Desert Isle Keeper
Hockey star Blake Riley has such a large personality that he couldn’t be contained as merely a secondary character in last year’s Us. Using him as a launching point for their new WAGs series, co-authors Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy are taking on the love lives of the other players on Toronto’s NHL team, in their latest book, Good Boy.
WAGs is shorthand for Wives and Girlfriends of the Toronto players. It’s been five years since star Forward Blake Riley has had anyone in his life he’d consider for either position. After a bad break-up with his fiancée, Blake has been perfectly happy satisfying his sexual appetites with the ‘puck bunnies’ who just want a player in their bed. Blake gives each woman plenty of attention but has never felt the need to go back for seconds until he meets Jessica Canning. The two of them had an incredible time when she was in town taking care of her younger brother Jamie – partner of Blake’s teammate, Ryan – and their one-night stand wasn’t enough to quell Blake’s desire for Jess. Unfortunately, her life was back in California and he’s under contract in Toronto so there has been no chance for a repeat performance. Serving as best man at Ryan and Jamie’s upcoming wedding in San Jose will be an opportunity to see her again and perhaps share another incredible night together.
Jess is totally stressed out trying to plan the perfect wedding for her brother while hiding her displeasure at the task from her family. Blake’s arrival in town isn’t making her life any easier considering the man doesn’t quite understand the words “Not Interested.” Event planning is the latest in a long line of careers that Jess has attempted and rejected as not for her. She isn’t looking forward to telling her parents that she’s quitting after they fronted her the money to get her business off the ground; however while taking care of Jamie something clicked for Jess. She’s certain that being a nurse is what she was meant to do. Risking her family’s disappointment at yet another failed career, Jess is ready to take the leap and get her degree just as soon as the wedding is over. A brief encounter with Blake at the reception is a reminder of how sexually compatible they are but with the upcoming changes in her life there’s no time for a sexy hockey star.
When Jess gets a scholarship to a nursing school in Toronto, Blake figures that she’ll be eager to hook-up since he’s one of the few people in town that she knows. He doesn’t count on Jess being resistant to his charms and more focused on her studies than slaking her lust. For the first time in a long while, Blake has to put some effort into getting the girl that he wants. Jess isn’t quite unaffected by Blake’s attention but the overwhelming demands of her course are making her question her decision to go back to school. What she really needs is for Blake to be a friend and not push for the benefits part of the arrangement. As he tones down the sexual innuendo, Jess gets to see the real Blake, who is at heart a deeply caring person with his own unresolved issues that are constantly masked by his over the top personality. With her new focus as a caregiver, Jess may be the right person to heal old wounds and perhaps find something special for herself in the bargain.
Blake and Jess are absolutely adorable together. He’s such a goofball while she’s a stress-case for a good portion of the story. It would be easy to dismiss both characters as insubstantial during their earliest scenes but that would be a mistake. Blake has such a large heart that he’d do practically anything for those he cares for and that trait has bitten him in the ass more than once. Jess is quite prickly towards everyone but most of that comes out of her fears of failing again. The pair of them need each other more than either one realizes but they have both erected some fairly high emotional walls in order to protect themselves. Jess resists a lot of the superficial bullshit Blake normally gets away with when charming women so he’s got to give something of himself back to her. She gets under his skin in a good way, making him want to share his private life with her and be intimate with a woman in ways that don’t involve sex. Blake becomes Jess’ biggest cheerleader, giving her confidence in the choices she’s made to restart her life by leaping into a new career. Nursing suits Jess but she’s so in her own headspace that she needs Blake’s unbiased opinions of her abilities to see that she’s succeeding.
There is very little drama to Blake and Jess’ relationship and a whole lot of humor for readers to enjoy. Blake has a unique way of thinking and a language all his own. His belief that penguins are mammals or that cities with double names like Bora Bora always have a higher crime rate might seem like nonsense but they are just parts of the over the top buffoonery he uses to put everyone at ease around him. The other players on the Toronto team have their own fun moments with some locker room ball-busting that Blake takes in stride. The WAGs themselves are a rowdy bunch who gather together each game to party, cheer and support their men on the ice. In joining their crew Jess gets a crash course in hockey fandom and how much love these wives and girlfriends have for the players.
Romantic comedy can be a tricky thing but this writing duo has scored a goal with Good Boy. The laugh out loud moments are tempered with a love story that has a degree of depth and feeling I wasn’t expecting. Knowing that Erickson – a recent divorcé in need of something positive in his life – is getting a story next I’m anxiously awaiting book two. As the WAGs series continues it will be great fun to see the whole Toronto roster get their happy ever afters.