Sunday, September 26, 2010

Body Check (book) by Elle Kennedy

I'm continuing my category romance exploration - this one is a Harlequin Blaze title. On the basis of this book, I'm guessing that Harlequin Blaze is more on the "sizzling hot" end of the sex scene scale.

So: hockey players, one-night stands that morph into something more, and game fixing scandals. For the most part, I only really had issues with this book when I stopped to think about certain things too much, like the whole one-night stand thing. I'll get into that more in my commentary.

Synopsis:

After her mother died, Hayden's father became owner of the Warriors, a hockey team, and devoted himself to the team and to hockey. Hayden didn't particularly like hockey and wanted her relationship with her father to be as close as it once was, but they grew farther and farther apart as time passed.

Her lonely childhood has convinced Hayden that she needs to end up with someone nice, comfortable, and, above all, willing to put her before his career. Unfortunately, although her current boyfriend is all those things, he's moving things too slowly. Hayden hasn't had sex in months, and it's driving her crazy. When Hayden's father asks her to come visit him so that she can support him during his nasty divorce, Hayden's best friend convinces her to try a no strings attached one-night stand with the first guy to catch her eye. That guy is Brody Croft, who is thrilled that Hayden doesn't seem to know who she is, because that means she's not after him because he's a professional hockey player.

Yes, the guy Hayden picks is a professional hockey player. And not just any professional hockey player - he plays for the Warriors, her father's team. When Hayden finds out, she's horrified. What was initially supposed to be a one-night stand morphs into a fling (more than a one-night stand, less than a relationship), at least for Hayden - the sex was great, so she figures it couldn't hurt to continue, and, besides, it wouldn't exactly be easy to avoid Brody once he finds out she's the team owner's daughter. Unlike Hayden, though, Brody wants something more. He's tired of meaningless sex, and he feels an emotional connection to Hayden. He and Hayden aren't just good together in bed, they get along well, too. Brody hopes to convince Hayden to give the two of them a chance. And officially dump her boyfriend.

While all this is going on, Hayden's father and the Warriors are dealing with scandalous allegations brought up by Hayden's father's soon-to-be ex-wife. According to her, Hayden's father and one or more Warriors team members fixed a couple games. Hayden and Brody don't want to believe these allegations are true, but eventually it becomes painfully true that they are. Even if they weren't true, the accusations alone have the potential to mess up Warriors team members' careers, and Brody hopes to keep a relatively low profile and stay clear of the ugliness until he can sign with a new team. Being with Hayden isn't exactly keeping a low profile, though.

When Brody is accused of being one of the team members who accepted bribes, and his relationship with Hayden is made public and could potentially be used against him, he suggests to Hayden that they "take a break." By this time (after, what, a week or two?) Hayden has fallen in love with Brody - hurt by his suggestion, she tells him they should just completely break it off instead. Now that she's learned that her comfortable relationship with her boyfriend isn't what she wants, she also finally breaks up with him. Meanwhile, Brody learns that a teammate he trusted was one of the people taking bribes. He also gets his priorities straight and realizes he loves Hayden more than he wants to protect his career. In the end, Hayden and Brody end up together, Brody's career doesn't go down in flames, and the people involved in the game fixing are punished but not sent to jail.

Commentary:

I'm not a big sports fan. At all. The one and only game I've ever gone to was a hockey game, and it didn't excite me (sorry Megan!). However, as I have learned from reading sports manga, one does not need to like sports to enjoy things that have sports in them. This being a romance novel, hockey games were not a huge focus, although they did come up. As things became more tense when the allegations began piling up and became more likely to be true, the Warriors did more and more badly on the ice. See, sports manga requires more sports knowledge than this - it doesn't take a big sports fan to realize that behind-the-scenes stress and pressure could cause a sports team to do badly.

The pressures of hockey as a career also came up. I was going to say that those were general enough that most any career could have been substituted in place of hockey, but that's not entirely true. In the end, the reason for one betrayal turns out to be, in part, the shortness of a hockey career - professional hockey players (or anyone who plays sports professionally) can't play forever. While it might have been possible to substitute, say, football for hockey, I don't think any non-athletic careers could have been used instead.

