|Straight from the Hip is Izzy Titan’s story and my guess is that if you have not read at least one of the previous stories in the series, you will not be able to figure out all the past history. The story starts with Izzy dealing with partial blindness, a result of an explosion on the oil rig she was working. There is suspicion that the blast was somehow caused by the family’s nemesis, Garth Duncan. Garth is the illegitimate son of Jed Titan, father to the clan.
Izzy was a daredevil and figured the way to her father’s heart was to take risks. But now she finds herself needing surgery that could fix her eyesight or leave her totally blind. She isn’t sure she is willing to take that kind of risk. Her sisters Skye and Lexi worry and set her up for an intervention with a man who is known for his ability to help kids who have had it rough.
Nick Hollister is a complicated man. He was raised mainly in foster homes, was super geeky and ended up in college at age 15. A fellow collegian took him under his wing, helping him keep from getting beat up all the time, helping him figure out the social world of the campus and for his efforts, Nick helped him get passing grades. That fellow was Garth Duncan. Shortly after college, Nick and Garth got involved in an oil dwelling investment in South America. Things went wrong, a few innocent bystanders died and the family took out their revenge on Nick and Garth. They underwent weeks of torture. Garth helped keep Nick alive and then Nick helped Garth escape. For many years, they have been each other’s only family. Nick now owns a ranch where he hosts corporate retreats and he also allows kids from the foster system to come spend time on the ranch, teaching them about horses and about life.
The first half of the book is about Nick and Izzy and getting Izzy to agree to the surgery. There are characters aplenty on the ranch to help Nick. Izzy is sullen and rude and goes through a transformation from a self-pitying snob to a woman ready to accept the challenge of life. She is also falling for Nick.
The next quarter of the book involves their romance. This is a sweet romance, even though the secret of Nick’s friendship with Garth is hanging over Nick’s head. There are many individual secrets revealed as Nick and Izzy both have major trust and relationship issues. Finally, we have the last part of the book that is the resolution of their relationship, the continuation of Garth and his antics and a set up for the next book in the series.
This book is a mixed bag. There is a lot to like about both Nick and Izzy as they find their legs after fairly traumatic episodes in their lives. Yet at times, they come across too full of self-pity. Their romance is generally engaging and their sexual encounters hot, yet there were times when it all felt so manipulative. Since the drama they have lived through seemed a little over the top at times, I didn’t fully understand either of them. And having read the previous book, I wasn’t sure I was reading about the same Izzy I had met before.
Overall, this book is interesting and there is certainly no lack of activity. It was a little harder to get engaged in the emotional aspect making it hard to fully recommend Straight from the Hip to anyone other than diehard fans of the series. The final book does intrigue me how Mallery will turn the aforementioned anti-hero Garth into a good guy.