I’m doing the procrastinating readers’ walk of shame right now because I waited so long to read this fabulous story of triumph, heartache, love and acceptance that made up this superb hockey romance. Seriously, people! What was I thinking to get distracted and not get this while the getting was hot? Enough of that, I got to it now thanks to To Be or Not to Be…Read voting win, fell in love with achingly broken, but passionate and adorable Alex along with Steel Magnolia and all around angel Sutter who fought for love and took a chance on a guy like Alex. Love deeply touching stories, but hate undue angst? Here you go. This one!
But what brought all that on you ask? The story opens with stone-cold and cruel Alex Crossman being issued an ultimatum from the Cold Fury management. Clean up his Most Valuable Prick image by participating in a community youth program as the Cold Fury spokesman or else ride the bench and pay the fines. Alex already loathes hockey even though he is truly good at it after the verbal, emotional and physical abuse his alcoholic dad rained down on him early and often and still does to push his son to achieve what he could not. He knows he is a jerk to everyone he goes near, but a career such as hockey only lasts so long and its all he knows how to do so he must salvage this even if being forced to do anything makes him burn with anger after dealing with that for years from his dad.
Sutton is eager for this chance to run the program of her dreams- to really help kids with substance-abusing parents like herself. She got lucky when her mom got away from it and found Jim, Sutton’s wonderful step-dad who is just dad, but she wants to make the difference for others. However, her team partner, a professional hockey player makes it clear that he is only there on sufferance. Sutton wants to be angry at the way he blows off meetings, is late, and his snarling treatment of her, but she sees something in Alex that makes her realize that there is more to him than what he wants people to believe. She doesn’t know his story, but she instinctively knows that it wasn’t dissimilar from her own.
With small, tentative steps, they forge a connection that leaves them both eager to see where it can go. Alex enters into it terrified of the moment that he just knows his black nature will destroy it all with Sutton. Sutton pushes forward with hope and the desire that she can break through Alex’s walls earning all his trust. They share a hot passion and a team togetherness, but dare they reach for more.
This story is amazing for many reasons. It is told with each character taking the narration in alternating chapters in first person perspective so I had the opportunity to get to know them well. I enjoyed both as narrators and in the beginning when Alex was being just awful, it was good to know what was going on in his head. I loved just how deeply flawed Alex was and how far he came in this story. He grew up in a situation that just broke my heart and he never got relief from it even into the present. He has not known love and doesn’t even know the first thing about romance and relationships as a result. Sutton is like his life coach helping him explore all that he has been missing and teaching him to have a zest for life and love for the first time. Sutton’s life started out like his and then she got a happy ending family-wise. She uses her past almost as a gift rather than a curse to help others. Does her past still trouble her present? Sure. She comes across as almost too good to be true, but I didn’t make the mistake of thinking she wasn’t feeling the heartbreaking stuff just because she didn’t turn into a hot mess. The girl dug into her Hershey’s Almond Kisses and made herself get up, dust off and keep going. I think she is totally Urban Fantasy heroine material in that regard.
The story did a good job of presenting those domestic violence and substance abuse themes. It was realistic without losing the romance and passion. I really liked how the tough times of this book are written. Alex screws up as is expected the way he is going along. I say expected because I had this feeling all the way through that this strong man who put himself together just to survive, must be broken and remade before all can be better. That being said, this remolding doesn’t go off the rails and blow up the plot as a result. The emotions are all there, but are drawn out naturally and not strung out too long.
The story was paced well and tugged the reader to cringe, smile, squirm, laugh and ah at various times. It didn’t shunt on the hockey backdrop and theme, but didn’t dwell on it either. And gotta say that I really can’t keep my eyes off that cover.
So, to sum up, I loved this first in series New Adult by a new to me author and recommend it strongly as a first dip into NA for newbies and I would also push this one to lovers of adult Contemporary Romance who like sports themed spice romance. Next book in the series will definitely be a read for me- Garrett’s book so nuff said.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.
Books N Tunes
Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings
Item found: GARTERS
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