Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: sports romance
Series: Cold Fury Hockey #4
Length: 269 pages
Date Released: September 8, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
The stakes have never been higher for Carolina Cold Fury goalie Ryker Evans. With his contract running out, he’s got a year left to prove he’s still at the top of his game. And since his wife left him, Ryker has been balancing life as a pro-hockey star and a single parent to two daughters. Management is waiting for him to screw up. The fans are ready to pounce. Everybody’s taking dirty shots—except for the fiery redhead whose faith in Ryker gives him a fresh start.
As the league’s only female general manager, Gray Brannon has learned not to mix business with pleasure. And yet even this tough, talented career woman can’t help breaking her own rules as she gives Ryker everything she’s got. She hopes their hot streak will last forever, but with Ryker’s conniving ex plotting to reclaim her man, the pressure’s on Gray to step up and save a tender new love before it’s too late.
I was planning to read something different for today, and then I decided I’d rather have a fun book, because tomorrow’s is so serious. But now that I’ve finished Ryker, I’m not sure I really DID pick a fun book.
I read the previous three books in the Cold Fury Hockey series, Alex, Garrett and Zack. These are the key players on the fictional Cold Fury Hockey team, and they form a tight core group for the team. In those earlier books, even when the hero is being an arsehole or an idiot, or sometimes both, I really liked the books. The stories were compellingly readable, even if, or especially because, the guy really needed work to be a decent human being.
Ryker turns out to be the opposite. Ryker Evans starts the story as a really decent guy. He’s a loving and attentive single-father, he’s a great hockey player, and he’s decent to his friends. He absolutely adores his little girls and they are clearly the center of his world. Even though he’s clear in the story that the reason his first marriage broke up was that he and his soon-to-be-ex-wife drifted apart, he acknowledges that he left all the childcare to her and that it was a mistake on his part. His life is exhausting, but he realizes that he missed out by not being more involved with his girls. Now that his ex has left them all to chase after her new lover on the hockey circuit, he’s the girls only stable parent and he’s happy to be that for them.
The concept of the heroine, Gray Bannon, was a good one, but the results didn’t wow me. Gray is the daughter of the Cold Fury’s owner, Brian Bannon. She’s also a genius with numbers and a former Olympic women’s hockey player. At the beginning of her story, her dad has just named her General Manager of the Cold Fury, making her the first female GM in pro hockey.
So of course, now that she has just taken on a high-profile and highly contentious position in sports, what does she do next? Fall in love with one of her own players, entering into a relationship that when it gets out, will cause sports pundits everywhere to question her ability to do her job, a problem she already has way too much of.
Her credibility will completely tank when their affair is exposed. This is not fair, but it is still true. Unfortunately.
So this is a story about a hidden love affair that can only come to light if either Gray gives up her job, or Ryker, who is in his early 30s and whose playing days, while still terrific, are also definitely numbered, gives up his.
They are certain that they can only be together if one of them gives up the career that makes them whole? Who will make the sacrifice?
Escape Rating D+: As much as I enjoyed the other books in this series, even Alex where he was an absolute bastard but still made me smile (see review), this one was not just a slog, but it actually jumped the shark for me.
The story is written from alternating first person points of view. We see the world from inside Gray’s head, and then we switch to inside Ryker’s head. Ryker’s head is pretty level. He loves his daughters, he loves playing hockey and thinks he has a few more years left, he’s happy to be at the top of his game, he’s completely over his soon-to-be-ex-wife, and he’s fascinated by Gray both intellectually and sexually.
He’s a good guy leading a great life and is hoping he can share it with someone, who turns out to be Gray.
Gray, on the other hand, is a hot mess. She finally has the job of her dreams. It’s going to be a rough first year (and possibly second year) but she has things under control. Her plan is to build the Cold Fury the same way that the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team, Billy Beane, built the A’s. She’s going to play “moneypuck” instead of “moneyball”. Her concept of management through statistics has been proven to work in one sport, and she has the brains and the mathematical chops to try it in another.
In the middle of the toughest year of her life, she spends all of her emotional energy angsting over a relationship with one of her players. I mean she completely descends into mush and loses her edge. It’s not that I don’t want to see her get her happy ending, but her actions feel juvenile, particularly for a woman in her early 30s.
While the solution to their dilemma was very, very fictional, it also felt false. Either she is going to be pilloried in the press and lose the confidence of the board of directors, or Ryker needs to retire at the end of the season. He even offers to retire so their relationship can come out of the closet. While this is romantic, it feels like reality should bite somewhere along the way. She resigns and gets her job back, which doesn’t feel quite right. Yes, her dad is the owner and supports her, and they win the Stanley Cup, but if they don’t win it again the press will crucify her.
But if either of them gives up their career for the other, while it may be good for a while, there is a strong chance of resentment further down the road. This totally tripped my willing suspension of disbelief meter. Your mileage, of course, may vary.