There were a few things in this book that set off red flags for me. For instance, Kennedy hopping into bed with Brody while she's still technically dating another guy. Ok, so things were kind of shaky with the other guy, and I think they were on a break, but still. I didn't like the "we were on a break" excuse when it was used in Friends, and I didn't like it here, either. My other issue with the book: the "one-night stand with a complete stranger" thing...do people even do that anymore? I mean, if they're not drunk? It just didn't fly with me, because 1) STDs (although Brody used a condom, he also performed oral sex, which shows rather more trust than I think is warranted) and 2) the potential for One-Night Stand Guy to be a Bad Guy. The only thing Hayden worries about is that Brody might be a serial killer - Hayden's friend tells her not to worry and to call her or the police if there's a problem. Right, because that's always so easy to do.

One problem I sometimes have with romance novels that feature lots of sex and the hero and heroine hopping into bed (or onto the carpet) with each other right away is that, no matter how much the author tries to assure the reader otherwise, there is a tendency for it to look like the hero and heroine only want each other for sex. Because this book is so short, there's not a lot of room for Kennedy to write about the scandal, have steamy sex scenes, and show Brody and Hayden believably falling in love with each other for reasons that include more than sex. Although Kennedy shows readers very little of the non-sexual ways that Brody and Hayden get along, there's a very nice scene in which Brody shows Hayden how to skate. I loved that. Other than that, most of it is Hayden and Brody thinking about all the great times they've had with each other - I would've liked more scenes like the skating one, because just telling me that they enjoy each other's company, have gone out on dates, etc. isn't enough. Still, Kennedy does a fair job of making Hayden and Brody's relationship believable. The biggest stumbling block, for me, was time. From when they first meet to the final chapter before the epilogue - I think all this takes place in maybe two weeks. That's fast.

As far as the non-romantic storyline goes, once I decided that Hayden's father really had convinced one or more players to fix a couple games, it wasn't too hard to figure out at least one of the players involved. All I had to do was think, "which player would give Brody the greatest sense of betrayal?" Up until that point though, I found the storyline interesting, because I wasn't sure if Hayden's father really had done what he was accused of having done, and I wanted to see if Kennedy was going to throw in any kind of interesting twists. She didn't really, but it still wasn't bad, and I didn't feel like the non-romantic storyline was getting in the way of the romantic storyline and my enjoyment of it.

Overall, this wasn't too bad. The sex scenes were fun (although I wasn't as big a fan of the public and semi-public orgasm bits), although I'd have liked a few more romantic scenes. Brody was appealing enough to make up for that lack, though.

Read-alikes:
  • Hunks of Hockey (book) by Erica DeQuaya - Want more hockey romance but thought even Kennedy's book wasn't steamy enough? You might want to try this, then. This book features several erotic novellas starring professional hockey players.
  • Night Play (book) by Sherrilyn Kenyon - Those who like the idea of a sudden apparent one-night stand turning into something more might want to try this. This paranormal romance starts off with Bride having sex with a strange, hunky guy she's never met before. She's at a low point in her life and doesn't think any man as gorgeous as this could ever really want her, and yet it seems he does. What Bride doesn't learn until later is that this man, Vane, is something like a werewolf, and she's his mate.
  • Blindsided (book) by Leslie Lafoy - Another hockey romance - this one's a Silhouette Special Edition. I know very little about this one.  Apparently, an ex-professional hockey players takes over coaching a minor league team that is run by a divorcee.
  • See Jane Score (book) by Rachel Gibson - Yet another hockey romance, this one starring a "plain Jane" columnist-turned-sports journalist who knows nothing about the game and a professional hockey player.

2 comments:

  1. The cover of this book gave me a good chuckle...

    Maybe you would've liked hockey better if you had read this first! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. You must admit, the cover is eye-catching. :)

    Hehe, you're right, I might have had more fun, maybe tried to imagine which player was better looking under the all the gear, or which players had the most behind-the-scenes drama.

    ReplyDelete

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