In Skates Trouble by Kate Meader

Torso of shirtless and ripped hot guy, thumbs tucked into the front of his jeans, with a hockey jersey thrown over one shoulderWhy I read it:  I bought this for 99c recently.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  He’ll give her what she needs . . .

Addison Williams isn’t looking for romance, but when she encounters an eavesdropping stranger on an adjoining hotel balcony, she figures she’s due a little fun. She just hadn’t reckoned on the “fun” escalating so quickly to “out of control.” One minute she’s flirting with a whiskey-graveled voice in the dark, the next that same voice is telling her to do things. Hot, wicked things.

Cup-winning hockey player Ford “Killer” Callaghan can’t believe he let the anonymous woman who blew his mind slip away into the night. He’ll track her down because once could never be enough—even if discovering her identity places her strictly out of bounds.

Stolen kisses. Secret hook-ups. Deliciously forbidden in every way. Can a passion that started in the dark find a lifetime of love in the light?

Originally published in Hot on Ice: A Hockey Romance Anthology, this sexy prequel to the Chicago Rebels hockey series features an older, curvy woman, a younger, driven hero, and a happily-ever-after you’ll swoon over.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  In Skates Trouble is a longish novella about a star pro hockey player, Ford Callaghan, from a team based in New Orleans coming home to Chicago with the Stanley Cup for his “day with the cup” (it’s a thing; I looked it up.) While on a hotel balcony the first night he’s in town, he overhears a conversation between some women on the next balcony over, discussing how, in their experience, men’s oral sex skills are definitely lacking. One woman in particular, complains that her ex-husband was never able to give her an orgasm. He shamelessly eavesdrops because of course but also he’s particularly struck by the sexy voice of the woman who talked about her ex-husband. He likes not only the sound of her voice but what she says about how she’s taking her life back. He thinks her ex-husband was a jerk. (He’s right.) After the woman’s friends leave, Ford and the woman have an intimate encounter each on their own separate balconies, neither one exchanging names.

As it happens, Ford has an epiphany the next day and remembers where he knows one of the other voices from. She’s Harper Chase, the daughter of the owner of the Chicago Rebels hockey team, a team which has a terrible win/loss ratio (mostly loss) and which doesn’t look like getting a sniff of the Stanley Cup anytime soon. Reasoning that Harper will be able to identify the mystery woman Ford cannot get out of his brain, he gatecrashes her house (where Addison, aka the mystery woman) is conveniently now staying and invites himself to dinner. He’s a man on a mission.

Addison Williams was married to the owner of the New Orleans Cajun Rajuns hockey team – the team for whom Ford plays. Michael Babineaux walked all over Addison, making decisions for her, imposing his will on her without a by-your-leave and virtually shutting down her modelling career. Addison was a “full-figured model” (“please don’t call her ‘plus-sized'”) and had appeared in Victoria’s Secret catalogue and, presumably, many a man’s fantasy.. She was basically a trophy wife but he wanted to choose how, when and where his “trophy” was displayed. Addison has had enough with men riding roughshod over her and she’s not going to take it anymore. She is just about to launch her lingerie line “Beautiful by Addison” and has moved to Chicago to get her life on track. She didn’t plan for Ford. The chemistry between them is combustible and though she knows there is no future for them, she can’t help but have a series of steamy encounters with Ford.

Ford wants to see where a relationship with Addison will go. Addison knows that her ex will never sit idly by and let her date Ford, plus, she’s seven years older than Ford and besides that, they live in different cities anyway so what’s the point of trying to have a relationship? Michael is vindictive enough that Addison knows if he were to find out she and Ford were hooking up, he would bench him for the remaining two years of his contract (notwithstanding he’s the team’s star player) or trade him to some loser team just out of spite. (I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to see where this story is going.)

The encounters between Addison and Ford are definitely hot and I liked how he was pretty much all in from the get go. However, especially given what he knows about Addison’s previous marriage, Ford makes a poor judgment call and does a bit of that riding roughshod Addison left Michael Babineaux to avoid. Ford has to do some epic grovelling to get his HEA.

What else? There is also a subplot regarding Ford’s family. He was the youngest of three brothers, all talented hockey players. Paulie was the most gifted but he died in a car accident the night all three young men/boys were out celebrating Paulie’s entry into the NHL. The middle brother, Jax, seriously injured his knee and with that, his hockey dreams died. Ford, as the driver of the car, has felt the weight of responsibility for the accident ever since and his relationship with Jax is extremely strained. I liked that this was included as it gave the story some meat and showed Ford as someone other than the cocky pro athlete.

I did wonder how Addison came to be married to Michael Babineaux because it didn’t really seem to me that she ever loved him – but it’s a novella and it’s not their story anyway so I suppose it’s not surprising that wasn’t included in the book.

I’d also have liked for Ford to do a bit of demonstrating that he wouldn’t be impulsive and not consult with Addison before the story ended. I wasn’t 100% sure he’d really learned that lesson by the end. That said, he was fairly feminist-friendly in many ways; he encouraged Addison’s business and was not at all bothered by her modelling her lingerie. He didn’t see her pursuing her career as in any way threatening to him and he didn’t feel the need to support her financially, being happy to share that responsibility. He is pretty alpha when it comes to pursuing Addison sexually but, for the most part he kept to the right side of the line. But he’s not a guy who is backward in going forwards and from the start he wants a relationship with Addison and he’s determined to make it happen. I did have the sense that if she was absolutely not interested he wouldn’t have become a stalker creep, but at the same time, he was very active about persuading her out of her reservations as well as her underwear. Because the story was told from both (third person) points of view, I knew Addison wanted Ford and was more than happy to be so persuaded but I expect some readers will find that level of pursuit unappealing.

The story was entertaining and sexy and I did like that Ford adored Addison’s curves and celebrated everything about her. I would have liked a slightly more moderate approach by Ford in his “courtship” because the combination of that persuasion I talked about about and the impulsive decision to do something which affected both of them without talking to Addison first did leave me with a few reservations about whether he was truly respectful of her autonomy. He did some of this and what there was was great but I wanted a little more to be really sold.

I’d also have liked a little more detail in how Ford’s career issue was resolved.

In Skates Trouble was well worth my 99c however. And those readers who like their men on the alpha side will probably like it even more than I did.

Grade: B-

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