Heat It Up
It’s rare I start a book and decide it’s not worth my time to finish it. Heat it Up, alas, is one of few to earn this distinction, though I did read it all the way to its conclusion. Based on its description as a contemporary, sports themed romance, it should have been a homerun for me. Some of my favorite books come from this subcategory of romance. I even awarded it extra bonus points because I enjoy hockey and I’m married to a hockey fanatic. Unfortunately, multiple ridiculous scenarios in a predictable story, boring and underdeveloped characters, and clunky writing doomed it to a near failing grade.
Heat it Up is the story of Sofia Phillips, a college student from Minneapolis living with her grandmother in Finland on a summer work-exchange program. She’s traveled to Finland to get away from a host of problems at home. Sofia’s parents split up after her father cheated, and she recently discovered her longtime boyfriend cheated (maybe more than once). In an odd aside, we also find out the ex-boyfriend died shortly before she left; throughout much of the book it’s unclear how or why this is relevant to the story. Sofia distrusts men (can you blame her?) and hopes the time away will provide the escape and distance she needs in order to heal. Her grandmother has other plans, however. She spends the majority of the book trying to match Sofia up with Joni, the grandson of one of her close friends.
When we meet Sofia, she’s cleaning toilets at the gym where she’s been placed as a janitor for her program. She’s bent over cleaning out the sauna when two naked men surprise her. She thought she placed a sign indicating the sauna was closed, but apparently forgot and is startled by their appearance. When she realizes they’re nude, she accidentally sprays them with water as she struggles to turn off the high pressure hose. She’s embarrassed and runs out, belatedly realizing one of them was speaking English to her.
The English speaker was Kyle Bennett. He’s in Finland for the summer co-coaching an elite hockey training camp for teens with his friend and former Minneapolis Bears NHL teammate, Nikkolas Tikkanen. Kyle’s also hoping to escape his past. He’s spent the past year drinking heavily and sleeping around after a drunk driver killed his wife and he sustained a leg injury that ended his NHL career. The opportunity in Finland gives him a chance to get his life back together without his close knit family hovering and worrying about him. Unfortunately, when he runs into Sofia, things haven’t changed much. His roommate and co-coach Nikkolas (Nik), is hot, single, likes partying and one-night stands and Kyle is his frequent companion on and off the ice.
After a little digging reveals the pretty janitor is American, Kyle tries to meet her. He hangs out at the gym when he thinks she will be working and finally gets his chance when he interrupts a group of Finnish men harassing her in the sauna. He rescues her and they agree to meet up for coffee when her shift ends. Kyle doesn’t immediately reveal he’s a former NHL hockey player and since Sofia isn’t into sports, she doesn’t recognize him. He’s happy to get to know her secure in the knowledge she isn’t spending time with him only because he’s a famous hockey player in the US. Since both of them are still healing from past relationships neither is looking for anything more than friendship, but they agree to explore their temporary home together. In return for playing tour guide, Sofia asks if Kyle will also pretend to be her boyfriend so as to discourage Joni and her grandmother. When they run into Joni that same afternoon at her grandmother’s apartment, Sofia kisses Kyle to make it more convincing. They’re both surprised (although we aren’t) by the attraction they feel for one another.
Heat it Up progresses more or less exactly as I expected. Sofia and Kyle they realize they like each other as more than friends and find themselves resisting their attraction until they can’t. The circumstances leading up to the first time they have sex is so contrived and unbelievable (like much of the book), I found myself rolling my eyes as I read it. Every time these two find themselves trusting in their relationship, Ms. Lindenblatt throws another obstacle in their way. The meddling (but with good intentions) Nik, the ridiculously underhanded and jealous grandson/friend Joni, Sofia’s insecurities, Kyle’s insecurities, the final twist/coincidence from their past… All of these plot devices weigh down an already formulaic and boring story. Even the sex scenes – which I usually look forward to – lacked excitement. Although Ms Lindenblatt describes their sexual chemistry as ‘amazing’ and ‘intense’, it was never amazing, intense or frankly, interesting, to me.
I had other problems with the book aside from the completely predictable plot twists and resolutions, most notably with the main character, Sofia. Ms. Lindenblatt works hard to convince us she’s an intelligent and emotionally mature young woman but unfortunately, Sofia’s actions and narrative belie that description. She’s cast in one ridiculous scenario after another, and her immediate reactions are mostly immature and impulsive. Her inner narrative is silly and more often than not, reveals her as a stereotypical insecure girl. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. At college, she’s majoring in athletic training but she’s not interested in sports? She traveled to Finland and accepted a position as a janitor without complaint? She doesn’t speak any Finnish but spent every summer there until she was fifteen years old? Her grandmother doesn’t speak any English? Really?
Kyle doesn’t fare much better. He somehow overcomes alcoholism just by dating Sofia, loses interest in other women the moment he meets her (though she’s written him as a good looking womanizer), and he’s a physics genius with a penchant for sharing random physics trivia ‘just because’. A fact which Sofia, despite not understanding half the things he says, finds endearing. Sigh. These two are so unappealing as individuals, I never felt invested in them or their relationship.
Heat it Up never heated me up. In fact, it left me cold.