Under the Spotlight by Kate Willoughby

Posted January 7, 2016 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 12 Comments

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Under the Spotlight by Kate Willoughby
Under the Spotlight

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Series: #4 In the Zone
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Carina Press
Released on December 14, 2015
Pages: 274
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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I was definitely in the mood for a hockey romance and so it wasn’t hard to go with Kate Willoughby’s In the Zone series.  I’ve read the first two books and liked her blend of sport, romance, and solid characters.  This was the fourth book and I had skipped book three, but I did alright so it would definitely work as a standalone or out of order.  Though that said, I will eventually go back for book three.

This story opens with another new year for the Barracudas.  Joe ‘Fordy’ Rutherford knows he is a senior player and is staring retirement in the face.  He loves playing and works his butt off to keep up with the younger guys and stay at the level of play needed for the pros.  The coach recognizes other qualities in him that include teaching and mentoring so Joe is given the bright, emerging rookie star to look after for the season.  Joe has a heart for charity work and doing what he can to give back so he doesn’t say no when he is approached about a ‘Grant a Wish’ sort of request regarding a child.  And that brings a surprise chance at love into Joe’s life if he can sort through his feelings about her fame and acting.

Christine Caspary is a stage actress aspiring to make it big.  She has talent and drive and just needs her chance.  As she is working in the production of Annie, she continues to see a child she helped grant a wish for, but she wants to do more.  Joe Rutherford a hockey player is the little girl’s favorite player so even though Christine knows little about sports and has her own notions about the sorts that play hockey, she approaches Joe to help make a wish come true.  Christine gets the surprise of her life when Joe is so much more than she imagines.  This big gruff looking man is intelligent, caring, sensitive, and gentle off the ice.  She is falling for him, but when she gets a chance at her dreams will Joe’s issues and her own drive get in the way?

Alright, this was an enjoyable romance.  Maybe because they come from two different worlds of the theater and the sports arena, the story felt like a modern fairy tale.  I found it refreshing that the obstacles were in the here and now.  Neither Joe nor Christine have dark pasts though Joe’s recent experience with a cheating girlfriend and teammate does affect how he approaches this new chance at romance.

The obstacles were an interesting one and I confess I have wondered about this when it comes to people with acting carriers having relationships.   The crux of it is that Christine’s big break comes from starring on a cable show that has nudity, sex, and a love triangle and it’s already a hotly anticipated show so that everyone will see Christine nude and sexy.  Joe struggles with this and even gets harassed about it from other people (not his teammates).  Christine claims she understands, but still expects Joe to just accept it.  She had the opportunity to use a body double for the nude scenes, but feels it is better for her career to do all her own work.  I was on the fence about this.  While I get what she is saying in her ‘you have to trust me or this won’t work’, I also get the fact that even if there aren’t feelings between her and her co-stars, she is still asking him to be okay with her stripping down and going at it (even clinically) with two other guys for an audience of millions.  And she definitely can’t say that she would be fine with it if the reverse were true because she gets a little riled at the thought of puck bunnies even though girls fanning over hockey players with clothes on doesn’t go near what she’s asking him to accept.  Interesting scenario.

Beyond making me ponder such a tough, unique romance conflict, there is also the side story of the rookie learning how to handle his star pro status and Joe’s part in helping him along the path.  It added some depth and heart even while sharing another aspect of the hockey/sports world.  I felt the story was an easy read.  The writing is smooth and easy.  It was fun getting the camaraderie between all the Barracuda players and catching up with the ones who have already gotten their stories.

The romance starts out slowly because they have to conduct it long distance with her traveling with the theater troupe and him traveling with his hockey team.  Joe makes this grand gesture of chartering a plane to see her for one day between games.  Christine also sends him a ticket to her play which Joe loved because he loves plays and especially ones Christine is in.  Their date to the Sand Festival was a cute idea on Joe’s part.  They are a good couple and I was happily engaged with their story.  Joe is a ‘what you see is what you get’ guy.  He has average looks and has to work hard, but he has such heart.  Christine is sweet and also has to work hard to achieve her goals.  They are so easy and relaxed together, but heat of attraction is pulsing under the surface.  Christine won’t let that push them too fast- loved seeing that, too.

All in all, this fourth installment of the series was engaging and I loved the romance and the story of Joe and Christine.  For those who enjoy spicy sports romance with a nice balance of both sport and romance, this book/series is a good bet.

I received this book from Net Galley to read in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met (2015):

Romance Roundabout #418 CR

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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.

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6 years ago

Yummy cover. Nice a**. Oops, didn’t mean for that to come out. I really want to read the first book, just to get a feel for the author’s writing.

Sophia Rose
6 years ago
Reply to  Lekeisha

LOL! You may totally appreciate the a** here in the no judgment zone. 🙂

I enjoyed the first one. It felt a bit like this one if I remember. Fairly light on drama, but a good conflict to keep me interested and the hockey was balanced with the romance.

Mary Kirkland
6 years ago

Glad you liked it. I don’t read many sports romances.

Sophia Rose
6 years ago
Reply to  Mary Kirkland

Thanks, Mary! I didn’t read them for the longest time and then joined that challenge the year before that had a sport romance component and started to like them.

6 years ago

Mmm I like his back

Sophia Rose
6 years ago
Reply to  Blodeuedd

That is a sexy cover. 😉

6 years ago

Sports romances are one of those sub genres I really want to read more from, the one or two I did read were good. That’s interesting how the different backgrounds of the characters gave it a bit of a fairytale feel. That sounds like quite the difficult conflict to overcome and I can definitely see how he’s having some issue with her stripping down and going naked for television. I am curious how they solve that one. I migh have to check out this series as it sounds good. Great review!

Sophia Rose
6 years ago
Reply to  Lola

Oh yes, that was exactly what got me interested when I saw this one- a theater gal and a hockey player and then her going into the big time and showing all.

These are a good series to try if you’re not really familiar with hockey like me. The first one explained things a bit as it went.

Lover Of Romance
6 years ago

I always love seeing a couple so comfortable and easy together! I love sport themed romances, but I don’t think I have read a hockey one yet but you definitely are tempting me with this one though.

Sophia Rose
6 years ago

Once in a while, an easy romance is a refreshing difference. I enjoy the occasional sports romance and this series has been generally a good one for me.

6 years ago

I have read a few sport romances, although I am not a sports person. That usually doesn’t matter if I like the story.The actress and the nude thing-I can understand if he doesn’t like that! This does sound like it might be a good romance 🙂

Sophia Rose
6 years ago
Reply to  Lorna

I’ve discovered that about several types of romances. Even if in real life I don’t care for that sort of backdrop (I actually do like sports, but don’t really like office settings), I can still like it for the romance.

Yeah, that nude thing was a conflict that I had not read before and I was intrigued to find out how they would resolve that.