Hey guys, it’s almost hockey season! I say that with excitement, despite the fact that I’m a Bruins fan and they’re probably going to be terrible this year. Sigh. Anyway, if you just can’t wait until October, or if you just like a good sports romance for the romance, not the sport, here are two hockey romances you can read now!
Rookie Move by Sarina Bowen
This book features Leo Trevi, a pro hockey players with the Brooklyn Bruisers, and his high school girlfriend Georgia. They were each other’s’ first love, and nobody else has measured up since. Leo is traded to the Bruisers, where he has to come face to face with Georgia (and her father, the coach, who hates Leo’s guts) and all they left behind. Georgia is dealing with trying to keep up after a new promotion and doesn’t have time to be distracted by the long-lost love of her life.
One thing I found refreshing about this book is that, while the event that pulls Leo and Georgia apart is her rape in senior year of high school, the rape itself is never described. The aftermath of Georgia’s assault has echoed through both of their lives, but it’s never dramatized or treated as the only defining event in her life. It’s a choice you don’t often see, and I appreciated the choice the author made.
As always, Bowen does a fantastic job weaving in hockey details with the romance. I also really liked that, even though this was a workplace romance, both Leo and Georgia take their jobs very seriously. They both come to the decision individually that their jobs are more important than the romance, and that never really wavers. They both take pride in their work and are ambitious — there is never the sense that her job is less important than his because she works in PR rather than being on the ice, and her personal ambitions are central to the plot. (I loved the Mark Zuckerberg-like character who owns the team, and I really hope he gets his own book.)
This was a really hard book for me to review. Sarina Bowen is an author who knows how to hit my id hard with tropes and relationships I love. She writes interesting, vibrant characters who have complicated histories, and she should be a very uncomplicated auto-buy for me. That said, she takes a weird turn into misogyny in almost every book. It’s usually brief, but it’s like, “gorgeous ride, beautiful scenery, CAR CRASH, ok, back on the road, gorgeous ride, beautiful scenery..” She has written an incredibly powerful book about slut-shaming (The Shameless Hour) and then, in other books, she has female characters roll their eyes at other female characters for being shallow or “puck bunnies.” There’s always a moment where the heroine is “not like those other girls” and it really grates.
I think it grates so much because I otherwise love her damn books. I know that when I pick up a Sarina Bowen book, I won’t be able to put it down until it’s done. I know that she’ll have characters that feel full and real. I just wish she would never write anyone’s ex-girlfriend ever again.
Empty Net by Avon Gale
Avon Gale’s Scoring Chances series shows a different side of professional hockey: the less-glamorous, lower-paying minor hockey world of the ECHL. The first three books can be read as standalones, but Empty Net doesn’t make nearly as much sense if you haven’t read the third book (Power Play) as it continues pretty directly from the end of that.
This book is all about the drama! Like Sarina Bowen’s book, I couldn’t put it down once I started. However, I definitely think this is going to be the kind of book people will either love or hate. It’s very much a soap opera, with enemies-to-lovers, eating disorders and abusive parents and a hero with a past as a prostitute. Oh, and did I mention that one of the heroes is a virgin? This book is packed with so many tropes, it’s bound to be somebody’s catnip.
The things I loved about this book: good hockey and good therapy. Gale does a great job writing the game, showing a side of pro sports that’s rarely depicted anywhere…the life of struggling minor-league player. She also does a terrific job writing Laurent’s therapist and depicts therapy sessions fairly realistically. Therapy done badly is a huge pet peeve of mine.
The relationship is sweet and mutually supportive, but the book is ultimately all about Laurent and his journey, discovering his sexuality, (he’s demisexual and a virgin) gettiIfng healthy, and freeing himself from his father. Gale’s books deal with difficult subjects but somehow always feel safe, in the way where you know everything is going to be all good at the end.
If you’re in the mood for deep dive into the trope deep end, this is an excellently-written book for you.
Erin is a full time contributor to Binge on Books. She is a voracious reader and reviewer who has been been reading romances since she stole them from under her neighbor’s mom’s bed while she was at work. You can read all her reviews here.
Connect with Erin on Twitter: @booksandjoe