This is the first Play-by-Play novel that I’ve picked up, and I was interested in it because of the backdrop of the international games. Even I knew that the Winter Olympics were looming when I started reading this, and even though I haven’t watched much of the Games since I was in high school, I still remember with fondness sitting in the family room and cheering on the home team with the family (how we all saw the action on that little screen, I’ll never fully comprehend). Two of my favorite events are represented here – hockey and figure skating. What could go wrong?
NFL hockey player Will “Mad Dog” Madigan is hyped for his second opportunity to play in the Winter Games. Last time he was a little casual about the partying and having a good time, but this time he’s going to savor the experience. He wants to play and represent the US and take home the gold. When he meets figure skater Amber Sloane, his interest is piqued.
Amber is at her third, and probably last, Winter Games. She is determined to win the gold medal that has eluded her in the past. Constantly under pressure from her mother to train harder, she’s overcome with a sense of freedom once she steps into the athletes’ village. Her mother and her hurtful nagging aren’t allowed inside, and Amber is going to loosen up and have some fun this year. She is going to make friends and mingle, and be a part of the whole experience, which she had missed out on in her previous Winter Games. When she meets Will, he seems like the answer to some of her prayers. They can have some no strings attached fun, and then go back to their lives when the Games are over.
I have a weird relationship with this book. When I would first pick it up after setting it down (to let the dogs out, to fix dinner, to go to work, whatever) I would have a really hard time getting back into the story. But once I had a chapter or two behind me, I was caught up in the book again. I don’t know if that’s because the past few weeks have been hard for me to become really engaged in anything other than buying more aquarium fixtures for my fish in Fishdom, or because parts of the story weren’t as interesting to me.
Amber kind of drove me nuts, but with her overprotective, shrew of a mother, I guess it’s understandable that she would have some issues. Her mother is awful to her, pushing her to do her best, to not eat because she’s looking a little heavy, to putting her skating career ahead of all else. When Amber, at 23 years of age, rebels against the constant pressure, her mother isn’t hesitant to threaten to withhold funding her skating as punishment for her behavior. So Amber, who isn’t a teenager, sort of acts like one because she has basically lived in the box her mother locked her in, expecting her to think only of skating and obey her every demand.
I had a hard time relating to Amber. At 23 I was already a homeowner. I worked two jobs and went to school, carrying a full course load. Amber has no source of income, is completely depend on her parents for every little thing, and, understandably, kowtows to her mother’s every demand. I wanted to fist pump when she finally dug her heels in and stood up for herself.
I found the backdrop of the Games very fun. It gave Will and Amber’s romance a fun setting. Amber’s roommate is a snowboarder, and as Amber lets down her guard and starts befriending other athletes, she gets more involved in the activity around her, instead of hanging out in her room during her time off the ice. Will also pulls her out of her shell, as their romance heats up and they start spending more and more time together. I enjoyed the feeling of camaraderie that developed between Amber and the other athletes, and that by the time the Games were over, she finally had some good friends she could rely on.
Not everything worked for me here, but unique setting and sexy hockey hero kept me entertained.
Grade: 3.25 stars