Welcome to the Snow and Ice Games where competition is not the only thing that is heating up! The third book in bestselling Tamsen Parker's romance series continues with a female hockey star and her off-limits coach.
Bronwyn Perry is the star of the US women’s hockey team, and she and her boyfriend Brody Hill have been hockey royalty since they’ve been in high school. Brody unexpectedly fails to make the men’s team but still comes to Denver to support his girl at the Snow and Ice Games. Or so Bronwyn thinks.
Ash Levenson is the coach of the women’s SIG hockey team. His primary responsibility is to keep his team happy, healthy, and primed to win. Though he’s close in age to his players, he’s been doing this for a while and mostly, it’s easy to keep his eyes on the puck. He’s always been able to discard any crush he might have on any of the women he’s coached…until Bronwyn.
When Bronwyn and Brody’s romance comes to a very public and very ugly end, Ash has to get his star player’s head back in the game and ready to dominate on the rink. Which may mean spending a little time off the ice…
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Finally, the hockey romance! I’ve read a lot of hockey romances, but this is the first, I think, that had a female hockey player. This is the third in the Snow & Ice Games series, but each can be read as a standalone.
Bronwyn is a college hockey player who’s made it on to the Olympics team for US women’s hockey, and Ash is the team coach. Though they’re at different colleges, women’s hockey is a small enough world that they are each familiar with each other, plus they’re both at colleges in the Boston area. When Bronwyn and her boyfriend break up in an incredibly public and messy way, Ash fears that it will tank her performance, and that of the team. So, naturally, he offers to be her distraction, to predictable results.
“’I’ll be your anchor. I’ll fill the gaps. If you feel like calling Brody, call me instead. If you usually eat lunch with him, I’ll meet up with you. There must be a hundred things you do every day that make you think of him. Don’t think of him, think of . . .’
Me. Think of me. ‘Uh, hockey.’
She smiles at me, a funny twisted-up thing that makes me think she’s trying not to laugh. Which is fine. She could totally laugh at me and I wouldn’t care. ‘So, you’re going to be the nicotine gum to my Brody cigarette?’
Whatever you do, do not think of being in her mouth. For fuck’s sake, I may have to move this clipboard lower if I get any more filthy ideas. But yeah, she’s got the gist. ‘Yep. Sure am.’”
First off – this is a taboo romance. Ash is the coach and Bronwyn is one of his players, so immediately there’s the issue of a power imbalance. There’s definite lines crossed, which may prove to be too squicky for some readers. While normally I’m not a fan of power imbalances like this, I think it was handled well enough that while I was aware of it, it was enough in the background that I could enjoy the romance part. One of the things that helped is that they’re not that far apart in age – Ash is in his late twenties and Bronwyn is in her early twenties.
The thing that didn’t help is that it felt like Bronwyn acted so much younger than her actual age, and Ash older. So, the thing that gets them together in a way that starts their relationship is that Ash offers to be a distraction from Brody – if Bronwyn wants to call Brody, she should call him, etc. This ends up with her calling him and coming over to his room in the middle of the night to cuddle… because she can’t sleep by herself. Also, their big breakup is spurred by Ash denying that he’s having inappropriate relations with anyone on his team, which, you know, she agrees is the only course of action he could take, because, yeah, this is hella inappropriate. Plus, Brody, Bronwyn’s boyfriend, was such an awful person and I don’t really understand why she stuck with him for so long, especially since she seems to rebound so quickly from him. It really made me wonder – I mean, obviously, Brody was no prince, but seriously, she went from one relationship to another, so it really made me question her judgment and maturity.
“Ash is really strong. Not in the could-bench-press-me way Brody was, but in a quieter way. I don’t think I’d be able to dedicate my life to helping people get better at something I used to love but could no longer do. How is he not bitter as ****? I would be. I don’t even think there’d be anything wrong with that.”
It’s not like Ash doesn’t screw up, himself. Though he seems mostly able to separate his personal and professional interactions with Bronwyn, he does almost nearly blow it at one point. I especially loved his back story and that he suffered from chronic pain. It gave him a good reason for being such a young coach, and I admired his maturity and his love for the sport, especially in terms of women’s hockey versus men’s hockey. It feels, sometimes, like the physical consequences of playing high impact sports are not very well addressed in romances – and I get it, it can be a downer – but I thought this was done in such a masterful way to lend a lot of depth to the story.
Overall, though I may have had some issues with the trope, I did really enjoy this book. I hope Ms. Parker writes more women’s hockey books in the future!
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.