Monday, June 22, 2015
In The Zone- Hockey Romance Series Review
Today I’m going to review three books at once. Why? Because they are all part of a sports romance series that I devoured and loved.
The In the Zone series, by Kate Willoughby, follows the members of a professional hockey team as they find love. Now, please believe me when I say all three of the books pub’d in the series so far are hot. I loved the steamy elements in all three.
But first things first, let’s talk about book one: On the Surface
NHL player Tim Hollander lost his temper one time and threw a water bottle at an abusive fan. After "Bottlegate," he's traded to the San Diego Barracudas, where he'll need to keep the bad publicity to a minimum while proving he can still compete with the younger guys on the ice.
Erin Collier is a pediatric nurse who's never seen a hockey game, but gets in line for Tim's autograph at a PR event in hopes of impressing the doctor she has a crush on. When an obnoxious fan gets pushy toward Erin, Tim rushes to defend the pretty stranger, throwing a punch in the process.
Grateful for the rescue, Erin agrees to stand by Tim during the resulting press conference and host him at a hospital charity event. Their chemistry is palpable, and soon their lives are intertwined. But Erin doubts a hockey player is capable of anything resembling a real relationship. And if Tim can't get her to see beyond what's on the surface, they'll never last longer than a single season.
Tim is absolutely delicious. He’s the type of hero who will stand up for your honor. And Erin, the heroine, is the type of woman who wouldn’t ask her man to fight her battles. I love how feisty Erin is. And I also enjoyed how real and final their love for each other seemed. It was like once they clicked everyone could see they were perfect together. I love that.
In fact, I was so happy with the middle section of the book that I almost stopped reading. Because, as any fan of romance can tell you, the middle is where the steam is good. But what comes after the steamy middle? Conflict. Ugh. I loved the couple so much I didn’t want to experience their conflict. But I powered through it and I was happy I did. Yes, the couple’s love is tested but in the end there is a HEA moment that makes it all worthwhile.
I loved On the Surface and immediately downloaded book two.
Alright, so let’s talk about book two: Across the Line
Calder Griffin needs to get back in shape. Sidelined last season by a knee injury, he's determined to return to the San Diego Barracudas and play the best hockey of his career. This might even be the year he gets out of his talented older brother's shadow.
For months, Becca Chen has poured her energy into Cups, the restaurant she owns, desperate to prove to her parents that she can succeed in the career of her choice, not theirs. But after she spends a five-hour plane ride flirting with charming, magic-on-the-ice Calder, she tells herself she needs a fling.
Becca and Calder can't keep their hands off each other, but they know the relationship can't last. They live on opposite coasts, and they're both too devoted to their careers. All they have to do is prevent their feelings from crossing the line from lust to love…
Calder is a cutie. I think he melted my heart immediately because he’s this powerful, talented athlete rehabbing from an injury. As a runner who has had to recover from injury, and a wife who has had to watch her husband recover from knee surgery, Calder’s story tugged at my heart. His yearning to improve was palpable.
But for me, the star of this show was Becca, the heroine. She is a restaurateur who has poured her entire life into her passion. I could relate to Becca on several levels:
1. I watched my parents own/operate restaurants over the years. It’s hard, grueling work but for my parents it was absolutely rewarding. I can understand why Becca sacrificed so much to open Cups.
2. Becca turned down a potentially lucrative career in medicine to open a restaurant (which, as a general rule, fail more than succeed). It’s scary to pursue a passion that could potentially pay less and be less secure when you have this shiny, high paying, secure position in the wings.
3. Long distance relationships suck.
When Calder and Becca start hitting it off it’s under the pretense that it’s ‘just for fun’ and can’t possibly last (they live and work on separate sides of the country – so, not good ‘relationship’ material). I loved watching the couple overcome their obstacles and finally make things work.
The battle of wills that unfolds in Across the Line had me biting my nails. These characters really earned their HEA.
But I had to know more. What about the other team members? What happens next?
So, you guessed it, I downloaded book three: Out of The Game.
Alex Sullivan may be the San Diego Barracudas' resident playboy, but he hasn't been able to forget the woman who kissed him like her life depended on it ten months ago. When he sees her again at a teammate's wedding, he can't think of anything but spending more time with her. Preferably naked.
Claire Marzano lost years catering to an overbearing husband, and she's not going to answer to anyone ever again. A hot fling is just what she needs to get back in the game, and that's exactly what sexy Alex offers—one wild long weekend away, with no promises or obligations.
But that one weekend changes everything. Despite knowing full well Alex isn't the kind to ever commit, Claire is falling for him. And Alex secretly imagines a future with his strong, smart "accidental girlfriend." Until a surprise announcement and an on-ice accident threaten to derail everything…or cause Alex to finally ditch his old ways and become the man Claire needs him to be.
UGGH! This is such a hard book to talk about because it’s heart breaking.
Okay, so this book stars Alex Sullivan – the team bad boy/player who we see as an ancillary character in books 1 and 2. Alex melted my heart at the end of book 2 when he begins quoting lines from Rom Coms. Okay, here we have a guy who is talented, driven, manly, AND he likes Rom Coms?! *SPLOOSH*
Also returning in this book is Claire, Erin’s sister who we meet briefly in book 1. Claire is so easy to love because she’s ending her marriage and moving forward. She’s recommitting to herself and what she wants. I think we can all relate to that.
What’s heartbreaking in this story is the surprise announcement and on-ice accident. When these two bombs go off I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know how it ended. This story is a bit bitter sweet for me because I love love love Alex and I want so much for his character to be happy.
Also, at this point I’m desperate to see the San Diego Barracudas’ win it all!
I emailed the author asking if there were more books planned in the series and she said there are. YAY~
I’m in love with all the Barracuda guys and I’m excited to see how their stories unfold.
Kate does an excellent job in all three books of building believable athletes that are still relatable. They seem like regular guys you or I could date (isn’t that what makes the fantasy so intoxicating?). I also really enjoyed how each book was markedly different from the next. Each hero and heroine are unique and as such, each story has its own flair.
These books are FABULOUS and I give the series five out of five screaming cats! Loved it.
Buy On the Surface here:Amazon | B&N
Buy Across the Line here:Amazon | B&N
Buy Out of the Game here:Amazon | B&N
Want more on Kate Willoughby? Visit her website here or follow her on Twitter.