Nothing But Trouble
I expect a lot of things from a Rachel Gibson romance. Great dialogue, authentic guy-talk, humor, hot sex, and a deep third person narrative which has the emotional grip of a first person point of view. Gibson’s return to the Seattle Chinooks hockey team in Nothing But Trouble delivers on all of the above but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as other installments in the series due to a too-unsettled heroine and a too-morose hero.
Mark Bressler was the captain of the successful Seattle Chinooks hockey team which was heading towards the playoffs when a horrible car accident ended his career. The story opens with Mark in a conference room, trying to appear civilized to the cameras as they question him on his future and his feelings now that his team has just won the Stanley Cup. Without him. Though everyone is clear on his pivotal six-year role in getting the team to that winning position, Mark is bitter. At several points in the novel, he values himself as against his skill at professional hockey and with an injured, failed body he now views himself as less of a man.
This self-analysis has affected his personality. Where before he was serious and methodical but still open to humor and smiles, the Mark Bressler post-accident is distant to his teammates and nasty to his home care workers, Chelsea Ross included.
Chelsea is Mark’s latest home care worker. She got the job through the nepotistic act of her twin sister Bo who works in management at the Chinooks. Bo wants Chelsea to settle down and forget her acting dreams. After several years managing the lives of C and D list Hollywood stars (while really waiting for her big acting break), Chelsea has had enough of clients asking her for sexual, not just administrative, favors. She decides to crash by Bo for a while. For most of the novel, Chelsea holds tight to her aspirations.
There is a scene early on in Nothing But Trouble between Bo and Chelsea which was emotionally powerful for me. Bo tells Chelsea that she’s thirty and needs to grow up. Chelsea replies, ”I know the rest of the family thinks I’m a fuckup, but I never knew you felt that way too,” and Bo says, ”Now you do.” The sisters move on from this low point in their relationship, but I never managed to. I agreed with Bo one hundred percent about Chelsea’s immaturity and so, even though I understood how her “glass-half-full” outlook on life would positively affect Mark (despite his wishes), I could not help wondering who was going to positively affect Chelsea?
With respect to their romance, the chemistry between Mark and Chelsea, which is demonstrated by their quick-fire verbal interactions, significant time spent together, strong sexual tension, and eventual hot sex is typical Gibson, meaning I didn’t finish the story feeling short-changed on either end. Particularly given Mark’s understandably gruff and sombre personality for most of this novel, I felt that Gibson showed just how much Chelsea supported him as he lifted himself out of his depression.
I suppose the reason I could not appreciate their relationship to the fullest extent is that I viewed both characters as in need of upliftment but felt that Mark got the lion’s share of any benefit their relationship brought to each other. In the end, Chelsea makes a decision with respect to her career that I felt highlighted her dependence rather than her independence, and I wish I could have seen more movement from the Chelsea of the first page to the Chelsea of the last.
Because I was always skeptical about Chelsea’s character development as a mature adult, when she says in their first sex scene that she “doesn’t know of this is going to work” because Mark is “really big” , I wondered if Gibson was working on a historical at the same time and got confused. It didn’t help me grow any more attached to Chelsea.
That said, Nothing But Trouble is still a very enjoyable contemporary romance and there are few authors I’ve read who can get inside a guy’s head like Gibson can. Of course, seeing as I’m not a guy, I’m running on assumptions. But usually the raunchier the thoughts, the more authentic the delivery seems. Mark is plenty raunchy. I liked him and I appreciated his road to self-discovery post-accident. If Chelsea could have gone on a similar journey, this book would have been a perfect read for me.