I Want You Back
With I Want You Back, Lorelei James opens up a brand-new series set around Snow Village, a high-rise apartment complex that hosts multiple winter sports athletes. This first novel is about a hockey player trying to regain the trust of his daughter and his ex-girlfriend – two people who alternate between being lovable and irritating.
Jaxson ‘Stonewall’ Lund is cashing out of his very lucrative NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks and plans to begin an even more profitable life as a private citizen, returning to his Minneapolis home town and joining his father’s billion-dollar company, Lund Industries. Part of his plan includes being there more often for his eight-year-old daughter – and trying to impress upon his ex, graphic designer Lucy ‘Luce’ Quade – who is tired of Jaxson’s habit of constantly disappointing Mimi due to his busy schedule and poor lifestyle choices – that things are going to change. Mimi adores and worships her father though, and Luce tries to make the best of the situation. She’s dating an unexciting guy named Damon who doesn’t know how to turn her metaphorical crank, and her magnetic chemistry with Jaxson still lingers.
Jaxson and Luce met years ago, in the lobby of a car wash. It was all fireworks from the beginning; she thought he was a dick for being a loud cellphone talker (he was trying to convince his agent NOT to negotiate for a larger salary), he teased her for her taste in magazines. He bridged the awkwardness with flirtation, and asked her out to dinner. Soon, their explosive sexual chemistry resulted in Mimi, but Luce refused to move to Chicago when he signed with the Blackhawks, leaving Jax feeling shut out of his family’s life. Jaxson ended up cheating on Luce with some puck bunnies, and his indulgence in alcohol resulted in their break-up.
Jax is determined to prove to Luce that he’s changed, that now sober and level-headed, he will be a good father to his daughter. He’s even trying to get used to life at Lund Industries, though he finds the corporate world a baffling, dull nightmare. While trying to solve Mimi’s morning brattiness and her rebellion against their authority, Jaxson and Luce have to put their heads together, and their chemistry begins to take over their well-meaning attempt at staying platonic.
Warning: if you don’t like romances where heroes cheat – even though it was in the past – this book is probably not for you. I have to admit that I was conflicted about it; the author handles it with realism, but it’s hard to look at what Jaxson did and imagine that he’ll be forever faithful to Luce, no matter how strong the chemistry between them.
Jax and Lucy are, for the most part, pretty good people; entertaining and flawed, and struggling to be good parents. But James does have a tendency to make them sound like jerks – sometimes that makes them more human, other times it just makes them irritants, and they do piss each other off like no one else in the universe. For example, Jaxson apparently always calls Lucy ‘Luce’ as an inside joke because she wouldn’t sleep with him on the first date (um…), and he also says things like “by the third date, you will know how perfectly wicked it’ll feel to have my mouth all over you.” Not sexy, makes him sound like a lamprey, and who the heck talks like that? Yet she’s a down-home, pizza and beer type, and Jaxson is unpretentious, so their chemistry is generally pleasant. Mimi is a very believable kid, unruly and messy and sloppy, and I love that her big rebellion was over getting into hockey. Some might fight her annoying, but her not-too-cuteness is a delight. I loved Jaxson’s friendship with his neighbor, Jens, and the couple’s struggles – in Luce’s case to trust and be more vulnerable, in Jax’s case to grow up and stick with it – struck home in an entertaining way. I found his jealousy of Luce’s relationship with poor, bland Damon mildly amusing.
The worldbuilding here is fun – rich but workaday, with understandable conflicts. Even though Jax is a billionaire, he can’t get his daughter to stop lying to him or wake up at a reasonable time, or stop himself from getting lost in his father’s company. Jax’s brother, Nolan, is fully primed to be the next hero in the series.
Ultimately, the fun, spiky chemistry between the leads, and the charming nature of I Want You Back works in its favor and makes it a worthwhile read.
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