Unexpected Goals
Grade : A-

There’s been a mini-epidemic of Canadian and American lady hockey players entering into lovelocks, marriage and childrearing together – prime romance novel material.  Thus I’ve been yearning for more F/F centered hockey romances (there is a bumper crop of het and M/M ones in the genre), and Unexpected Goals was just the treat I was looking for.  It’s a warm, deeply charming romance with an enemies-to-lovers theme, s greatsense of fun, sprightly sense of humor, and a true love of the game of hockey.

Maisy Goode and Jen Donato are rivals on the ice and polar opposites.  Maisy’s Canadian, Jen’s American.  Maisy’s a goalie, Jen’s a forward.   Jen’s notoriously aggressive and chaotic during gameplay, Maisy is more cautiously strategic.  They’ve hated each other ever since a USA versus Canada game at the Olympics resulted in Jen scoring a goal on Maisy and winning the gold for America.  Maisy has always accused Jen of playing dirty to get that final puck by her, a claim Jen hotly denies.  Now they’re both on the same team – the Boston Ice – and they’re going to have to learn how to work together.

Jen thinks Maisy is hot, but she also thinks Maisy is wrong – about how Jen plays and about how she approaches the game at large.  The fact that Maisy keeps bringing up the notion that Jen cheated the puck by her is annoying – she thinks Maisy just needs to get over it.  They end up clashing in the media, but they’re also stationed side-by-side in the locker room, which means they have to – gulp! – talk to one another.  Because they need to get off their butts and start working together as a team, they spend more and more time together – and have to learn to trust each other in the process.

The Ice start winning thanks to their partnership, and they’re headed for the playoffs, but by then Maisy and Jen are well on their way to falling in love.  For Maisy, that means reckoning with her sexuality – and for both women that means dealing with media coverage of their romance and intrusive eyes peeping inward.  Can they survive the pressure?

Unexpected Goals is so good – so tender and fulfilling – that the only thing I really want to say about it is ‘go read it.’

But I’ll give you more.  Maisy and Jen are complex, imperfect people who learn to love and forgive one another, which is one of my favorite tropes.  Their romance is spicy and funny and filled with banter, and the book always centers their love in a way that makes neither woman ‘wrong’ for their initial impressions but not of them ‘right’ either.  This is a warm and hearty romance about the development of trust, and the way the book goes about portraying this is perfect. The middle ground is that hockey is a tough business that can be hard on the body, and the book never shies away from that fact.  It’s incredibly easy to love both characters, and trust in their love story as it grows beautifully before your eyes.  The way they handle the media is nigh on perfect.

The book’s portrayal of the positives and negatives of life on the ice and in the public eye are flawlessly handled.  There’s a love for the game here – the glory of winning and pain of a clash and how tempers can get the best of anyone while you’re out there.  Caro and Amy from book one in the series (Out on the Ice) pop up again here and are fun as well.

Unexpected Goals is downright perfect and wonderful and romantic – and it’s my favorite hockey romance of the year so far.

Buy it at Amazon or your local independent retailer

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Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes

Grade: A-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : November 2, 2021

Publication Date: 11/2021

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Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
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