Icebreaker by Deirdre Martin
Linda's Review: Yes, the hockey romances just keep on coming. This is Martin’s newest, the latest addition to the New York Blades series. Whether intentional or not, Martin manages to be timely in this outing. Our hero, Adam, brought in as the Blades’ new captain, is facing criminal charges as the result of a hard hit in a game against Philadelphia. His layer, Sinead, is a member of the O’Brien clan, which has showed up on the fringes of some Martin’s other stories.
The dilemma for the reader here is being set up to favour the “wrong side” in the current debate about hockey violence. Of course, Adam’s hit, though hard, is shown to be entirely within the rules and his prosecution is set out as a gimmick to help re-elect a Philadelphia DA. All the “good guys” stand up for hard-hitting, old-fashioned, often dangerous, hockey, while the commissioner is the villain (sound familiar?) who is out to get the hero.
There’s also Sinead’s personal dilemma: getting involved with a client is definitely against the rules, although it does seem as if there is one set of rules for her male colleagues and a different set for her, the only female in the practice. Will she risk her career for love? Does Adam’s inability to understand the double standard women are up against mean the end of the budding relationship? And then there’s Adam’s hidden past, including a career-ending hit to his best friend.
Yes, there’s plenty going on in this story and even a bit to think about before you reach the predictable conclusion. Will the Blades win the Stanley Cup? Will Adam’s reputation be salvaged? Will true love triumph? I think you already know the answers, but if, like me, you’ve become addicted to hockey romances, you’ll enjoy this anyway. It’s not her best, but it’s fun. Playoffs are coming up and in between periods, you can read this book.
Review: Knock Me For a Loop
Knock Me For a Loop by Heidi Betts
Linda's Review: Hockey and knitting, both in one romance – what’s not to like? I guess I could say I liked it, but when all is said and done, it’s not really hockey and there isn’t much knitting either. What’s even worse is that the hero, the goalie for an NHL team, refers to his sport as “ice hockey” – is there another kind? Certainly not one that you’d attempt to put in a romance novel.
The hero, goalie for the Cleveland Rockets, is surprised on a road trip by his fiancée, a popular talk show host. The surprise is greater than either of them expected: she finds a woman in his bed and he denies knowing how she got there.
Needless to say, fireworks ensue. She goes on a rampage that includes vandalizing his Hummer, bashing his walls with hockey trophies and stealing (and re-naming) his Saint Bernard.
Months later, he is seriously injured in a game and it seems the only person who can motivate him to stick to his diet, keep his doctor’s appointments and go to physio is his ex. She moves in with him to oversee his recovery at the request of his best friends and – well, you can guess where this is going.
I would say I found this book mildly entertaining, but it features no hockey action, aside from the story of his injury and not much knitting chat. If you want either of these, there are better places to look. And I’m showing my age, too, when I say that I found a lot of the language offensive, but perhaps that comes under the heading of “keeping it real”.
The Penalty Box by Deirdre Martin
Linda's Review: This book is much more serious than the others of her New York Blades series, but I think it’s one of my favourites. This book’s hockey hero, Paul, is no longer an active player. Forced to retire after one too many concussions, he returns to his home town and takes over the local bar, which becomes a shrine to his career. Much of his time is spent reminiscing with fans and signing autographs. But how long can this go on?
Enter the heroine: Convinced by her mother to attend a class reunion, Katie is the ugly duckling grown into a swan – the chubby nerd, butt of everyone’s jokes, including Paul’s, now reshaped (literally) and with a successful academic career. She’s spending a sabbatical year in her mother’s home to write a book.
There are other complications, too. While Katie’s sister is in rehab, trying to deal with her addictions, her young son is living with his aunt and grandmother. He, of course, is thrilled with the developing relationship of his aunt and his hero.
This book has a lot more going on than Martin’s other hockey romances . Along with the hot sex and rink scenes it considers how a man rebuilds his life after he has lost the thing which gave him his identity. And who is best able to raise a boy – the mother who claims to love him, but to whom he’s often a nuisance, or the grandmother who doesn’t really understand the struggles of this child?
There are plenty of light moments, however, as Katie reconnects with some of her high school tormentors and sees them somewhat differently, particularly Dennis, who’s now Denise.
Even the ending isn’t quite the happily-ever-after we’d expect, though I’m sure we can predict a future together for Paul and Katie. If you want a book with a bit more substance, but still a definite “romance”, this may be the one for you.
Review: Hot Ticket by Deirdre Martin et al
Hot Ticket by Deirdre Martin et al
Linda's Review: This book puts to rest the discussion, if there ever was one, about which sports are most suited to romance. There’s no doubt (but we already knew this) that it’s hockey.
