I’d had some issues with the first book, but it had enough redeeming qualities that I wanted to continue the series. This book was actually a more enjoyable read for me in general, and though there were a few things that gave me “meh” moments, I connected more with the characters and liked the way everything played out.
Trigger warning: Rape is a prevalent theme in this one, so proceed with caution.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
A young woman trying to help her family run a business finds that her long time crush is not as unrequited as she thought it was, but past trauma threatens her chance at happiness. For a full synopsis see this book’s Goodreads page.
I’m always drawn to books that center around hockey, and like the first one in the series, this one takes us back to Detroit and the minor league hockey team, the Pilots (though there are enough Red Wings references to keep me happy).
Gabriella helps run her family’s store, so when her father has a heart attack, she’s determined to do what she can to market the store and bring in more business, despite the fact her father hasn’t trusted her to run the store and has given the job to Gabriella’s loser brother who can’t even run a credit card the right way.
Not Your Typical Player
Landon is a hockey player who’s had a crush on Gabriella for years. She’s had one on him too, but in her mind, he’s a hockey player and way too good for her. So when he helps her the day her father goes the hospital, he uses this as his gateway to finally telling her how he feels about her. He’s kind of cute in a nerdy way that one doesn’t normally associate with hockey players.
Playing Out the Relationship
I prefer that romance build in the stories I read, so the fact that Landon tells Gabriella he’s had a crush on her before the book is even halfway done took away from the foreplay factor. Once the feelings are in the open, most stories just play out the dynamics of the relationship. In this case, though, Gabriella can’t seem to come to terms with the fact that the man she’s been infatuated with for years would actually return her feelings.
There’s a lot of back and forth with Gabriella saying she’s not beautiful and Landon telling her she is. At first, I found this annoying, but then the story unfolds and it becomes understandable where this comes from. Even though we find out right at the beginning that Gabriella was raped, it’s not until later when she’s trying to make a relationship work with Landon that we see how it’s affected her life. Even though, as a reader, we have a general idea, it definitely makes an impact when the details are revealed.
This is another book with family that can be classified as pains in the asses. While Gabriella’s mother and one of her brother’s is okay and supportive of Gabriella, the loser brother and her father are so highly unlikable. I wasn’t a fan of Gabriella being treated less than because she was a young woman when she obviously kicked ass at working. There were a couple redeeming moments for her family, but overall, I really didn’t like them.
The subject of rape was handled well. Because Gabriella was raped by someone she knew, and because the family had ties with the family of the boy who raped her, she was basically ignored in favor of keeping business relations with the family of the rapist (her grandfather was an ass). I liked that the author also included things that come along with rape, such as depression and anxiety, and the stigma that Gabriella felt about having to take medications to handle what she thought was her “crazy.”
The Romance Factor
Landon is sweet and treats Gabriella with respect, support, and kindness. Though not super angsty, there’s a bit of conflict towards the end that I enjoyed. 4/5
The Steam Factor
Sex isn’t prevalent, but the few scenes that do happen are steamy and detailed, with respect towards Gabriella’s rape. There’s an especially good one of bathroom floor sex that leads to a cameo of the couple from the first book. 4/5
This is a hockey novel with very little hockey, so readers looking for a lot of ice action may be disappointed. The story is sweet, and even though the family and some other side characters are annoying, Landon and Gabriella are likeable enough to make up for it.