As anyone who regularly reads my reviews knows, I have a not-so-secret love affair with sports romances – especially ones about hockey players. Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers) is the first in Ms. Bowen’s newest series about a fictional hockey team. Much of this book lays the groundwork for later stories, and truthfully, the love story was fairly predictable after the first kiss. A misunderstanding, an angry dad and the threat of a trade merely delay an inevitable, long delayed reunion for the central couple, who obviously love each other from start to finish. Though the story is fairly low on drama (I needed more), it is entertaining. And more importantly, it provides just the sort of comfort food sports romance fans adore – a little bit of angst, athletes, romance, sex and the promise of more player stories to come.
Georgia Worthington has a big day ahead of her. She’s currently the senior publicist for New York’s newest hockey franchise, the Brooklyn Bruisers, and today they’re introducing a new head coach. Making her way to the team headquarters in Brooklyn, her mind is on how best to minimize the relationship between her and the new coach (her dad), and instead keep the narrative focused on what he brings to the team. Upon arriving at the office she learns they’re also announcing a new player acquisition. Distracted by thoughts about her dad and the upcoming press conference, the new player seems like a minor worry. Until, that is, the name of the new player finally registers and she realizes it’s the man she passionately loved – and dumped – six years ago.
Almost from the moment they met in high school, Georgia and Leo Trevi loved each other. They were each other’s ‘first’ and the relationship was full of laughter, happiness and lots and lots of great sex. Neither one could imagine anything coming between them, until one day it did. During Spring Break their senior year, Georgia was raped while attending a weeklong tennis camp. Leo did everything he could to help her through those first months home after the attack but sensed Georgia pulling away from him. Despite the growing distance, he never doubted they would eventually get through it – together. But Georgia, already emotionally destroyed after the attack, hated the changes between her and Leo – the lack of physical affection and the new awkwardness between them – and decided they both needed a fresh start before heading off to college. When Georgia told him it was over, Leo, still very much in love with her, let her go. Georgia didn’t really expect him to disappear from her life, but he wanted to honor her request for space and stayed away. Neither was satisfied with the way their relationship ended, but because they never talked about it and kept away from each other, years went by without any contact between them.
Six years later, Leo’s just been called up from the minors to play for the major league Brooklyn Bruisers. He’s at headquarters to meet with the team owner and overhears arguing as he approaches his office. Leo realizes the argument is about him – the new coach doesn’t want him on the team. Hard on the heels of that shock is the horrible realization he knows who the voice belongs to – Karl Worthington, Georgia’s dad. Before Georgia was raped, he was close to Karl, but afterwards, despite Leo’s best efforts to love and care for her, Worthington grew to dislike him, and Leo never knew why.
Discovering the coach doesn’t want him sends Leo into a panic; when he joins the team in the lockers for a quick pre-press conference pep talk from the PR team, he’s shocked to hear Georgia’s voice and discover she works for the Bruisers. He’s not sure she knows he’s in the room until she looks straight at him and tells the team to welcome their newest player. Right away, Leo realizes he still loves her and starts strategizing how he can get her alone to talk. When he walks into the press conference, dazed, his team captain warns him, “You gotta stay on the good side of the publicist… She’s a total bitch on wheels.” They sit down and Leo leans over close to the captain’s ear and replies “If you want to keep breathing, don’t ever call the love of my life a bitch.” – a nearby (live) microphone broadcasts his every word. Georgia flees but the damage is done.
Once their history is revealed, most of the rest of Rookie Move deals with Leo’s attempts to show Georgia they belong together, prove his value to the team despite his coach’s desire to get rid of him, and repair his relationship with the team captain, Patrick O’Doul. Much of it reads like filler – it really doesn’t take long for Leo and Georgia to end up back in each other’s arms (and in bed), and to confess they love each other. Even though Ms. Bowen makes them jump through a few more hoops before the book concludes, once they get together on the team’s first road trip, they’re never really apart again.
Leo is a refreshing change from most sports romance heroes; he’s vulnerable, doesn’t play games, and isn’t – and never was – a womanizer. He never stopped loving or caring for Georgia, and isn’t afraid to tell her how he feels. He’s so likeable and solicitous of Georgia’s feelings, it strains credibility that he never made any attempt to reconnect with her after their break-up. I wasn’t as fond of Georgia’s character and despite her tragic history, I found it hard to relate to someone who dumped the love of her life and then resented him when he respected her request to stay away. She’s written as a bit of a brittle ice-princess at work, but when she’s in her apartment with her roommate and best friend Becca, she’s funny, warm and sweet. It was hard to reconcile her two personas. It’s immediately obvious Leo is her heart and she can’t resist him, though Ms. Bowen forestalls a quick HEA by trying and failing to convince us Georgia would cut him loose again if he got traded. Similarly, the reasons for Coach Worthington’s anger at Leo – a classic Big Misunderstanding – take up a lot of book space, but might have been avoided if the three of them had just had a simple conversation, and/or if Georgia had reached out to either one of them after her attack.
Rookie Move is a promising start to this new series. I liked it – but I’ll be looking toward O’Doul’s story (it’s next) to decide if Ms. Bowen can keep me coming back for more.