I’m a fan of the vacation fling trope in romances, ones where the characters meet up again later and develop an actual relationship. So when I heard that Kelly Jamieson’s most recent release, Good Hands would feature this within her current hockey series (Bears Hockey II) I was quite excited to get my hands on a copy, and I’m happy to say it lived up to my expectations.
Brandon Smith is a Chicago Bears hockey player whose mantra is to keep things light and easy and not cling to things too hard, a sentiment that has served him well over his hockey career with several different teams and equally well with women. So hooking up with the sexy and fun Lola McGrath while on vacation in Aruba is a no-brainer. She’s admitted to not having time to pursue a relationship either, and together they have a smoking hot time, leaving them with some sensual memories.
Lola needed that time away from her job as a change manager, helping clients deal with mergers and acquisitions, and looking ever forward to a move up the ladder with the knowledge that the current vice president of the company will be retiring and she’ll have a chance at that position. She’s a workaholic, putting in extra hours, taking on projects and micro-managing to make sure things get accomplished to her liking. It’s exhausting, but she feels the reward will be worth it.
Much to Lola and Brandon’s surprise however, they meet again back in Chicago at a hotel bar where she’s attending a work-related awards event and Brandon is meeting his agent. Thinking of their time back in Aruba reminds them of how good the sex was between them and they throw caution to the wind to indulge in another night together. And then, another chance meeting while shopping leads to yet another night and this time phone numbers are exchanged, with the promise of more meetings, more fun and sexy times, more… what exactly? Because as they spend time together and share things about each other’s lives, suddenly their friends with benefits arrangement gets complicated and they are left to wonder – is it time to call it quits or go all in?
I’m a long time fan of this author (and full disclosure, we’ve met in person for lunch a few times as we live in the same city). She knows hockey (she’s a tried and true fan of our local team), the ins and outs of not just the game on the ice but the real nitty gritty behind the scenes of money and contracts and decision- making. So the hockey parts of the book all feel very authentic.
What was more interesting to me, however, was how the two main characters change and evolve over the course of the story. Lola’s workaholism is in part due to how she was raised. Her parents built up her self-esteem so much as a child with well-meaning but sometimes false praise for everything she did such that college and the real world came as a big shock when she didn’t always succeed in her course work. After failing out of medical school, she’s found a job she enjoys and is good at, but doesn’t trust other people to contribute the same amount of effort as she does. She has difficulty delegating tasks and prefers to take everything on herself, a work position that is becoming unsustainable. As her relationship with Brandon progresses, she begins to realize that it isn’t a weakness to ask for help. I really appreciated the dynamic she has with her cousin Kaylee, who isn’t afraid to be blunt and tell Lola the truth about things and make her see that she’s been setting unrealistic expectations of herself.
Brandon is an accomplished hockey player with friends on every team he’s been on. But what few people know is that he believes that his parents divorced because of him, that his hockey playing as a youth was what ultimately strained their marriage to the breaking point. Put in the middle of their arguments, Brandon’s truth is that relationships break down and cause pain, and that it’s better to not get too attached. His philosophy means being traded from one hockey team to another doesn’t really bother him because he hasn’t bothered to put down roots in the cities where he’s played. He sees his team mates, the ones who are married with children, and has never daydreamed about that life, afraid that what happened to him is what would happen to his own child.
But spending time with Lola means that for the first time, he thinks about his future, about being traded or having a family, in a new, somewhat frightening (to him) way. He makes decisions because of that fear that cause a strain in his relationship with Lola, ones they have to work through with open communication and honesty in order to get things back on track. The result is a convincing happy ending because the reader knows they’ve put in the work to make a long lasting relationship. Good Hands has the winning combination of strong character development with hot and sexy scenes to make for a thoroughly enjoyable contemporary romance.
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I'm a biochemist and a married mother of two. Reading has been my hobby since grade school, and I've been a fan of the romance genre since I was a teenager. Sharing my love of good books by writing reviews is a recent passion of mine, but one which is richly rewarding.