Reviewed by Mandi
If the idea of a super grumpy, jerky (yet redeemable) hockey hero excites you, than Alex Crossman is the hero and the book for you. Alex is a star professional hockey player for the Cold Fury, except – he hates hockey. The better he does, the more the crowd cheers, the more he hates it. But he wants the money so he keeps playing.
I even snicker as I see a sign across the ice proclaiming, Crossman for MVP, Most Valuable Prick.
Classic! I’m the player they love to hate, and I could give a fuck.
I come out…do my duty, score my goals and get my assists, collect my paycheck and past that, just leave me the fuck alone.
But he isn’t totally psycho, he actually has reasons for this behavior. Alex grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father. His father failed to make it into the NHL, so he set his sights on Alex. Scrutinizing every single play Alex made growing up, his father would constantly berate him on his performance no matter how well he did. If he messed up during a game, his father would take him home, stand him in the driveway and hit him violently with pucks. To this day, his father still calls after every game and tells Alex how horrible he played. If you are asking yourself why Alex puts up with this, I asked the same question. I think Alex feels a little sorry for daddy dearest.
Our heroine doesn’t share Alex’s anger problems, but her childhood wasn’t that great either. Her father was a drug addict, but around the age of nine, her mom got them away and she grew up with a step-dad she loves. They may not have a lot of money, but at least they found happiness. Sutton is a drug counselor, specializing in children whose parents may be addicts. Although her job is draining, she loves it. She is excited when she learns she is teaming up with a player on Cold Fury for an anti-drug campaign, aimed at kids. She thinks this will bring much needed attention to her program. But when she meets with Alex (when he feels like showing up – jerk!) she realizes it may be a struggle to get him to cooperate. Alex isn’t volunteering his time voluntarily. Cold Fury management has told him if he doesn’t change his attitude and his public persona, he is going to be out of a job, and he thinks they mean it this time. So Alex drags his butt to a meeting with Sutton…and he falls in love. But his jerky side loves to come out and play, and it takes awhile for these two to get in sync.
The author does a nice job with allowing the reader to understand why Alex lashes out so much. You can really feel his pain and frustration from his father – with a brief flashback to when he was a kid being abused to an adult, it’s dark and makes you want to cuddle with him. (he’s probably not a cuddler). Sutton has confidence – and when Alex’s mood turns dark or he says mean things, she doesn’t flee in fear. She stands up to him, she tells him that kids can smell a fake personality a mile away so he really needs to be in this drug campaign.
“I’m not happy to have to be your babysitter,” she says and my eyes snap up to hers.
“I’m not exactly thrilled about it either,” I tell her honestly.
Then she looks at me, with her head tilted to the side. “So, what’s your deal? Are you the team’s bad boy or something?”
“Something like that,” I mutter, not willing to expound on the millions of reasons I’m sitting here. “Apparently I have a bit of an attitude problem.”
The Sutton does something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget as long as I live. She smiles at me, in a mischievous way, her eyes going more gold than green. She’s so fucking beautiful in this very moment, my breath actually catches.
“I can deal with attitude,” she says with a wink. “Makes things interesting.”
She whips him into shape (and eventually he whips out his own…thing)
There is nice banter between Alex and his teammates and Sutton and her family have some nice scenes as well. The interactions with her younger brother are sometimes a little too sweet but I’ll take sweet and engaging over flat and emotionless any day. While there is some predictable drama at the end, the resolution and the hero’s redemption, made me smile.
This looks to be the start of a fun hockey series. Looking forward to book two, Garrett due out early next year (He is really cute in this book)
PS – I would love recs of Sawyer Bennett’s backlist if you have any. She is a new-to-me author and I’m not familiar with her work.