Thursday, October 29, 2020

Isn't It Romantic? - The Grumpy Hockey Hero Edition

You Had Me at Hockey

Kelly Jamieson
Series: Bears Hockey, #2
Age/Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Loveswept
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Can a spirited, down-to-earth influencer get an uptight hockey player out of his shell?

I am a warrior. That’s been my motto since I recovered from a near-death accident when I was younger. Now I enjoy my nice, settled life in Dallas playing pro hockey—a boring life is better than being dead. I’m not a party guy or an adventurer; I like my routine and peace and quiet. So being traded to New York is the worst possible change that could happen. And meeting unfiltered and fascinating Sara Carrington throws my life into even more chaos.

I’ve been considered weird my whole life, which is why I’m still a virgin, but I’ve turned it into a career with my YouTube videos. Who knew people would love watching me talk about my zits, taste test meatless burgers, and try to learn TikTok dances! Now I’m launching a podcast. Getting hockey star Josh Heller as a guest will help gain listeners for sure. I expect a bearded jock with no teeth and nothing to say, but I get a hot as H-E-double-hockey-sticks grouch with a surprisingly dirty mind. My mission to make him laugh is successful, but I want to know why he’s so uptight underneath that panty-dropping smile. Maybe I can teach Josh to have some fun . . . and maybe he can teach me a thing or two along the way. . . .
Ever since his near-death experience, Josh had an aversion to spontaneity. He liked to plan things in advance and would rather his life be predictable and boring than filled with unknown surprises. During a podcast interview, Josh met Sara. There were sparks, and the two immediately clicked, but while he planned, she liked to live by the seat of her pants. Will Sara's impromptu ways keep Josh from giving her his heart?

I was really looking forward to this book after finishing Must Love Dogs...and Hockey. There, I learned a bit about Josh's backstory as it related to Easton. These two had been avoiding the fallout following the accident for many years, and I loved that fate brought them back into each other's lives so they could fix what was broken. This was a small part of the story, but I was glad to see it dealt with, and there's a part of me hoping we get the third friend from their past in the next book. 

Now the romance! I adored this couple from the very beginning. Sara helped Josh break a few of his boundaries, while he helped her get more focus. They were simply fantastic together. Their first date was definitely, um, memorable, but it only got better from there. There was chemistry and banter, but there was also some real deep discussions, where they bared their souls. Lots of fun and feels with these two. 

Both Josh and Sara had some baggage to unpack. Josh carried a lot of resentment and fear following the accident. I would say Sara helped a lot with him accepting the unexpected a bit better, but the person who helped him work through his emotions related to the accident was very special. I am warning you, this person will make your heart both burst and break. 

Seeing where Sara was in her life, it was hard to believe what she experienced in her past and in her romantic life. She was a social media influencers with a large following, who was best known for being real. She didn't filter, edit out the mistakes, and had no issue being seen with bedhead or no make-up. Regardless, she still struggled with feelings of inadequacy. She felt she was "too weird" to be loved and couldn't understand why people followed her. It was good to see her gain some confidence over the course of this story, and honestly, there was nothing not to love about her. 

I had such a great time watching this lovable grump yield some control and take a chance on love. It was wonderful to see these two people learn to mesh their lives without losing parts of themselves and be better for it.   

**ARC received in exchange for an honest review. 

Man Down

Kate Meader
Series: Rookie Rebels, #3
Age/Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Kate Meader LLC
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I’ve been texting the wife I lost, the woman I loved beyond measure ... Now someone else has answered back.

Gunnar Bond is broken.

Three years ago, he lived through the car crash that took his wife and twins away from him—though “lived” barely describes his current state. Giving up professional hockey, going off grid, and drinking himself into oblivion are his coping mechanisms. Another is texting his dead wife about his days without her. Therapeutic? Doubtful. Crazy? Definitely. But those messages into the ether are virtually the only thing stopping him from spiraling to even darker places.

Until someone texts back …

Sadie Yates is losing it.

