Back in Play by Lynda Aicher

Back in PlayWhy I read it:  I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley. The blurb just hooked me – a bit unusual and very intriguing; it lived up to its promise.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  For Minnesota Glaciers captain Scott Walters, skating on a bum knee—and self-medicating to keep skating on it—is all part of the game. That the painkillers he’s eating prevent him from having meaningful relationships is just one more sacrifice in a lifetime of them. He’s worked too hard to let his image be ruined by injury or dependency, so he hides the pain and fakes the rest—a girlfriend would only complicate matters.

High school teacher Rachel Fielding never needed a man in her life, but she also never intended to grow old alone. When she meets Scott while visiting her brother, she’s intrigued to find herself wanting him in her bed. For hours at a time, as often as possible. Scott is a giver, and just the memory of his attentions is enough to drive her crazy. Anything long-term is out of the question, though—the pills she finds in Scott’s house indicate he’s struggling with a lot more than growing older in a young man’s game.

When what starts out as a what-the-hell weeklong fling turns into Scott and Rachel exploring each other outside the bedroom, Rachel hesitates. But Scott asks for her support to break his addiction, and hearing him admit his secrets has her ignoring her own rules—until he breaks her heart. With the Glaciers refusing to renew his contract and his future with Rachel uncertain, Scott has some big decisions to make and a lot to prove—especially to himself.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I haven’t read the first book in the series (yet) but I think this one works well as a stand-alone. The story begins at the wedding of what I assume to be book one’s hero and heroine.  Scott Walker, the Glaciers captain is in attendance. He was the best man.  His knee is very sore and he’s popping pain pills but is being careful not to mix them with alcohol.  He’s been hiding or downplaying the pain in his knee for so long and he’s desperately tired.  He’s also desperate to keep playing.  It’s the end of the season and the Glaciers have just missed out on winning the cup. He wants one more shot at it before he retires.  His contract is up and the Glaciers have been coy about renewal.  He’s 34 and he knows he’s nearing the end of his career. Is he already past his use-by date?

At the reception there is a very attractive woman Scott hasn’t seen before.  This is our heroine, Rachel Fielding, the sister of a friend of the groom.  She is in town visiting her brother Rock (short for Rockford) and his partner Carter, for the summer.  Scott and Rachel are beyond attracted to one another but Rachel is going home in a week.  It seems any potential relationship is doomed.

Straight Shooter by Heidi Belleau

straightshooterWhy I read it:  I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  This macho jock has a crooked little secret.

College hockey player Austin Puett is in trouble. Unless he starts treating his flamboyantly gay roommate with respect, he’ll lose his room and his job at Rear Entrance Video. But Austin’s got a not-so-straight secret of his own: nothing turns him on more than insults implying he’s gay—even though he’s definitely not!—and all his old coping methods have stopped working.

Pure desperation drives him to rent a Mischievous Pictures porn flick about straight men tricked into servicing Puck, a male dominant. Instead of letting off steam, though, it just leaves him craving more, more, more, and suddenly, Austin finds himself at Mischievous Pictures Studios for an audition. After all, you can be Gay For Pay and still be straight . . . right?

But meeting Liam Williams, the real person behind Puck, confuses Austin even more. Liam really seems to like him as a person, and Austin likes him back. And while Gay For Pay’s okay, what does it make Austin if he still wants Liam when the cameras aren’t rolling?

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I’m not sure exactly what to say about this novel. Any review is necessarily the reviewer’s personal reaction to a book but my thoughts about Straight Shooter ended up being a bit more about me than the usual review I write.  The story caused me to examine some things about my own thinking and because it’s my blog and I can and because it’s my honest reaction, that’s partly what I’m going to talk about here.  I like books that make me think and critical thinking works inwardly as well of course.

On the Surface by Kate Willoughby

OntheSurfaceWhy I read it:  I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  NHL player Tim Hollander lost his temper one time and threw a water bottle at an abusive fan. After “Bottlegate,” he’s traded to the San Diego Barracudas, where he’ll need to keep the bad publicity to a minimum while proving he can still compete with the younger guys on the ice.

Erin Collier is a pediatric nurse who’s never seen a hockey game, but gets in line for Tim’s autograph at a PR event in hopes of impressing the doctor she has a crush on. When an obnoxious fan gets pushy toward Erin, Tim rushes to defend the pretty stranger, throwing a punch in the process.

Grateful for the rescue, Erin agrees to stand by Tim during the resulting press conference and host him at a hospital charity event. Their chemistry is palpable, and soon their lives are intertwined. But Erin doubts a hockey player is capable of anything resembling a real relationship. And if Tim can’t get her to see beyond what’s on the surface, they’ll never last longer than a single season…

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  As an Australian, I have only a rudimentary knowledge of ice hockey.  I have a better idea after reading this book but I still don’t really know what a “line” is.  For what it’s worth (and I realise, it can’t be much) the hockey information in the book sounded authentic and, for the most part, it was delivered in a way that didn’t feel too didactic.  The Ice Hockey for Dummies thing was a nice touch.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit – it was really only toward the end where things lost their lustre just a little for me.  I’m not sure if it was because maybe the book felt a little too long, or whether it was the conflict kind of fizzling out there for a while.  Or maybe I would have liked more time for the conflict to resolve – it felt a little quick to me.  I liked On the Surface very much – Tim is really sweet guy – not perfect – but he falls for Erin really quickly and I liked watching him navigate those waters.

%d bloggers like this: