Thursday, August 31, 2017

Kate Willoughby - 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…

Comment: I added this title to my TBR because this is a sports romance whose reviews seemed to be a majority of positive ones. I was hopeful the romance between the protagonists was well structured to balance the usual type of plots surrounding sports' romances which don't always have the best developments.

For this story, we have two opposites who meet randomly at a signing event. Tim Hollander has been traded from Chicago to San Diego to play hockey in a different team for the first time in his professional career. This happens after a minor scandal with a bottle of water he threw at a fan but he has a good reason for that: the fan was mocking his ability to be a father after his daughter died of leukemia. Now Tim wants to give a new image, he wants to work and be the professional the new team believes him to be. 
To prove that he attends a signing at a restaurant with a teammate and that's where he meets nurse Erin, who was there to get an autograph for dr Oliphant, the guy she has a small crush on. After a guy tries to deceive Tim saying he comes from a organization while actually wanting signed stuff to sell, things get complicated and Tim saves Erin from a punch. 
To control the media, Erin agrees to defend Tim at a press conference and from then on, they start going out and become friends and later on, lovers. But can they maintain a balanced relationship?

When the book begins, I think the author does a great job trying to portray two different people, who come from different backgrounds and who have different expectations in life. They don't have much in common but the true value of this story, to me, is how the author manages to present a developing friendship with some thoughts of sexual attraction in between but all in quite the realistic way. Their relationship until they become intimate is probably the best part of the book, overall.

After they finally get together sexually, things change and I admit I was not very fond of the way they progressed. It felt they were no longer friends, that this aspect of the relationship was put aside for the lovers status and this means they talk, they interact but always - it seems - with the secondary agenda of having sex. I just think it removed some of the interest of the relationship.
Along with this, obviously come the difficulties of their pasts and wishes. Tim feels Erin is the best woman he met and he wants to marry her but he does not want children anymore because of the pain he still feels over his loss. To Erin, despite understandable, this choice doesn't make much sense in the long term and she needs to weight in if she can bear it.

On one hand, I think it was extremely contemporary to put this discussion on the table. After all, not all couples who live together or who even marry want to have kids. It's a choice of the couple. I can understand why, emotionally, Tim wouldn't be game on it but the usual reasons weren't there (economic, financially and social, mostly). It doesn't mean only poor people can chose not to have children but... well, from a team's POV (which Tim and Erin are as a couple) if only one element wants it, is it really a choice made? All this would have meant something if things had progressed naturally in that way but the end proves people can very quickly change their minds. I was left wondering why the lengthy issue through part of the book and not a more quickly solution so the end would feel fluid and natural? I guess it's the way the story is.

Erin is an interesting heroine but I feel her voice wasn't as loud as Tim's, maybe because of his past experiences. I don't mind her personality but here ad there she had a thought I wouldn't agree with so I wasn't always in the same page as hers when it came to react to some issues. This means I liked her but I wasn't addicted to have her POV.
Tim is the key character and although I liked him more than Erin, in one or two occasions he just acted like a obnoxious guy but well, no one is perfect.

A little note about hockey, since this is Tim's world...I know nothing about the game except the basics of two teams playing against one another and needing to score goals but the impression I got is that the author used the details she needed to make this part of the plot in a seamlessly way, so I suppose this is a positive element of the story.

The HEA, like I said, didn't seem as fluid and felt a bit like a consolation prize which I know can be silly but that's how I feel about it.
I see there are more books in the series...I'm still thinking about trying the next one, whose blurb seems to be interesting but probably not in the near future.
Grade: 6/10

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