Series: #2 In the Zone
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance
Published by Carina Press
Released on August 11, 2014
I had a good time with the first book in this series so I was ready to dive right into this one. This one offered a sizzling romance about a couple that have to learn the importance of being a team and never losing sight of the true goal.
This is a sequel and there are some crossover characters and story lines, but I think it would work just fine out of order or as a standalone though it would of course be better to read them in order.
The story opens with Calder Griffin setting out to go back home to Ithaca, NY to visit his folks before returning to prepare for reporting back to the team fit and ready to play. The five-hour plane ride is not spent sleeping as he imagined, but engaged in conversation with a woman from his past. Becca Chen, the girl he used to pick on, has grown into a sexy woman that he wouldn’t mind an encounter with, but he holds back knowing he won’t be home for long and relationships, particularly distant ones, aren’t his thing. But he’s barely home before his loving, but interfering mother insists that he look Becca up and ask her out.
Becca runs her own specialty cafe that makes soups and lettuce cups. Her business is her life and she must succeed to prove to herself and her disapproving parents that she can make it so she maintains tight control. She is attracted to Calder, but knows nothing can come of it. They are both too focused on their careers and live to far apart she tells herself so after a few dates and one satisfying all-night encounter she brushes him off. So why did shoving him brutally, but honestly aside feel so painful?
Calder backed off knowing that she has a point, but still feeling like he wants more with Becca. He lets it ride as he adjusts to the final days of conditioning and reporting back to work for the hockey pre-season along with coming to terms with the fact that his perfect, successful, older brother has just signed to play with the Barracudas for the season. Hart was his idol and his best friend growing up until Hart suddenly pulled back and grew distant. Their relationship has stayed that way for years. Now they have to find a way to stuff down the antagonism and play as teammates on the same line no less. And as for his thing for Becca? He takes the initiative and makes the grand gesture hoping she will be on board with at least trying to make something between them work. He sure hopes so because he has never felt like this about anyone before. He works hard to bring about a relationship and fate gives him a little help so that he has Becca right where he wants her. But geographic distance isn’t the only barrier they have between them and it may very well be too much.
This second story carries many of the strengths of the first story like the strong, clean story development, mature feel to the characters, sizzling passion, attention to the development of other relationships beyond the romance so it wasn’t told in isolation and of course the light balance between the hockey and the romance. Overall, I liked it, but I wasn’t feeling this couple together.
Calder was all that a romance hero should be. He was attracted from the start and worked to make things work even in the midst of all he had going on. It wasn’t long into the story that I knew exactly what he would be up against if he pursued Becca and what was coming to knock him off his feet with his brother. I found it hard watching him trying to be understanding as she pulled the ‘I can do it myself and I need no one’ over and over along with his attempt to be patient as she shoved him aside 24/7 to get her business up and running. The guy gets an isolated day off and she can’t even give him an hour. He never stopped loving her though he wisely realized that he couldn’t force it if she really didn’t want it.
Becca left me feeling blah much of the time, but when she pushed Calder out of her life I just got plain fed up with her. She romanced her cafe and her food more than she did Calder. I mean she got more enthusiastic over creating a new soup or lettuce cup than she did making love. If I don’t see or hear ‘lettuce cup’ for a long time that will be fine with me. Seriously, I think it got more page time than the hockey, romance with Calder and the Hart side story put together. It constantly felt like she was just scratching an itch and that he was in the way to her- like it did to his brother and his friends who all made similar observations. She also seemed to have this superior attitude at times like her opinion was the end all be all mostly when it came to knowing her business, but it bled into her behavior with Calder too. He just wanted to be a part of things in her life and she shut him down and even resented it. Now I know that is sort of the point and why they had trouble that needed to be dealt with, and was, in the end. She had an epiphany and realized it all and apologized which scored back a few points with me. I could respect her for that and that she changed, but unfortunately, it was late in the game and I was just relieved that she finally stopped hurting the poor guy since he really seemed to want her. I will admit to thinking the epilogue was a good thing in that it gave more time for me to know that things had a realistic time to develop off scene since they pretty much were still at the beginning of the relationship in some ways.
So while the romance was a partial miss for me, there was other stuff that really made up for it. I loved that side line story about Calder and Hart. Their reunion going from hostile to sorting stuff out and growing close again was probably my favorite part of the story. The scenes displaying the camaraderie among the guys on the team were good times. Calder’s mom was such a scene stealer too. I cracked up at her care packages, cookies and homespun wisdom. I definitely look forward to more Barracuda Hockey romance stories.
All in all, it was another good installment in the series. While the story didn’t have the specific appeal as a romance, the other elements were strong and carried it through for me. Sports romance fans should try this series out and not just hockey lovers though they will definitely find these appealing.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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