Buy links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Genre: Adult | Contemporary Romance | Sports
Published: July 25th, 2017
Pages: 276 pages, Kindle Edition
Average Rating: 4.42 stars
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but this does not influence my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.
Description: Ella Verran has three goals this semester: get off academic probation, repair her relationship with her friend Skylar, and take some responsibility for her life. All of which are hard enough without hot, snobby hockey player Ben Buckingham around to distract her. Ella can’t stand Ben, and she knows the feeling is mutual. But he’s best friends with Skylar’s boyfriend, so he’s always around—taunting and tempting Ella in ways she never thought possible.
As the star forward of the Bayard College hockey team, Ben has goals too, like playing well enough to land a spot on an NHL roster. Ben is perfectly poised on the ice, so why can’t he keep his cool around Ella? Her wild behavior rubs him in all the wrong ways—and a few of the right ones. But as they skate around each other, Ben learns that there’s more to Ella than her bad reputation. And when the line between love and hate starts to blur, he can’t resist crossing over and sweeping her off her feet.
This was my first Kelly Jamieson book – and I have to admit I didn’t go in with any sort of expectations. I’d heard people – on Goodreads and on Twitter – hailing her the “Queen of Hockey Romance” and how “nobody could write a better hockey book”. I scrolled through those aimlessly, thinking they were trite compliments from people who honestly had nothing original to say about the book. But goddamn it if Kelly Jamieson isn’t the Queen of Hockey Romances.
I was actually shocked reading this one. The romance itself, the storyline, the feelings, the misunderstandings … they were nothing new in collegiate romances. I love hate-to-love romances. Love, love, love them. I would eat them for breakfast, brunch, lunch, snack time, dinner and dessert if I could. That said, this one wasn’t anything super special in that department, either. Girl thinks guy is a posturing, pretentious asshole. Guy thinks girl is a party girl who sleeps with everyone. Girl starts to realize guy is actually a nice guy. Guy starts to see girl as a hard worker and not just as a partier. They fall in love. Misunderstanding. They worry about future. More love happens. Plot stuff.
BUT. What really elevated this book a step above the rest, were the dynamic characters. They were so well fleshed out! I loved it! Maybe I’ve been reading a lot of flat romances (*cough* Ugly Love *cough* Colleen Hoover *cough*) where all you read about is guy-and-girl with little outside characters or actual life happenings. What makes Kelly Jamieson such a good romance writer is that she takes you outside the romance – you see the characters life, their friends, their worries and their struggles. It’s not just cuddles, kisses, crackers in bed and no doubt mind-blowing sex. It’s about where they’re going outside of college, about trying to turn their life around and study more, worrying about their family and having a good time with their friends.
And I’ll tell you why Kelly Jamieson is the Queen of Hockey Romances – she perfectly understood the struggles of a college hockey player trying to make it into the big time. Ben was worrying about scouts, about having someone represent him, about making these adult, life decisions without an adult to guide him. He didn’t know where he was going to play, he had to make it through interviews without sounding like a fool and he had to play well … constantly. Jamieson perfectly captured the struggles, insecurities and inexperience that college athletes have when its time to make decisions that will shape their whole career and future.
Not only that, but she understood the game, and made me understand it, too. I may be an athlete, but I’m a dancer. Games that include balls are out of my breadth of knowledge. You cheer when the football goes over the yellow poles and when the player runs over the line and starts dancing when watching Football. That’s all I know. I think it’s called a … touchdown? But whatever my knowledge on football, I know even less about hockey. But when Ben was playing a game, even if I didn’t understand the game itself, Jamieson made sure that I knew what was going on with him and the other players. And somehow, it didn’t sound like an instructional video.
Overall, I was really impressed with how Kelly Jamieson pulled off this story. The one word I’d use to describe it? Dynamic. I’ve used it several times throughout this review, but I really can’t stress it enough. Even if the story itself wasn’t anything new, the way it was told made all the difference. Thank you, Kelly!
Intrigued? Definitely check out the excerpt below from the book :)
I try not to be aware of Ben next to me, his big body sprawled in his chair, staring at his laptop, his left hand moving on the keyboard and trackpad, his other hand resting on one very muscular, denim-covered thigh.
Hockey players have amazing thighs and asses.
I shake my head. Come on, Ella.
I like boys. Men. Whatever. I also like sex. But I don’t like Ben Buckingham, and I need to stop thinking about his nice eyes and his perfect mouth and his amazing ass.
