Nicole Edwards came to my attention with her self published Club Destiny and Alluring Indulgence series. They are steamy, erotic, often BDSM themed stories, some featuring polyamorous relationships, that I greatly enjoyed reading. Now she’s turned her hand to a more conventional trope – a friends-to-lovers romance with a hockey player hero. I had high hopes it would be as good as the previous books I’ve read by her and everything was going along well until a mid-book plot decision derailed the story, leaving me in the dust.
Chase Barrett is one of the bad boys of hockey, a role he relishes on the ice as it sets him up in the penalty box every game. His best friend Cassie Desrosiers just rolls her eyes at his antics, knowing that underneath his cocky attitude, he’s got a heart of gold. Since college these two have been fast friends, and while Cassie’s never entertained thoughts of them being something more, Chase has secretly harbored an attraction to his workaholic friend. When Cassie is tapped to give a keynote speech for her company’s new technology reveal at a convention in Las Vegas, she asks Chase to come along for the trip as moral support and to give him something to do now that the hockey season is over. Chase is happy to do so. A night of drinking leads to some decisions that rock both their worlds. But will it doom their friendship or lead to the start of something even better?
The hockey-related elements of this story are limited to the first quarter of the book, as it’s the end of the season for Chase and their team doesn’t make the playoffs. We see him on the ice and the actions that have given him his reputation, but the scenes off the ice with his friends show him in a different light. Yes, he’s a playboy and he hooks up with a lot of women, but he treats them well and they never have anything bad to say about him afterwards. And he doesn’t sleep around as much as Cassie thinks he does. In fact, it’s actually been several months since he’s had sex at all, which is why his fantasies of being with Cassie seem to be coming up more frequently in his dreams. In his favor are his actions when at a house party with a bunch of his teammates. He has Cassie and her friend round up the keys from all the people drinking and put them in a safe place to ensure there is no bad decision-making after a few drinks. And while he again has the chance to hook up with a single woman at this party, he doesn’t because Cassie is there. So even though he has a ‘bad’ reputation, he comes across as a pretty decent guy.
Cassie is a software developer and her career is very important to her. She spends long hours working, rarely dates and likes to spend her free time with Chase, who is always trying to get her away from working in what should be her off hours. She’s never thought of Chase in a romantic way, knowing that he’s got an abundance of puck bunnies willing to warm his bed. She’s a likable character too, and the scenes between her and Chase really show their honest affection for each other.
There is an interesting contrast in their relationships with their families. Chase has two fathers – Chief and Dad – who adopted him when he was very young and to whom he’s very close. They’ve met Cassie and like her, and the feeling is mutual. They question Chase periodically as to whether things between him and Cassie have changed, as he’s confessed to them his true feelings for her. Cassie has a much more tense relationship with her mother, a woman who flits in and out of relationships with questionable men. It’s made her leery of being in a committed relationship, one of the reasons she’s never entertained thoughts of more with Chase.
But everything changes on their trip to Vegas. Now, one can probably guess at some of the things that could happen in Vegas, but I want to keep spoilers to a minimum. However this is the start of Cassie and Chase seeing each other as more then friends, and after a slow burn start, there is plenty of steamy sex to heat up the second half of the story. I have no issues with the fact that their friendship changes to a friends with benefits arrangement. However, there are events that happen related to Cassie’s professional career that are completely at odds with how she’s presented in the first half of the story. These events lead to some plot holes that had me questioning how certain things are played out, and how the fallout affects them. It’s as if once Chase and Cassie start to have sex their hormones take over and nothing else matters. They get a happy ever after, but the fun and entertaining start to this romance doesn’t hold up to the end.