Desert Isle Keeper
Deidre Martin scores a hat trick her first time out with this fantastic contemporary romance that pairs a publicist with a hockey player. Body Check combines sports and romance in a way that reminded me of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ It Had To Be You, but Deirdre Martin has her own style and voice.
Janna MacNeil is a publicist who has been hired to polish the image of the New York Blades hockey team. The Blades won the Stanley Cup last year, and are beloved by New Yorkers, but the team is not beloved by their new owners, the Kidco Corporation. It seems as though some of the Blades players took the Cup to strip joints, and other non-family type places, which doesn’t sit well with the G-rated Kidco executives. Janna is supposed to change that.
Janna has one big obstacle in her quest to burnish the Blades’ image, their captain Ty Gallagher. Janna wants each player to show he’s a good guy by taking part in at least three charity events. Ty flat out refuses. He does not like the suits at Kidco and he most emphatically does not want to perform charity work just to make the Corporation look good.
Ty and Janna clash, but as she continues to work with the Blades, their relationship mellows and becomes friendly. Janna can’t help but see what a superb leader Ty is. His team mates respect him totally and would follow him anywhere. Janna confides to Ty her dreams of owning her own PR firm someday, and is warmed by his words of encouragement. Ty’s attention to Janna’s little brother Wills also causes her to soften her opinion.
Ty’s attitude toward Janna softens as well. He sees that Janna is smart, and a hard worker. While Ty may never admit it, Janna’s PR work is good for the Blades’ image. Eventually, they become lovers and plan to keep it light and casual, but of course they can’t. While both of them (but especially Ty) would rather die than admit it, they have fallen deeply in love, but for two such complicated people the path of love cannot be a smooth one.
What wonderful characters! I am a total pushover for a well-written sports hero as a character and Ty is at the top of the list. He is a warrior and a leader – strong and tough, but tender and loving, too. He’s just stubborn enough to make the reader want to shake him, but not so obstinate that he comes across as TSTL (too stupid to love). Estranged from his father, Ty is at a turning point in this book. He’s getting older and knows he can’t continue to play at the top level. He’s also getting tired of casual relationships, but fears intimacy. Luckily, his best friend and co-captain Kevin is happily married and not afraid to talk some sense to Ty.
I loved Janna. She has a lot of realistic insecurities because of her childhood. Her parent’s marriage is an unhappy one, and caused her lots of grief. While Janna is attractive, she is the short little duck between two beautiful swan-like sisters and has always felt like she was not beautiful. All this has made Janna feel as though she is playing a part and someday people will wise up to her, even though she really is very good at her job. Her relationship with Ty gives her confidence – Janna knows that the straight-talking Ty will not say something just to make her feel good.
Body Check does not have Ty and Janna going through their story in a vacuum. We see Janna working, and having her own problems with the Corporation. We see Ty playing hockey, and leading his team. They both have friends, family and problems – and all this adds depth to them as characters.
It didn’t take me long to find my first DIK for 2003, and I am really enthusiastic about this book. Even if you are not a sports fan, I urge you to read Body Check. It’s one of the best first novels I have read in a long time and left me with a warm glow.