist and her eyes lit with challenge.
Peggy: "Or maybe the sculptor just hasn't experienced it the way I have."
Peggy: "I've seen you watching me."
He froze, a muscle leaping in his cheek.
Elliott: "You were mistaken."
Peggy: "No. I wasn't. I'm not. You don't have to feel ashamed about it. Not now."
His fists planted on either side of her head with a bash, shaking the lockers, then his face hovered mere inches away.
Elliott: "What would you know about shame?"
Peggy: "I know the last six months were awful for you. They would be so hard for anyone. But especially you, because you carry everyone on your back. The whole school lives for Saturdays. If you'll win or lose."
His brow furrowed, his scrutiny so intense, she wondered how her legs kept from giving out. They must have moved closer without realizing, because the tips of Peggy's breasts grazed Elliott's chest and he groaned.
Elliott: "You ... You don't know anything about me, Peggy."
Her pulse went haywire. The wordless communication hasn't been imaginary. Those hard eyes really had been speaking to her. It was the way he said Peggy. As though he'd tested her name on his tongue a million times.
Peggy: "You know my name."
Elliott: "I shouldn't. Damn you." he grated, pressing closer, so she could feel he'd been affected below the belt. Very affected.
Peggy: "You only mean that half the time. And I do know things about you. You have a different coaching style for each player based on their strengths and weaknesses. When they changed the coffee lids in the campus coffee shop, you kept ripping off the extra little flap until finally you started drinking without the lid. Because you hate anything loose or unnecessary, don't you? I can tell your mood by the way you watch me on certain days, because I watch you , too. Sometimes you're damning me. The rest of the time, you're wondering what I'd feel like -"
Peggy: "Or if I'd let you. I would. I am."
Peggy: "You don't have to be ... faultless with me. Not right now."
Elliott: "Which way do I have to be?"
Alice: "So. You really know how to make a situation about you, huh?"
Peggy's burst of laughter felt like a balloon popping inside her ribcage.
Peggy: "You're pretty funny, Alice."
Peggy: "Alice is terrific. When she says hurtful things to you, she's just being twelve. I said them to my mom. My mom said them to hers, too. She's going to be fine. You're doing fine."
Peggy: "Am I being recruited? 'Cause I would look insanely hot in football pants. Boom. Ticket sales through the roof."
Elliott: "This is why plans and execution are so important."
She tucked her hands beneath her chin and gave him and exaggerated, starry-eyed look.
Peggy: "Tell me more."
Elliott: "Yes, I'm sure you're spellbound."
Elliott: "Maybe I'm punished when I deviate from my path. In fact, I'm certain I am."
Peggy: "Seeing me hurt is punishment?"
Elliott: "Yes. It is."
Peggy: "What's wrong?"
Elliott: "I've never ... I've probably bandaged a thousand injuries, but never one on a woman."
Peggy: "It's the same procedure. Leg-wise, at least. If I had a compound boobie fracture, we'd be shit out of luck."
Peggy: "I love my mother more than anything in the world. I tell her constantly. And if she died tomorrow, I would still have a million regrets. It's natural, Elliott."
Peggy: "Ten Our Fathers and seven Hail Mary's. That ought to make up for how many times you've thought of fucking me today."
Peggy: "No one will know. Touch them. Be as rough as you want. I remember what you like. How you like to get mad at my body. Frustrated at it for making you want something natural."
Elliott: "Nothing natural about what we did. You made me behave like a beast. Some of the ways I took you ... some of the places ..."
Elliott: "Did you come back here to make my life hell, Peggy? Answer me honestly. Because you're succeeding."
Peggy: "You always did equate me with hell, didn't you?"
Peggy: "You didn't know I was an unattached woman when you had me against the wall. That's called coveting, isn't it?"
That torturing finger dragged lower and traced the outline of his erection, bottom to top.
Peggy: "Better get inside and confess your sins."
Peggy: "He's kind of a big deal around here."
Sage: "Well I don't care if he crowned King Arthur, he's dead to me if he's the one who hurt my best friend."
Peggy: "You're a little bloodthirsty, aren't you, Sage? It's always the quiet ones."
Kyler: "Football isn't all anyone does. It's mortar, but it isn't the bricks."
Peggy: "One thrust."
