tl;dr: great story mired in awkward prose – less picky readers will love this
I hadn’t realized that hockey player romances were such a widespread phenomenon, but in the past few weeks, I’ve read 3 of them, all by different authors, and to varying degrees of enjoyment. I tend to compare most sports romance to Susan Elizabeth Phillips and her wonderful Chicago Stars series, which centers on a pro-football team and all the varying people involved in it. The thing that is particularly striking with that series is that the books don’t really need to be read in publication order. The stories stand on their own.
I think maybe that was the intention with this book too, but there were so many things I felt may have been cleared up in the previous books (which I did not read). This book uses a real hockey team (The Colorado Avalanche) but fails to ever mention which position Ben plays. (I think he might be captain, according to a brief mention of a C on his jersey. That means captain, right?) And much of the personality of the hero isn’t clearly established, leaving me to wonder if maybe his “playboy” persona is more clearly established in a previous book. He does get random calls from women on his phone a lot, but we don’t get a lot of evidence that he’s the womanizer the book claims that he is. (Particularly since they make a point to say he supports 3 children’s charities? Whaaaa…?)
Olivia, on the other hand, seems to be going to multiple directions at once. She’s clearly competent at her job, but she’s pursuing artificial insemination in order to have a baby … because … ? She feels an emptiness? I kept thinking the whole time that her backstory was too much, although I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why. She has dead parents, no time for romance, and a lack of friends and support, so deciding to have a baby rather than try to find a fulfilling hobby seems misguided. We aren’t given much of a reason other than she wants to recreate her blissful memories of childhood.
The way Ben and Olivia meet was really interesting and unique – he accidentally got married after one night of drinking to oblivion out of sadness, and she is representing his wife in their divorce settlement. Their growing flirtation and attraction was great, lots of push and pull between them as they both struggle with it and any possible complications. Ben’s turn around from playboy to commitment guy seemed quick, although I did find Olivia’s romantic arc well-plotted. I did love their romance, all the gestures and the way that they did actually seem to like each other’s company.
The ending was abrupt but I think overall satisfying. I enjoyed many of the other characters, like Ben’s family (the Westmores are the subject of this series, not the hockey team like many of these sports series are). His mom especially was heartwarming and funny. It’s always great to have a comedic foil to a son that’s macho and cocky, and Mrs. Westmore was that.
While I overall enjoyed this story, this book really suffered from a lack of a good editor. There were lots of scenes that were confusing, mostly because I couldn’t picture it clearly in my mind. For instance, the sex scene. I couldn’t tell which person was on top. That is a clear narrative issue. There were several sentences that I had to read repeatedly, in order to figure out what was being said. While technically grammatically correct, romance novels aren’t the place for esoteric phrasing, particularly if it’s not the style of the entire thing. The book vacillates between clear prose and these awkward, clunky phrases that desperately needed to be rewritten.
There are some minor continuity issues as well. For example, Olivia asks Ben at one point if he’s lived in Glenwood Falls (small town outside of Denver? It’s never clear) all of his life. But, she knows that he hasn’t, because the woman she was representing in court met him in another town, where he went to elementary school before the family moved to Glenwood Falls.
This line also made me pause: “Her boss, Lyle Kingsley, had hired her expecting she’d develop her client list on the other side of the proceedings–representing the athletes.” He’d expected this, although she’d made her reputation representing the wives of pro athletes? It’s established that Olivia had been a great lawyer for those women, at least for several years, and had even represented someone in the previous book while she was still at her L.A. office.
I would desperately love to edit this author’s future books because there is potential for an amazing story here, well-written and clever and her ability to draw out sexual tension believably was pretty great. The cast of characters are mostly lovable and interesting. For many people, the technical issues won’t bother them. After all, Twilight has amassed millions of fans and I just can’t even with that prose. There is a line between mediocre and brilliant, and I think in the hands of a great editor, this book could nose its way toward the latter.
This may be an ebook only release, but you can keep an eye out at your local library.
Love hockey romances? Try Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score.