Y’all, I wish I could tell you what I thought of this book, but I’m still not really sure. What I do know is this. It’s not – despite a cover that screams otherwise – a hockey romance, which is a serious bummer. As far as I could work it out, it’s some sort of romantic suspense caper that involves the Mafia. Maybe. It definitely involves an abusive and manipulative ex-boyfriend and a slew of trigger warnings, alongside a complete lack of hockey and an abundance of sexytimes between our hero, Kellen, and our heroine, Kristen.
Another thing I’m not sure about is whether the marketing people at Loveswept actually read the book. The cover and the tag line – “He carries a big stick and he’s not afraid to use it” – both speak to a wild romp of a sexy hockey romance. As a fan of such books, the combo of the tag and the cover was enough to make me want to read this without a lot of further investigation. As covers are shorthand in romancelandia – and if you want to get into the debate of whether they should be or not, then I’m game, but I think in sports romance in particular they are – this one is super misleading.
Kellan does play hockey for a fictional NHL team in North Carolina. He’s known for being a bit of a ladies’ man around Charlotte, but not a crass one. He’s been crushing on the bartender in his local bar for a while, a brunette by the name of Kristen. She’s so far resisted all his attempts to draw her out or get her to go on a date with him, but when she suddenly – and inexplicably – changes her mind, he is thrilled. As they get to know each other more, Kellan discovers that Kristen has a dangerous secret.
My patience with ‘deadly secret’ tropes is thin, I will admit. I value communication so highly in my romances that – much like the secret baby trope – the dangerous/mysterious past has to be executed very specifically and carefully for me to be on board with it. Suffice to say there was no care or specificity here. Kristen’s ex-boyfriend is certified sociopath, who – despite being wealthy, powerful, and married – will stop at nothing to get her back.
There’s so much overblown drama in this book that it made my head spin, and I was rarely sure what was happening and how it all connected. Some snippets from my notes include, “Wait, was that a time jump? Why?” and “He’s married to who? NOPE. Bridge TOO FAR.” and “Why does he need Kristen so much? If it’s a sociopathic control thing, then sure, whatever, but this all just reads like a sub-par cartoon villain…”
If you like drama on the level of a Latin American telenovela, and truly enjoy romantic suspense, this may be a really fun ride for you. If, like me, your mileage for secrecy plotlines is thin, give this one a pass.