Review: Across the Line by Kate Willoughby

Review: Across the Line by Kate Willoughby
Across the Line

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Series: #2 In the Zone
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance
Published by Carina Press
Released on August 11, 2014
Pages: 287
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

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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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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

10 comments

  1. Lettuce cup ! Lettuce cup ! Lettuce cup !
    OK, sorry, just kidding 😉 I’m not sure I’ll read it though, the heroin doesn’t look nice and in those cases, I always wonder what the hero can see in her. Great review 🙂

    1. Evil, Iza! Haha!

      That was exactly my problem through most of the book- what does he see in her? She never really gave him anything to admire let alone love unless it was her drive to succeed.

  2. *drools* I just love sports romances. It is such a shame though when the heroine is a miss like that. I don’t get why it’s so hard to have a quality heroine. But it seems to happen so dang often. I’m glad the rest of everything made up for her shortcomings!

    1. Oh the hockey guys and Calder himself were totally droolworthy. I’m relatively ignorant of hockey and still enjoy this series. Becca was just so single-focused and if it weren’t a romance and more a women’s fiction or something; I would have totally cheered her on for showing her parents and herself that she was a power business woman. But since it was a romance, I needed to see her a bit more into Calder other than just her attraction to his appearance and bedroom skills and even that didn’t hold her attention for long.

      1. I totally get that. I’ve read a coupe this past year that had they been categorized a bit differently it would have made the difference in how I looked at them in the end.

        And I am totally ignorant when it comes to pretty much all sports. Other than what I’ve learned via sports romances. Hopefully my authors haven’t led me too astray in those. lol

        1. LOL! I can’t help you if this hockey romance is off or some other sports, but baseball? That one I know so I’m always tickled to pick up one of those that puts a lot of sport in the sports romance.

  3. great review! I have been getting more into sports romances, and I really love the idea of this story. Sounds like a good one. The hero sounds dreamy and sexy!! I do agree with Anna, I do wish heroines were better written. Its so hard finding one you can really love.

    1. So true! I admit that I’m harder on the gals in the stories, but I know its not just me being persnickety particularly when other characters in the story start to point out that the woman isn’t all in on the relationship or the guy. 😉

      This was my big breakout year for sports romances. I think I read more this year than I have in the last twenty-five.