Review: Alex by Sawyer Bennett

alex by sawyer bennettFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: sports romance, contemporary romance
Series: Cold Fury Hockey #1
Length: 224 pages
Publisher: Loveswept
Date Released: October 14, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Hockey star Alexander Crossman has a reputation as a cold-hearted player on and off the rink. Pushed into the sport by an alcoholic father, Alex isn’t afraid to give fans the proverbial middle finger, relishing his role as the MVP they love to hate. Management, however, isn’t so amused. Now Alex has a choice: fix his public image through community service or ride the bench. But Alex refuses to be molded into the Carolina Cold Fury poster boy . . . not even by a tempting redhead with killer curves.

As a social worker, Sutton Price is accustomed to difficult people—like Alex, who’s been assigned to help her create a drug-abuse awareness program for at-risk youth as part of the team’s effort to clean up his image. What she doesn’t expect is the arrogant smirk from his perfect lips to stir her most heated fantasies. But Sutton isn’t one to cross professional boundaries—and besides, Alex doesn’t do relationships . . . or does he? The more she sees behind Alex’s bad-boy façade, the more Sutton craves the man she uncovers.

My Review:

I just plain liked this one.

I know, I know, slightly more explanation needed. But at the end, my first thought, was “ooh, that was fun!”

Alex is a love story between two people who are both carrying a hell of a lot of very damaged baggage. The initial difference is in the way that each of them handles that baggage.

Both Alex Crossman and Sutton Price grew up with addicted fathers. Crossman’s dad is an alcoholic, and Sutton’s dad is a heroin addict. Note the present tense. Also very tense relationships with both of their dads.

But Crossman’s father is a functioning alcoholic. He continues to drink, and continues to emotionally abuse his star-hockey-player son, but no one outside the family knows about the problem. In fact, the old man was able to fool everyone that he was a really caring father who was an excellent coach for his son. No one else heard the abuse that he hurled along with the hockey pucks in all-night drills.

Alex learned to hate the game, even though it was his best chance at an economically free future. And he never learned to stop letting his dad call after every game just to pour on more ego-destruction in the midst of his supposed hockey advice.

So since Alex has known nothing but terrible treatment, he dishes out the same crap he takes from his dad. He’s a great player, but he’s also an absolute prick to everyone he meets. Even the fans call him MVP – “Most Valuable Prick”.

The team needs him to clean up his image, or they need to cut him. He’s just about abusive to the fans, as well as his fellow players.

His last chance is to be the team’s spokesperson for an At-Risk Youth drug counseling and treatment program. And that’s where Sutton comes in. She runs the program. She’s well aware that she became a drug treatment counselor as a way of dealing with her emotions about her own father. He is a heroin addict who sometimes manages to climb on the wagon, but so far hasn’t managed to stay there.

She loves him but doesn’t enable him, which is damn hard. But she’s used her experience to help others, not to wallow in self-pity or self-destruction. The high road has been a fairly rough journey, but she’s good at what she does and gets self-confidence and self-worth from it.

Sutton and Alex run headlong into each other. He may be gorgeous, but his personality is a real turnoff. And she doesn’t want to mix her career with her personal life.
Alex starts out just wanting to get through his obligation, and get into Sutton’s pants. It’s not that simple.

Alex enjoys being with Sutton, and the more they work together, the more fun it is for him. He starts to feel, and that’s beyond a novel experience for him.

He’s never had a relationship, and Sutton won’t settle for anything else. So when his dad gets too far into his head, again, and convinces him that Sutton is just a distraction from his game, Alex does the stupid thing.

He has to grovel pretty damn hard to get her back. And so he should.

Escape Rating B: As I said, this is just plain fun. Sutton is extremely upbeat, and it makes sense that Alex falls for her. Of course, he has a hard time admitting that he actually feels that much for anyone.

In spite of Sutton’s incredible cheerfulness, it makes sense that someone might have that reaction to her rocky upbringing. Some people follow in their parents’ footsteps, and some take the extreme opposite path. Sutton went to the extreme opposite, and it’s more healthy for her than the road Alex takes. But she recognizes that “there but for the grace of God go I” in every one of her cases. She uses her background to help others, and she’s conscious of it.

Alex starts the story as a Grade A arsehole. He’s an absolute prick to absolutely everyone. His redemption happens a bit fast in the story, but that’s part of what makes it fun. It’s good to see him turn his life around (admittedly with one gigantic misstep in the middle).

While it’s hard to believe that he continues to give his father’s continued abuse that much credence, it is all too possible. I’ve seen parent/child relationships that go just this way. Even when the parent is abuser, he or she is still the parent and the adult child is still looking for approval or at least acceptance.

It was fun to meet the other players on the Cold Fury team, but they are all a bunch of horndogs, including the married ones. No one seems to have a happy home life. While it looks like the series is going to be about the single guys getting their HEAs, I hope the married ones get hit with a clue-by-four about the way they are treating their wives.

Sutton does forgive Alex a bit too easily, but then, he does grovel publicly by reusing the scene from Love Actually. It is pretty irresistible.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.