Slap Shot (Aces Hockey) - Kelly Jamieson
Loveswept/ Random House
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Rating (out of 5):
Synopsis: After my wife died from a rare form of cancer, sex was the last thing on my mind. Same with hockey, the other love of my life. Now, after fifteen months of eating too much, drinking too much, and generally just feeling sorry for myself, I’m facing a steep uphill battle to get my ass in shape and play my way back onto the Chicago Aces.
So I’m not looking for a relationship. Just sex. Yeah, I know how that makes me sound. But the truth is, I’ll never love another woman the way I loved my wife. When I meet a sexy bridesmaid at my teammate’s wedding, I decide to scratch that itch. A fling with Kendra Armstrong in her posh hotel room could be just what the trainer ordered.
Not only is Kendra smokin’ hot, she’s dynamite in bed—one of the perks of being a sex toy designer. Since she lives in New York anyway, we agree to keep things casual, no strings attached. The arrangement is perfect . . . until one of us falls in love. And it’s not me.
Max Hall took a leave from the Chicago Aces two years ago when his wife was diagnosed with a rare form of terminal cancer. Now he's trying to move forward with his life, deal with his grief, and return to hockey. Beginning to interact with teammates again means weddings and weddings can lead to all kinds of interesting things . . . What starts out as a one night stand with Kendra becomes a casual, no-strings fling and friendship. Max doesn't believe he's ready for more and never wants to go through the pain of losing someone again. But life sometimes doesn't give us what we think we want- it gives us what we need. If we don't screw it up.
I've probably said this in other blogs but I'll admit it again here: I very rarely like books written in the first person. I like seeing things through both characters' eyes, I like seeing what's going on in their heads, how their past experiences shape who they are and how they react to things. And of books written in the first person, it's even rarer that I like a book written in the present tense where the character is narrating events as they happen instead of a past tense remembering (which has a different set of pitfalls in my opinion). I have no idea why I find it annoying, distracting even, but I usually do. All that lead up is something of an explanation and an apology for why I didn't like Slap Shot as much as I usually enjoy Kelly Jamieson books- especially her hockey books. It's the first among the Aces books (maybe all of her books) I've read that is written in first person and I'm sure it was done to focus on Max's internal struggle between holding onto his grief and his guilt at starting to really live again after the death of his wife.
Although we meet Kendra through Max's eyes and see their entire relationship from his point of view (which, spoiler alert, includes falling in love with her) I never really felt like I got to know her as a person. I knew things about her: she's a psychologist who eventually switched careers and started her own business with a friend to make sex toys for women. She has an instinct for 'fixing' people that's gotten her into lousy relationships in the past and she has a terrible relationship with her parents. She's caring, fun, outgoing, and loves dancing and dogs. But for all of that, I never felt like she was a fully developed, three dimensional person. Of course, I also had that problem with Max. I didn't like him. He would possibly have been a more likable (or at least sympathetic) character from the outside, but when the whole book is told from his point of view he really mostly came across as a self-absorbed jerk. His goal was getting in shape for training camp and getting back on the team. It's a great goal and I loved that he was so motivated and willing to work hard to get there. But the self-defense process of not looking at his emotions to try and avoid being hurt again came across (in his own head) as not even wanting to admit to a caring friendship with Kendra, let alone falling in love with her, but just focused on good sex.
While following Max's progress out of grieving and back to living and admitting to emotions could have been a very reflective and touching story, I was left feeling a little flat about Slap Shot in general. There are a few great scenes at the end where Max finally gets his head on straight and very well written and emotional apology and reconciliation scenes. But overall, I was left wanting a little something more. Whether that was a bit of additional plot or more emotional introspection or more depth of character, I feel like Slap Shot was one of Jamieson's more mediocre books, with the potential to have been one of her best.
Long time readers of Kelly Jamieson's Aces Hockey series (Back Check, Icing) have been aware of Max and his tragic story, but he's always been a very peripheral character. So readers new to the series don't have to worry about having missed any backstory if they start the series with Slap Shot. Personally, I recommend reading the rest of the Aces series first so that Max's return to the team at the end will give you a bit more emotional satisfaction than the rest of the book.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review