Do you remember when I reviewed Elle Kennedy’s The Deal and I specifically mentioned all of the hero’s hot hockey player roommates who were just itching for stories of their own? Well, they’re coming off the bench, and while not quite as good as the first book in the Off-Campus series, The Mistake offers up another steamy look at life at the fictional Briar University.
College junior John Logan plays a solid game of defense, both on and off the ice. He’s poised to go pro, but his dysfunctional family life means that any dreams he’s ever had of playing for his hometown Boston Bruins are impossible. Instead, when he graduates from Briar University, he’s looking at years of taking care of his alcoholic father and running his dad’s mechanic shop, a go-nowhere life where the highlight will be weekly games skating in the local men’s league. Determined to suck as much joy out of life as he can before he’s trapped, Logan has made a point of bagging every rink bunny, sorority girl or willing chick he comes in contact with. Too, the endless string of girls helps him keep his mind off the fact that he’s in love with his best friend’s girlfriend, Hannah.
Freshman Grace Ivers, on the other hand, holds her V-card with a whole lot of ambivalence. She’s not saving it for marriage or any ridiculous romantic fantasy, but she’s hoping that her first time will be memorable, at least. In a million years she never expects for the stars to align in such a way as to put superstar hockey god and hot-beyond-belief John Logan in her dorm room. But that’s exactly what happens when Logan shows up for a party at the wrong place, discovers Grace in the middle of a “Die Hard” movie marathon, and decides to join her.
One thing leads to another, and a heavy make-out session ends with Logan bolting a bit too early, leaving Grace both unsatisfied and bit mystified as to why this guy is known as such a sex god. Once he gets home, Logan is mortified to realize that Grace’s experience fell far short of spectacular. He determines to prove that he knows how to please a woman, shows up at Grace’s door again, and insists that she let him do just that.
Despite the bizarre nature of their first encounters, Grace and Logan discover that they kind of like each other. They certainly have white-hot chemistry. So much so that Grace decides Logan is worthy of being her First Time, but while Logan would love to close the deal with Grace, he suffers an attack of conscience. He admits that he’s been using Grace as a distraction to keep his mind off Hannah and that it wouldn’t be fair to Grace to take her virginity when he can’t offer her anything else. Grace is humiliated, kicks him out of her room, and heads off to Paris for the summer.
When they return to Briar in the fall, Grace has determined to move on. Meanwhile, Logan has realized that it’s not Hannah that he loves, but rather the close relationship that she shares with his best friend Garrett. The kind of relationship that Logan now sees he could have had with Grace. But Grace is not the least bit inclined to give Logan the second chance he’s begging her for. What she doesn’t realize is that Logan is determined that his final year at Briar – his final year of true freedom – won’t be complete without her in his life. And nothing stands between a committed hockey player and his goal.
I felt a healthy dose of déjà-vu while reading this book, the basic structure much the same as the first title in the series. As with Garrett and Hannah from The Deal, Grace and Logan are both appealing characters. Grace is a bit bland, but she does show her backbone when she refuses to put up with Logan’s treatment or the even worse shenanigans pulled by her life-long best friend, Ramona.
I really felt for Logan’s situation, his feeling of guilt and responsibility for his alcoholic father even though it meant sacrificing his own life and dreams of a professional hockey career. The resolution to this problem comes a bit too easily, but since this is a fantasy, I let it go for the sake of a happy ending. While the premise that so many of Briar’s players go on to play NHL hockey is statistically unlikely, at least the process of how they’d move forward with a professional hockey career seems more realistic than it did in the first book.
While I did enjoy the book, some bigger questions haunted the experience. It’s been many years since I was a college student, and I admit I fell on the lighter end of the party spectrum when I was one. That said, if reality is anything at all like it’s depicted in these books, there sure is a lot of sex happening on college campuses these days. I really have to stretch my suspension of disbelief that every one of these hockey players sees as much action as Kennedy would have you believe.
Too, in the world of this series, indeed of the New Adult genre overall, girls are often nothing more than objects. They exist solely to give the hero his bad-boy reputation and so that he can master his sexual prowess and are just mindless, personality-less girls who are always more than up for a quickie in a bathroom or a one-nighter that ends with zero expectations. Many are slut-shamed, mean girls who terrorize the heroine when the hero shuts down their advances because he finds her subtle sexuality far more appealing than their blatant come-ons. I honestly didn’t know any girls like this when I was at university. Surely they existed, just not in such quantities as are found in the pages of a New Adult book.
The exception, of course, is the heroine. She has a personality and isn’t inclined to accept the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am motto of the jock and fraternity set. She alone is able to tame the rake, who willingly gives up his playboy lifestyle for something meaningful yet always as equally satisfying. He sacrifices variety but gains quality while retaining quantity, since the heroine is always ready, willing and able. She gets a really great lover in a perfectly cut body and a sexual learning curve that is practically vertical. As far as we have come as women and despite the huge advances made in the romance genre from the days of the bodice ripper, some things have not changed one bit.
In the end, I found The Mistake not nearly as memorable as The Deal, but a good, light read with plenty of hot, steamy sex. While I do plan to read the next in the series, The Score, I’m hoping that Kennedy deviates from what is becoming a predictable formula: bad boy hockey player with daddy issues is redeemed by good girl co-ed who at first resists his irresistible charms but eventually succumbs and is rewarded by 100%-guaranteed-orgasmic sex.