A retired athlete meets the daughter he never knew—along with the woman who reignites his passions—in this powerful standalone romance from the bestselling author of Hot Shot and the Heller Brothers series.
Drew Sellers is drowning in broken dreams and empty beer bottles. Hockey was his world, until a bum knee reduced him from superstar to has-been. Then he learns that, thanks to a one-night-stand back in college, he’s the father of a preteen girl with major issues. Her protective aunt sees right through Drew’s BS, but “Auntie P” is no stereotypical spinster. With her slender curves, toned legs, and luscious lips, she has Drew indulging in fantasies that aren’t exactly family-friendly.
At another point in her life, Peyton Watt would have been all over a cocky alpha male who pushes all her buttons like Drew. Right now, though, she needs to focus on taking care of her niece during her sister’s health crisis, all while holding down a job and keeping her own head above water. Besides, Drew’s clearly no father of the year. He’s unemployed. He drinks too much. And he’s living in the past. But after Peyton gets a glimpse of the genuine man behind his tough-guy façade, she’s hooked—and there’s no going back.
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.
OK, in a totally boneheaded move I avoided reading a different ARC of mine b/c I was afraid of all the emotions, and instead picked up this one, which contains…ALL THE EMOTIONS. I don’t know if I just forgot the blurb since when I requested it, but yeah. For a girl who was looking for something lighter, I really wasn’t thinking. So basically what I’m saying is that this book deals with some pretty heavy topics, and is definitely on the more emotional scale. It doesn’t help that I have a personal connection to the type of Cancer that Sara is dealing with (melanoma), so it hit a bit too close to home at times. But at the same time, it was nice that a cancer that’s affecting my loved one was getting a bit of attention.
So this is my first book by Ms. Jamieson, and perhaps it wasn’t the best introduction to her work. Which is NOT to say the book wasn’t well written, just that it sounds like it was a bit of a departure from her usual stuff (both from reviews and from her note in the acknowledgements about being encouraged to branch out), so I will definitely have to get me one of her hockey books in the future and get another taste. I can honestly say I enjoyed that Drew was Canadian, b/c I got to see some teeny tiny things that made me (as a Canadian) smile.
In the end, you know where the strength of this story lies? In the non-romance part. In the development of Drew, in the grief shared by the family, in their navigation of new realities. I’m not sure what happened, but it’s almost like Ms. Jamieson was so focused on bringing us a “bigger book” that the romance kind of got lost in the shuffle. Which is not to say it wasn’t there, but it just didn’t capture me. It felt a bit forced. I didn’t feel that chemistry between Peyton and Drew. It kind of…well…bored me. 😦 I really hate saying things like that, but it’s how I felt. Even the steamy scenes didn’t really do much for me…but part of that was because there was some talking, and I’m really picky about my dirty talk and Drew’s didn’t work for me. No offense, but no.
OK, so that was the bad. Which is kind of a bummer, b/c I’m a romance girl at heart. BUT!!! But but but… A lot of THE OTHER STUFF was so well done for me!!! These characters were really pretty flawed. But not without redemption. It was kind of intriguing to read about a character being forced into retirement b/c of injury. It’s not really sexy to see a guy indulging in a pity party, but it was very real at the same time…I could get how he got to that point, and I could really feel his emotions. It’s not how you normally want to see your heroes, but I really didn’t mind it. B/C it’s kind of refreshing you know? And it made his growth so much more satisfying. I loved how much he struggled with getting out of that low, that it wasn’t just easy… I know that’s kind of weird and may turn other people off, but not me. It made him more real to me. It made me love Drew more.
And then there was how he dealt with finding out he was a Dad. OMG, AGAIN real real real. There wasn’t some magical instant connection, and he wasn’t immediately comfortable with it all. But he was interested. And even though he wobbled at the beginning, he really put his all into developing a relationship. I LOVED that he was honest about his feelings at different steps along the way. And I loved that he had some great instincts with Chloe, even if he didn’t always trust them. Sometimes I felt a bit weird at how he got some things so perfectly right (like the dress code), but on the other hand I was cheering!
And I thought Chloe was very realistic too! She’s in that stage of life where we get to see so much, both good and bad. She had missteps, and attitude, but also heart and depth. I appreciated that.
Peyton was a little less likable for me. I’m not sure if I just didn’t get enough from her, or maybe I was disappointed in how long it took her to come to certain conclusions. But where she shined for me was in displaying how hard it is to deal with a family member who is dying, and then in showing us authentic grief afterwards. I really appreciated that, and my heart just broke for her.
I was a little bummed in both of our MCs about the climax. I guess it kind of went hand in hand with them behaving unfortunately realistically, but at the same time some of their actions and reactions felt a wee bit out of character. But maybe that was just me.
So yeah. Odd reading experience for me. To have some things that I absolutely adored, but others that left me wanting. I think if the climax hadn’t been so off-putting, I would have rounded this one up instead of down, THAT’S how much I enjoyed all the family dynamics and non-romance parts. But in the end the climax combined with a romance that left me unfulfilled (which is kind of not good when the book IS a romance) has me rounding down. I will definitely be checking out other books by this author though. I think she’d nail the sports romance genre.