Reviewed by Kini
From the bestselling author of the Heller Brothers Hockey series comes the first novel of a new hockey romance series featuring a college team whose players are heating things up both on and off the ice.
The Bayard College hockey team isn’t where Jacob Flass thought he’d be a season ago. He was a rising star in the Canadian major junior league, cruising toward a spot on an NHL roster—until a single disastrous night on the town brought it all crashing down. Now he’s out of options, except for playing well, studying hard, and staying away from girls. He’s not supposed to be flirting with the hottest, sweetest chick he’s ever met. But how could he possibly stay away?
Skylar Lynwood knows that Jacob is out of her league. She’s just trying to go with the flow, which isn’t easy when six feet and four inches of total hockey hunkiness is making a play for her one moment, then giving her the cold shoulder the next. Skylar’s head tells her that this rugged athlete isn’t worth her time, but her body says something altogether different. Risking her heart for Jacob may be the craziest thing she’s ever done . . . but she won’t let him shut her out.
The book opens with Jacob getting kicked off the Canadian hockey team because of an incident that is alluded to, but not fully explained until much later. Although it is clear that it involves some sort of sexual assault, Jacob was not charged with anything, and there is more information given later in the story. This book talks about consent, sexual assault, and rape culture, so this could be difficult subject matter for some readers.
Jacob was on track to go to the NHL to play hockey. After being kicked off his team, he has the option of coming to the States to play hockey at the collegiate level. His goal for the year is to keep his grades up and play well. He is hesitant to get involved in extracurricular activities on campus.
Skylar is in her second year at Bayard and had a tough year as a freshman, she failed two courses due to some personal issues so she has vowed to be focused on school and only school. Jacob and Skylar meet at a party and are drawn to each other. They are immediately attracted and make out, Skylar wants to go farther, but Jacob is hesitant due to his desire to stay focused on classes and hockey. Jacob declines to go for more and Skylar is hurt. They meet up again and Jacob asks Skylar to be his fake girlfriend so he doesn’t have to spend time fending off the women that seem to be around him constantly – so they proceed with a fake relationship.
I love this trope. It is so silly and can never work. I enjoy seeing what an author does with it. As part of their fake relationship, they decide that even though they have chemistry they aren’t going to have sex. They do decide to engage in a make out/masturbation session that was pretty damn hot and spans over a few pages. I would recommend this book on that scene alone. I think the author led them in a great path to more than friends and even though it comes very late, they both realize they were in a very real relationship.
This book is similar to other new adult college hockey stories with the exception of the focus on the SAPAP (Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Program) program that both Jacob and Skylar are involved with. The themes of that program are pretty heavy in the book, not in overkill but almost like it is its own character.
I think Kelly Jamieson does a great job to make the reader think a little bit about Jacob and what his level of involvement in the off-page incident that got him booted from the team. I am going to mark this as spoiler because I don’t want to ruin it.
At only one point in the book is Jacob referred to as “innocent” and only in the sense that he is talking to himself about how he had kept telling himself that he was an “innocent bystander.” After taking the training through SAPAP he realizes that he isn’t as innocent as he once believed. That although he had no physical contact with the young woman who accused him and his friends of rape, there were definitely other measures he could have done to prevent it. He really questions his role in the events as well as his friends. I like the way the author had Jacob come to that realization. He never played the woe is me card or that he was the victim. But prior to that point, he never really accepted that he still held some responsibility for what happened. I think it is a very fine line and the author created Jacob as very real and flawed young man, like most humans tend to be.
I would have liked to have seen more development of Jacob as a college student. He was a very smart student and helped Skylar with her studies and helped her discover some truths about herself as a student. I would have liked to see Jacob realize he had a backup plan if hockey fails. But that is the mom in me. Since this is Romancelandia, we all know Jacob will be a hockey superstar. All in all this was a really good story and I would recommend it to just about anyone.