This volume contains a quartet of sports-related romances, with very little sporting content. Martin’s contribution is a story called “Same Rink Next Year”, in which the concierge of a Chicago hotel hooks up with a Buffalo-based NHL player when his team makes its annual trip to the Windy City.
Not surprisingly, both characters, she from Nebraska and he from Saskatchewan (yes!), discover that their relationship needs to move beyond the one-night-stand. His being storm-stayed due to a blizzard is all it takes for them to move forward. I don’t need to tell you how it ends. Maybe it’s blizzard, maybe it’s because he’s from around here, but this was definitely my favourite of the four.
Two of the other stories revolved around baseball players and one was pretty good, “Lucky Charm” by Julia London. This involved a talk-radio sports announcer and a sometimes-slumping member of the New York Mets. It was cute and actually had the most sports content of any of the four stories.
The other baseball story, ”You Can’t Steal First” by Annette Blair, was a bit of a bust. No sports content at all, except for the fact that the male lead is a ball player and not much to recommend it aside from a couple of brief sex scenes.
The fourth story, “Can’t Catch This” by Geri Buckley, involved arena football, and that only peripherally, but it had the most appealing characters after the Martin hockey story, a wealthy cousin of the football quarterback, a red-haired heroine and a precocious nephew.
I had originally intended to only read the Martin story, but breezed though the others just because they were there. If you have some time to kill waiting for an appointment or while riding the bus home, you might want to check this out. Otherwise, save your time for the full-length Martin books – there are quite a few!
Another Take on the Hockey Romance…
Summer Light by Luanne Rice
Linda's Review: [The book] combines romance and hockey in a very different way from the light-hearted romances of Rachel Gibson and Deirdre Martin. This time we are dealing with the story of a single mother who six-year-old daughter sees angels and receives messages from them.
In an unusual set of circumstances she becomes involved with an aging NHL star, whom she marries after only one month. He, of course, comes with plenty of baggage of his own: grief over the death of his young daughter coupled with a long-term estrangement from his father, a former hockey great now serving jail time. On top of all this, he appears to be losing his sight.
This book has a totally different tone from the other books – much more serious, given the issues it deals with – and not that much fun. It took me a while to really get into it and I would describe it as “OK”, but it has none of the laughs and bubbly fun of the other books. Its very earnest tone should appeal to those who feel that paperback romances are beneath them, but in the end, it’s really just a hockey romance in more serious clothing.
An Even Better Hockey Romance Book to Check Out...
Linda's Review: Yet another hockey romance…but from a different author: Power Play by Deirdre Martin, moves the action from the Pacific Northwest of Rachel Gibson’s series to the Big Apple, the New York Blades. Power Play is not the first in the series, but, as with most of these, that doesn’t really matter. There are obvious references to previous books, but these are just enough to make one slightly curious, and to perhaps check them out as well. Though I can’t, of course, comment on the whole series, this book seemed more character-driven than the Gibson books, with less hockey action. Whether this is a strength or a weakness will depend on the reader.
This story involves a recently-traded player, brought in to be the salvation of the team, who enters into a “business” relationship with a soap star, intended to shore up both their careers. As you might expect, the fake romance becomes real, unfortunately not at the same time for both parties. There is the usual happy ending.
After only reading one of this series (with two more on the way to me), I think I prefer this to the Gibson books. The characters, though not particularly memorable in the great scheme of things, did speak to me more than those in some of the other hockey tales I’ve been reading. I cared a bit more about them than I did those in the three Gibson books I’ve got through so far. I did miss some of the hockey action - it’s less pertinent to the story in this book and I think Gibson’s done more research in the area - but for emotional impact, based on just one book, Martin is my choice. Check back after I’ve read two more!
P.S. In case you missed my earlier review of Gibson's Nothing But Trouble book, here is the link.
Please help us welcome our newest staff reviewer Linda who has fully immersed herself this summer into tracking down and reading hockey-themed romance novels!
Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson
Linda's Review: Loosely connected to True Love and Other Disasters, this book touches briefly on hockey, but is more relationship-oriented, and thus more formulaic: Boy is sent girl to assist him, much against his will; friction ensues; sex, and possibly love, enter the picture; conflict threatens the blossoming romance; all is forgiven.
I missed the hockey content of the previous book. On the other hand, if you’re seeking something a degree racier, this is the book for you – light-hearted, but more graphic. This would make a great beach read or fill in an evening when there’s no game worth watching on the telly, but don’t expect much more.