Suddenly guardian to a little sister she doesn’t know and a misbehaving hound she’d rather not know at all, she’s had to upend her (sort of) glamorous life in LA and move back to Chicago. The nanny has quit, the money’s running out, and her job is on the line. The last thing she needs is her sister’s hockey camp counselor, a judgmental Viking type, telling her she sucks at this parenting lark. Thank the goddess for her sweet, sensitive, and—fingers crossed—sexy text buddy who always knows the right thing to say. In the same city at last, they can finally see if their online chemistry is mirrored in real life. She just needs to set up a meeting …

A ruined man who claims to have used up all his love is surely a bad bet, but Sadie’s never been afraid of a challenge … even one that might shatter her heart into a million pieces.
Three years ago, Gunner lost everything. His wife, his children -- gone. For three years, he had festered in his guilt and grief, blaming himself for the accident and his inability to protect his family. In a moment of weakness, he began texting his dead wife, and then one day, he received a reply. The mystery person on the other end helped him climb far enough out of the depths of despair to return to hockey.  Though not healed, Gunner was functioning. When Sadie enters the picture, he finds himself drawn to her, but will he be able to open up his heart again?

Grab the tissues, kids. I knew I would be feeling all sorts of stuff as I read this book, but I think the way Meader let the story unfold caused it to hit with an even bigger impact than I anticipated. My heart was already aching for Gunner as he suffered alone, but when I finally gathered all the information regarding the crash, my heart crumbled to pieces. She did a really beautiful job exploring Gunner's pain, grief, and loss, and there were so many heart exploding moments for me as I took this journey with him. Excuse me as I wipe my tears. 

Gunner wasn't the only slightly broken person in this story. Sadie was pulled back into a life she fled due to her father's legal situation. This was her chance to finally build a relationship with her estranged pre-teen sister, but she had to put aside the hurt she carried from her past. I was a fan of many of the things Meader incorporated into Sadie's story too. She surprised me a few times, and they were good surprises. I liked Sadie so much, and it was extremely satisfying for me to see the way this whole situation with her sister played out. 

I became a fan of Meader's via her Chicago Rebels series. That was were I met and fell in love with the Chase sisters, who, I am glad to say, have been featured in this series as well. It's fantastic to see them there as the Rebel family grows, and I am NOT using the term family loosely. The Chase women continue to be hands on in their management of the team. There were gatherings and festivities, but more than anything, there was this endless source of support for the members of the team when they need it. 

I just loved everything about this book!  Meader took that texting premise and an incredible story was born from it. I have a soft spot for books about grief and loss, but this book also highlighted the idea of connection, and really made me think about those opportunities one has to reach out, make a connection, and realize how much it could mean to someone. This book filled me with warmth and joy, and I hope we get another chance to revisit the Rebels really soon. 

Do you like hockey?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. I used to read Meader all the time! This one sounds pretty intense but good for when I'm in the right frame of mind.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. I am a big fan of the series, and I was very impressed with the way she tackled Gunner's story. I read Hot in the Kitchen ages ago, but started reading her books again with the Chicago Rebels series. I adore hockey romance and her's are really great.

  2. I love a grumpy hockey player -- probably one of the reasons I loved that Jamieson book. I'm glad you liked it, too. It's been a while since I read a book by Kate Meader, though.

    1. I am loving Meader's Rebels spinoff. Every book has been really good. I expected a bit more of an emotional punch when Easton and Josh reunited, but I think Jamieson made up for it with that little kid.

  3. Oh wow, Man Down sounds like such a tearjerker. Wonderful review!

    1. It was lovely. There were all sorts of tears, which included my favorite - the happy tears.

  4. You Had Me at Hockey sounds great - the main characters really sound like they bring out the best in each other, which is so nice!

    1. It was a fun book with some emotional bits. I am really enjoying the series.

  5. I can't wait to read the Meader book! It sounds soooo good! Never read Kelly Jamieson, but the story sounds like a lot of fun. I'm a sucker for an opposites attract romance. Off to buy Meader and to check out Jamieson's. Fab reviews, Sam!

    1. Jamieson's books are always fun and heartwarming. I have been loving this series of Meader's. This book and the last were both so wonderful for different reasons. I have no idea where she will go from here, but I hope there will be more.

  6. Bwahahahaha I love your "grumpy hockey edition" Sam :-)))

    1. I try to pair books for my reviews and was surprised these two had so much in common