My Viral Valentine
Most sports related romances tend to feature players on top tier professional teams, playing for the NFL (football), or NHL (hockey) or FIFA (soccer) for example. Melanie Ting took a step back from that with her Vancouver Vice series, about hockey players in the junior leagues trying to make it to the NHL. Now she’s started a new series, with hockey still a major feature but main male characters who play hockey as a hobby in beer leagues (called that because after the game everyone goes out for a drink together). In My Viral Valentine, the first in the Holiday Hat Trick series, a socially awkward tech genius Mason, he of the beer league playing sort, gets to play Knight in Shining Armor for the first time – and it goes spectacularly wrong. But it’s the players who put in the hard work who win the game and this delightful romance sees Mason’s efforts eventually succeed.
Abby Boyko is excited about the new phone app she and her boyfriend Rem have developed, but when they go on a morning show to promote it for a Valentine’s Day special, she’s humiliated when her boyfriend ditches her on live TV. She can’t do anything about the video of it going viral but she can do something about the business implications. Figuring she’ll develop a competing app, her friends help her connect with Mason Harrington – who plays on a hockey team with one of their boyfriends – to see what’s feasible.
Like everyone else, Mason has seen the video and secretly thought that if Abby were his girlfriend, he’d treat her like a queen. But when they meet in person for the first time he inadvertently insults her and makes her cry. Mason is determined to make up for his awkward social behaviour and show Abby that there are nice guys out there, ones who won’t take advantage of her and who will treat her right. Starting over gives them a chance to get to know each other, and develop a friendship that leads to dating, and some very satisfying sex. But while Mason can see himself and Abby together for the long term, is Abby ready for another committed relationship?
This is a fun opposites attract romance told in first person point of view from both sides. Mason is an earnest if socially inept (at least around women) character who, as an only child, is a bit spoiled by his parents. He works hard, enjoys playing hockey and hanging out with his friends, speaks honestly about situations even if he’s not always the most diplomatic and is observant, sweet and generous. Where Mason is quiet and contained Abby is exuberant, fun loving and adventurous. She has a couple of part time jobs, including selling shoes and hosting a trivia night at a local bar. She chooses her outfits based on the event (something that only Mason has ever noticed and commented on). Abby comes to appreciate Mason’s honest opinions even if at first they seemed hurtful, understanding that he doesn’t play games and speaks with only the best of intentions. And while Mason really really likes Abby right from the start, Abby is more cautious about jumping into any kind of relationship. Mason is only going to be around for a few months, giving Abby the reassurance that she doesn’t have to think of them becoming serious. Until Mason changes the rules and Abby has to decide if she’s ready for more.
There are definitely some bumps in the road to their happy ever after, but it gives them both the chance to take stock of where they are and where they want to be in the future. I like how both characters change for the better and it’s important to the development of their relationship. Mason realizes it’s time to stand up for himself more, especially with respect to his parents, and Abby who has always been wary of commitment discovers that she has to be willing to risk her heart to be happy.
The scenes with friends make for lots of laughs and camaraderie. Abby’s conversations with Em and her lawyer and new friend Sophia are full of frank observations and honest advice. The hockey scenes with Mason and his team are less on the technical side and more about the love of the game and the effort for the guys to play their best. And winning or losing isn’t all that important to Mason, it’s more about the chance to play a sport he loves and hang out afterwards with his friends. Just like women gossip when they are together, the men are equally chatty and opinionated. The other star character is a one-eyed rescue cat that Abby is fostering. Oscar steals the show in all his scenes, a sweet lovable homely pet that winds his way into as many scenes as he can. If you’re a fan of pets in romances, you’ll have a soft spot for Oscar. My Viral Valentine is a lovely mix of friendship, hockey, and a sweet and sexy romance. I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series!