Elliott's hand came out of nowhere, molding over Peggy's mouth as his hips crowded the notch of her legs. With a quick maneuver to recline her halfway back, Elliott's erection found the apex of her thighs, delivering an aggressive pump against her underwear that sent a scream climbing up Peggy's throat, only to be trapped by his hand. Knees jerking up out of reflex over the rush of sensation, an orgasm almost - almost - broke past the surface, sending her waters rippling out on all sides. Her legs wanted to hug Elliott's waist, her voice wanted to beg for one more, one more, one more, but he shook his head, denying her, even though his gaze was hot, a low groan issuing from his harshly masculine mouth. He leaned in and nipped the lobe of her ear.
Elliott: "Next time, ask for two."
Peggy: "God, you can be an asshole. I guess that was payback for daring to enter your office without swearing fealty to the Kingmaker."
Elliott: "You think I like seeing you disappointed? You think I ever liked being the one who let you down? I fucking don't. I hate it."
Elliott: "I think you've been the one rescuing me for months. No one can look me in the eye since it happened. Just you. I depend on those eyes of yours most days."
Peggy: "Tell me something good you did today."
She rubbed their lips together and hunger riddled his guy. Maybe even some resentment toward Peggy for making him feel so much.
Elliott: "I ... I left practice to bring her a happy meal."
Her lips curved.
Peggy: "Chicken nuggets?
He grunted a yes and her laugh tickled his mouth.
Peggy: "Start making her lunch at night, so it'll be there waiting in the morning. That's what my mother used to do. Mornings are a bitch, even for the Kingmaker. As for everyone looking at you like you might blow up? They're right.
Slowly, she untangled from him and stepped back, whipped the tank top over her head, leaving herself in nothing but bikini underwear.
Peggy: "So do it here with me where I can put your pieces back together."
Elliott: "You have something to say, little girl?"
Peggy: "You're what a man looks like. You're ... beautiful."
Belmont: "Are you the one?"
Elliott: "The one what?"
Peggy: "Bel, please. Please, don't. Please don't."
Belmont: "You didn't really see her. You're still not really seeing her, so you'll get no sympathy from me. It's going to happen too late, and you'll be nowhere. A goner."
Elliott: "Do you have a game plan?"
Peggy: "This isn't football, Elliott. This is middle school. It's far bloodier."
Elliott: "You're exaggerating."
Peggy: "Were you born an dult or did you manage to wedge a childhood in there?"
Elliott: "I assume you don't want an answer."
Peggy: "Ooooh. You're so condescending sometimes. It's even in the way you look at people."
Elliott: "I don't have a mirror, Peggy, but I'm pretty damn sure that's not how I look at you."
Peggy: "No. You look at me like a dieter ogling chocolate cake. But you should know something."
Elliott: "What's that?"
Peggy: "Even the most dedicated dieter eventually takes a bite."
Peggy: "Malice Alice. Your rescue has arrived."
Alice: "I heard you from in here. Are you from another planet or something? Oh God, there's no way they bought that."
Peggy: "Yeah, there's a pretty good chance some of them didn't. But I think your pops is tidying up any loose ends."
Alice: "I can't believe he's here."
Peggy: "Did you think he wouldn't come?"
Alice: "I don't know. But I've been in here for, like, ten hours. No way I can come out now."
Peggy: "Yes, you can. Tomorrow there will be something else for them to gossip about . Maybe we can even frame someone as a diversion tactic."
Alice: "Chess Club Moonlights as Strippers. The middle school paparazzi will eat it up."
Peggy: "You're a funny kid, Alice."
Peggy: "When I was in middle school, I worried about things like my hair and brand names and ... okay, I still worry about things like that. But you're different."
Alice: "That's the problem."
Peggy: "No, it's not. You're already looking back on this day with an adult perspective, aren't you? The way you talked about what's-her-name ... Kim Steinberg -"
Alice: "Oh my God. Lower your voice or she's going to hear you."
Peggy: "Ooh, sorry. But seriously, that's the kind of outlook I never had going to me. Not many people do. You know middle school isn't where life ends, but you're living in the moment kind of grudgingly anyway. You're going to make the ultimate adult."
Peggy turned to Belmont with a how-am-I-doing expression, but her only shrugged.
Peggy: "Go out there and take it all in, Alice. Laugh about it and move on. There are bigger and better things ahead for you. Like the best ice-breaker story ever. Some dopey ex-cheerleader pretended to be your acting coach while you lived in the bathroom for an afternoon. Plus? Chess club strippers."
Alice: "Who i-is that?"