Lucky Bounce
Grade : C

Lucky Bounce, a standalone novel from Cait Nary, features a grumpy/sunshine romance between a gruff pro hockey player and his daughter’s PE teacher. It’s billed as a “flirty romantic comedy” – which is the case with just about every contemporary romance being published right now – and I’ve learned to lower my expectations about the comedy part because I could count the number of truly funny rom-coms I’ve read in the last year on the fingers of one hand. There are a few funny moments in this one, I will admit, but the romance is sorely lacking and quite honestly, the whole thing is a bit of a mess.

The story starts well, though. Zeke Boehm, a PE teacher at a private elementary school in Philadelphia, is no stranger to teaching the kids of the rich and famous, but he’s completely stunned when professional hockey legend (and his major crush) Spencer McLeod walks in to back-to-school night accompanied by the daughter nobody knew he had. Zeke does his best to maintain his professionalism in the face of his new pupil and the man who has provided all his fantasy fodder for the past few years.

Shortly after this, Zeke’s roommate, Jake, drags Zeke along to a corporate meet-and-greet event with the players from the Philadelphia Liberty – Spencer’s team. Zeke isn’t keen on going – he’s not exactly shy and can shoot the shit with the best of ‘em, but the situation – Spencer’s daughter is his pupil – makes him a bit nervous, and he doesn’t want Spencer to view him as some kind of ‘hanger-on’ who wants to exploit a famous connection. He ends up going, of course, and even has an actual conversation with Spencer – mostly about Addie – which ends with Spencer offering to get him tickets for games. The whole thing short-circuts Zeke’s brain, and when one of Spencer’s teammates starts giving Zeke assessing looks, he’s had enough and high-tails it out of there.

About a week later, an email from Spencer lands in his inbox offering him a pair of tickets to the next Liberty game. He takes along his colleague, Samur, and when they’re invited to join the team after the game, she ends up making arrangements for a school outreach visit by Spencer and a couple of teammates the following week. Zeke is surprised when Spencer seeks him out after the visit is over and helps with one of his classes; and when Spencer tells Zeke he’d supposed to lead the reading circle soon but has no idea what a reading circle even is, the two of them end up arranging to meet at a local book shop so Zeke can help Spencer pick something out.

From here, Zeke and Spencer start texting each other regularly, and begin awkwardly hanging out. Zeke is bright and fun, a bundle of energy who uses physical exercise as a way of burning off his excess energy and keeping himself from getting too caught up in his head, where Spencer is big and grumpy and taciturn, although he does seem to come out of his shell a bit around Zeke. They’re kinda cute together to start with, but then they jump from this getting-to-know-you stage to sexting to sleeping together and dating without any real build-up or sense of a developing connection. We know Zeke is strongly attracted to Spencer, but that’s about it, and their chemistry is lukewarm at most.

We’re in Zeke’s PoV the whole time, which can get a bit exhausting – even he admits he can be ‘a lot’ – but this means Spencer (whose vocabulary seems mainly to consist of grunts, “fuck off”, “whatever” and “shut up”) is little more than a secondary character who shows up now and then because this is supposed to be a romance and Zeke needs someone to have a romance with. Spencer could have been anyone, frankly, and even by the time we reach the end, we hardly know him. It’s not until around the 90% mark that we find out why Addie has come to live with him, and the little we see of his familial relationships isn’t enough to properly flesh him out as a character.

By the time I reached the final third of the book, I was waiting for something to happen, some kind of tension or conflict that would raise the stakes and get me really rooting for these two to be together, but there’s nothing. They just carry on having sex and not talking about their relationship – and there are some big issues they really needed to discuss, such as what it means for them to be together when one partner is a single dad and the other is  his kid's teacher; how they’re going to deal with the vast disparity in their incomes (and their personalities); how Spencer’s schedule will impact them, but again, nothing. When the story ends – which it does very abruptly – it’s barely an HFN; Spencer and Zeke have made no real commitments to each other (they haven’t even exchanged “I love you”s!), and they’re in a relationship that Spencer hasn’t even considered making public (his teammates know he’s gay, but he’s not out publicly). There’s also no resolution to Zeke’s family situation – he’s estranged from them because they believe being gay is a life choice and it clearly hurts him a lot, but again, it’s just left up in the air. If you’re looking for a romance where the characters grow and work out their issues like adults, this is not it.

The story doesn’t have a great deal of plot and I can’t describe it as character-driven because there’s very little character-work going on here, so I’m not sure how to define it. The third person present tense narrative doesn’t do it any favours either; I felt as though I was reading at one remove because the device just didn’t allow me to get into Zeke’s head or understand his motivations, and it made the lack of Spencer’s PoV even more of an issue.

Obviously, I can’t recommend Lucky Bounce. As has been the case with the other books I’ve read by this author, it has good bones, but falls down in the execution, and the single PoV is a serious drawback to creating a believable romance. The the third book I’ve read by Cait Nary,  and as she has yet to attain anything higher than a middling grade from me, perhaps it’s time to move on.

Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : C

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : January 10, 2024

Publication Date: 01/2024

Recent Comments …

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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