Homework. That’s what I need to focus on.
I manage to succeed at this endeavor and am actually surprised when Skylar comes up and touches my shoulder. She’s standing between Ben and me, and whispers to both of us, “You guys ready to go?”
Oh, hell no. I should have realized they’d include him in the invitation. I open my mouth to tell Skylar I changed my mind, but my stomach gives an audible rumble.
“Yeah, you need food,” she whispers cheerfully. “Meet you out front.”
I slowly gather my things, while Ben does the same next to me. We stand at the same time. Our eyes meet.
Yep, he’s as unhappy as I am about this.
However, not only am I hungry, Skylar invited me and I want to say yes, because I want her friendship back. If that means hanging out for a while with a big jerk hockey player, I can do it.
I toss my hair back and walk past him, make my way out of the library, and find Skylar and Jacob all cozy on the front steps, Jacob leaning against the stone balustrade with his arms wrapped around Skylar as they smile into each other’s eyes. Snow is falling harder now, the air thick with fluffy white flakes dropping from the dark sky.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
It’s not walking distance. I tuck my hair behind my ear and bite my lip.
“I’ll drive,” Ben says. “My car’s in Lot A.”
“Good,” Jacob says. “Because my truck’s at home.”
So we walk to the lot and Ben leads us to a sweet black Mustang. Of course Skylar and Jacob move to get into the backseat—well, Jacob kind of folds himself up to get in there.
“Jesus, man,” he says to Ben. “Move your seat forward. I got no legroom whatsoever back here. My knees are up in my face.”
“You sit up front,” I quickly offer.
“Nah, it’s okay, I’ll slide over.” Jacob moves so he’s behind the passenger seat, which is farther forward than the driver’s. Skylar slides in the other side, and I swallow a sigh as I take the front passenger seat. I fumble around for the handle to move the seat even more forward. I’m not tall, so I can give Jacob more room. But I can’t find it.
Ben reaches over and, with a long arm, between my legs, finds the lever, and pushes on it. “Slide forward,” he orders. I dig my heels in and the seat moves, although heat fills me at having Ben so close once more, with his hand between my legs.
“Thanks,” Jacob says behind me. “Better.”
“You’re probably still cramped back there.” I turn to look at him.
He grins good-naturedly. “I’m fine.”
It’s not far to Mort’s, thankfully. Ben fills the car with music, Drake and Rihanna.
We get seated in a booth, like the world is conspiring to make Ben and me feel like a couple, because of course Sky and Jacob sit on one side. I try to shrink into the corner, the windowsill jabbing my shoulder, and study the menu. I want to order everything, I’m so starving, but this place is known for its huge portions.
“Let’s get some wings to share,” Skylar says.
“Sure,” Ben and Jacob both say.
“How hot do you like it?” Skylar asks, her gaze on the choices on the menu.
“Oh, baby.” Jacob nudges her. “You know I like it hot.”
She rolls her eyes. I can’t help but smile at Jacob’s cheesy humor.
“Ella likes it hot too,” Skylar says.
Ben doesn’t look at me, but I sense the waves of disapproval flowing off him.
“Can’t take the heat?” I ask him. “It’s okay. Men who like spicy foods tend to have higher levels of testosterone.”
Skylar chokes on a laugh.
“Oh, we were talking about food?” Ben slaps his menu closed and slides me a sideways glance. “So, does eating the hot stuff cause an increase in testosterone? Or the abundance of testosterone makes you like spicy food?”
“Um, I don’t know if researchers have actually determined that.”
“Where’d you learn that useful factoid, anyway?” Ben smirks at me. “Cosmo magazine?”
I’m trying not to smile. “As a matter of fact, pretty boy, I think it was. I might still have that issue. I’ll loan it to you. There’s a side piece called ‘Five Easy Ways to Increase Your Testosterone.’”
“Hey, low testosterone can cause a lot of problems. Including in the bedroom. I think there’s another issue that has a guide to erectile dysfunction. Maybe you want to borrow that one too.”
Ben’s eyes flicker and his jaw tightens. “Erectile dysfunction.”
“Don’t be embarrassed.” I shrug. “You men are so sensitive about your sexual prowess.”
“You don’t know anything about my sexual prowess.”
“That is true. And hopefully I never will.”
Hello! Cross Check by Kelly Jamieson is on sale! Will you buy it? Were you intrigued by the excerpt? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you! If I don’t, have a great rest of the week, and I hope you read something great :)