Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Do you believe in love at first sight?”
She’s good at achieving her goals…
College senior Sabrina James has her whole future planned out: graduate from college, kick butt in law school, and land a high-paying job at a cutthroat firm. Her path to escaping her shameful past certainly doesn’t include a gorgeous hockey player who believes in love at first sight. One night of sizzling heat and surprising tenderness is all she’s willing to give John Tucker, but sometimes, one night is all it takes for your entire life to change.
But the game just got a whole lot more complicated
Tucker believes being a team player is as important as being the star. On the ice, he’s fine staying out of the spotlight, but when it comes to becoming a daddy at the age of twenty-two, he refuses to be a benchwarmer. It doesn’t hurt that the soon-to-be mother of his child is beautiful, whip-smart, and keeps him on his toes. The problem is, Sabrina’s heart is locked up tight, and the fiery brunette is too stubborn to accept his help. If he wants a life with the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to convince her that some goals can only be made with an assist. (Goodreads)
The fourth installment in Elle Kennedy’s sexy, humorous, charming, and mildly angsty new adult Off Campus series brings together two secondary characters-John Tucker and Sabrina James. More serious than the last three installments, the humor and sense of playfulness isn’t as prevalent in here. These two characters seem to switch their roles compared to what we have seen in the past. The heroine is the difficult, more complex character whose personal life is a mess while the hero fills the role of the perfect, well adjusted partner. Well written with a steady pace and revealing narrative punctuated with wit and emotion, Kennedy gives us an interesting romance between two people whose differences are merely stepping stones on their path to happily ever after.
Readers should note that this installment occurs during the same time frame as book three, The Score.
John Tucker (Tucker to his friends) plays for the Briar University hockey team and is the quietest of the four roommates. Though good enough to land a hockey scholarship, his future isn’t with the NHL but rather owning his own business. Considered the “mom” of the house, he cooks, cleans, and helps to keep his roommates on track. A sexy bearded warrior, this true southern gentleman with his effortless charm, levelheaded attitude, and a sweet romantic side finds himself falling for the one person whose very nature rebels against everything he has to offer.
She’s got this hard exterior, but inside she’s as soft as butter. I see flashes of vulnerability in her bottomless dark yes and I just want to…take care of her.
Sabrina James isn’t interested in romance. Gorgeous, intelligent, driven, and known around school as the ‘ice queen’, she has a long term plan and will allow nothing stand in its way. Graduate from Briar, get accepted into a top law school, and get away from her highly dysfunctional home life. Though attracted to Tucker, she cannot allow her growing feelings for him to distract her from the goal.
Time is a concept that doesn’t exist in my life, and John Tucker is too big a distraction.
The push and pull of this relationship is the base of which the story is built, blending effortlessly with some external conflicts that refers back to the previous book. The romance starts off as nothing more than a casual hook up. Sabrina is just looking for sex and chooses Tucker because while she doesn’t like jocks as people, she does like them in the bedroom. His dirty mouth only sweetens the pot as far as Sabrina is concerned. And is this boy D.I.R.T.Y.
It’s always the quiet ones. *wink* I put this under a spoiler tag because it’s a little to dirty for even Smexy Books to openly post .
Between us, his hand rises and the wetness shines on his fingers even in the dark cab of his truck. I’m not prepared for the shock of arousal that hits me when he sucks them clean.
One swift jerk of a lever and his seat falls completely flat. Tucker lies down and beckons for me again. “C’mere and fuck my face. I need more of that.”
Oh. My. God. Who is this guy?
An unbelievably hot sexual connection opens the door to more but Sabrina is scared and uses a multitude of excuses to keep Tucker firmly in check.
I’m not in the market for a relationship or even a fuck buddy. I wanted sex. You have it to me. That’s all it was.
Tucker takes it in stride, accepting her decision because he doesn’t push where he’s not wanted. But there is a small part of him that hopes that if he’s careful, he can slowly bring her around.
…if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all the years I’ve played hockey, it’s that patience is rewarded. You don’t take an immediate shot when your stick gets the puck. You wait for the right opening.
Kennedy doesn’t give this couple an easy time of it though not for lack of trying. The majority of the stumbling blocks incurred here by the couple are put there by Sabrina herself. Sabrina has a well earned chip on her shoulder, the result of her childhood. Abandoned by her mother and father and raised by her uninterested grandmother, Sabrina has learned the hard way that love is not a dependable emotion and always comes at a high price. She is forced to work two jobs while going to school full time. She is self conscious of her economic status and this causes her to lash out at those who she feels are judging her.
I don’t have the time or energy to make small talk, or to grab coffee after class, or pretend that I have anything in common with the wealthy, elitist kids that comprise most of this college.
Tucker and Sabrina are good together though Sabrina is a very hard nut to crack. Tucker exhibits so much patience, not pressuring or demanding more than she can give. When circumstances force a life altering change on them, Kennedy uses this plot device to push Sabrina and Tucker into reexamining their goals and feelings for one another-especially Sabrina.
“God, Tuck, I’ve only thought about one thing my entire life—crawling out of my hellhole. And now I have to drag someone down with me and I don’t know if I can do it.
Tears that I’ve been holding at bay for weeks spill over. Tucker cups my cheek with one warm hand and stares firmly into my eyes.
“You’re not alone,” he says, fierce and low. “And you’re not dragging anyone down. I’m here with you, Sabrina. Every step of the way.”
I appreciated the fact that Kennedy doesn’t try and use the baby as a way to change Sabrina’s personality, making her instantly cave to Tucker and grant them the perfect fix. Sabrina still clings to her independence; in fact pushing Tucker away even harder for fear she is ruining his life.
Old and new faces dot the landscape to add to the humor and silliness we are used to while helping to keep story on track and clue us into who the next hero and heroine will be. Sabrina’s has some great friends (Carin & Hope) who have her back. Logan, Garrett, and the rest of the gang are all in here with some great scenes, especially after they learn of the baby. The race for godparent status is hilarious.
“Tucker!” She punches my shoulder. “Stop laughing and tell me what the hell that is.”
I glance at the picture and lose it again. “It’s comforting,” I croak.
Sabrina punches me again.
“Logan,” I choke out. “He made this for the baby. It’s the comforting test.”
“I swear to God, Tuck, if you don’t start making sense, I’m going to send this picture to the police and tell them I’m the victim of a hate crime.”
There were a couple issues I had with the story. Even though the book is told from both Tucker’s and Sabrina’s perspectives, I felt there was something missing with Tucker’s development. He was just too perfect at times. There was never a moment I felt he was insecure about himself, Sabrina, or the baby. I also thought it was odd we never saw him in class. My other issue was the relationship in general. I understand why Sabrina fell for Tucker; he’s gorgeous and treats her like she matters, something she was definitely not used to. I had to dig deeper to understand exactly why Tucker fell for Sabrina, beyond the physical attraction. She fights her feelings for him 98% of the book, telling him and herself she isn’t interested and doesn’t need or want him around. He practically gives her the world and she can’t say the same. While I grew to admire and respect Sabrina in the end, I never grew to like her.
Regardless of my issues, I enjoyed The Goal and watching this couple’s uneasy and unorthodox journey. Some may find the story’s more laid back approach (the fast pacing and general zaniness is missing in here) disappointing but it works for this particular couple. Kennedy includes a delightfully humorous and informative epilogue that cleans up any loose ends and assures us this couple has definitely achieved their goal. I’m looking forward to the next story. I really hope it’s Fritzy.
All About Romance