Book Review: Power Play by Sophia Henry

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.

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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
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.

Hockey 4Eva
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).

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Italian “Princess”
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.

Past Trauma
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.

Family Probs
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.

Tough Subjects
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

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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

Final Thoughts
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.

Book Review: Forgotten Promises by Jessica Lemmon

The Lost Boys series by Jessica Lemmon takes a more serious tone than a lot of contemporary romances I’ve read. This one especially takes it to some dark places. While it’s a good read that I recommend, it is NOT a light and fluffy read by any means.

Trigger warnings: This book contains themes of physical and sexual abuse and molestation, pedophilia, and suicide.

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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A released prisoner vows to get the proof he needs to send his father to jail, and a girl he knew in high school may hold the key to helping him…if he doesn’t get arrested for kidnapping her. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

First World Problems
On her 21st birthday, Morgan finds out her boyfriend has been cheating on her. This is the worst thing to happen in her world, so she plans to spend the rest of the night getting drunk and trying to forget his betrayal. But when she sees Tucker at the convenience store and goes to talk to him,  she sets herself up to find out that there are worse things in the world than being dumped.

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From the Past
Tucker knew Morgan in high school and even once saved her from being raped. But he was also the juvenile delinquent who’s father was the chief of police. When he hears sirens and panics, he kidnaps Morgan and takes her to a friend’s cabin to hide out while he decides what to do. Morgan is understandably scared at first, but she’d been fascinated by Tucker in high school, and now she finds herself attracted to him.

Dark & Light
You’d think this was a case of Stockholm Syndrome, and I suppose there’s a little bit of that, but it goes deeper. Tucker needs Morgan’s father, a lawyer, to help him put his father behind bars before he gets involved in a camp for boys and does to them what he did to Tucker and his brother for years. Because of his past, Tucker doesn’t like to be touched and he can’t trust anyone. But Morgan represents purity for him, and when she reaches out to him, showing him true kindness and affection, he’s torn between wanting to accept her gift and wanting to push her away so as not to dirty her with what he perceives as his own darkness.

A Sad Truth
Rape is used quite a bit in romantic fiction, and it’s often something visited upon the heroine. Having the hero be the victim was definitely a turn, but one that the author handled well. Tucker knows that what happened to him wasn’t his fault. Yet he feels dirty and unworthy of love. Though he accepts Morgan’s affection at the cabin, he doesn’t believe himself worthy to be with her.

Perception is Everything
As for Morgan, even though they’re only together a few days, her whole outlook on life is changed, just by knowing what happened to Tucker and understanding that his juvenile delinquency wasn’t a rebellion against his father, it was a way to escape him. Yes, this happens only over a short time, but it’s not beyond the realm of belief, and the pacing is perfect for the intensity of the characters and their relationship.

The Romance Factor
Morgan and Tucker have a history of sorts, and though they seem to fall for each other quickly, their background keeps this from being a case of insta-love. Tucker’s tragic past makes Morgan’s need to accept and heal him that much stronger. Though there’s not that romantic angst I enjoy, the conflict and angst from other areas is powerful, and the way the characters come together is both sad and hopeful. 4/5

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The Steam Factor
The few scenes there were had enough detail to “see” what was happening, but this one wasn’t hardcore erotic, and I’m actually thankful for that. In a story with such dark themes, I think there had to be a good balance between the plot and the sex, and the balance was definitely there. So while I’m only giving it a 3/5, I’m doing so with much respect Jessica Lemmon for handling this topic well.

Final Thoughts
This quick read (it’s more of a novella) isn’t going to be for everyone, and I say that because I know readers who don’t want dark themes in their romance. However, I really enjoyed it, and I especially liked that not only was a difficult subject tackled with grace, it was done in a way that shows that it’s not just women who can be victims of horrible crimes against their bodies.