No disclaimer needed for this review - I think I have made my love for hockey pretty clear. I didn’t quite love Across the Line as much as I did it’s predecessor but I still very much enjoyed it.
Becca Chen is fiercely independent - a trait that was probably, ironically, strengthened by the parents who insisted she follow their life plans for her and go into the medical profession. Determined to succeed in her chosen profession - owning and managing her own restaurant - it’s pretty much all she thinks about … that is until she runs into Calder Griffin on a plane journey. They went to the same elementary school where they didn’t exactly get along but their lives have understandably gone in different directions. However, they both know what it’s like to be compared unfavourably to siblings and they soon strike up a conversation that leads to something more.
I liked Becca’s independence and the fact that she was not afraid of working hard to get where she wanted. However, Calder seems to think she’s this laid-back chick just because she ‘allows’ him to go play ice hockey whilst they’re supposed to be on a date and I think that that opinion is proven wrong as we get further into the novel. I can understand Becca’s perfectionism and the need to have full control of her destiny, I just think sometimes she acted a little …rashly, to say the least. Calder is hot (especially if the cover is anything to go by), he knows how to take care of himself in order to be the best he can be at what he does but rather than being driven by his desire to better himself he is driven by the desire to be better than his brother. I suppose the fact that he's driven to prove himself at all is a positive, but it does not seem like a healthy sibling rivalry between the two.
That might make it sound like I didn’t like the characters - and I don’t know that like is the word I would use to describe what I feel about them. In my review for On the Surface I said that I liked the protagonists but didn’t relate to them and I think if anything for Across the Line it would be the opposite. They weren’t awful characters by any stretch of the imagination but they’re also not the type of characters I would necessarily want to be best friends with. Together they work (for the most part)
Again, although ostensibly a fairly straight-forward contemporary romance this novel isn’t all light and fluffy. As well as dealing with the issues of parental disapproval and sibling rivalry and the real and lasting effect they can have, it broaches the subject of homosexuality compassionately, particularly with a view to how it might be perceived with a sport setting, and within the hockey community. Although it’s true that nobody should have a say in someone else’s sex life as long as what they’re doing is legal and consensual it isn’t glossed over in this novel and made to appear all sweetness and light. I honestly think this was one of the major strengths of the book. There's not a massive amount of impetus in this novel to be honest - at least not between the main characters - and this adds something to keep the story going.
There seemed to be more hockey verbiage used in this instalment but that is by no means a bad thing. Hockey isn’t just something that these men happen to do - it’s a huge part of their life and therefore becomes a huge part of their partners lives too. Becca watches games whenever she can, and even joins in once in a while. However, there is (don't tell anybody I said this) such a thing as too much hockey and I think Kate Willoughby gets the balance between showing how important it is and not letting it completely overrun the novel just right.
The sex is ... well it's hot. I'll give you a little snippet;
He pulled out abruptly and pulled her off the desk. Her butt skidded on the wood, but he was strong. Before she knew it, he'd turner her around, bent her over with one hand between her shoulder blades and shoved himself back inside. A primitive thrill raced through her at the unexpected manhandling. His hips slammed against her butt so hard, the drawers in the desk rattled. But God, it felt incredible.
And there are plenty more encounters in the story, although Willoughby refrains admirably from writing too much sex into the story.
All in all, I think this novel suffered a little from second book syndrome. It wasn't wildly different from On the Surface but then again, maybe that's one of the issues. Becca and Calder are another couple from completely different lives who somehow meet in the middle and make a relationship work - just like Tim and Erin. That's not necessarily a bad thing - I just think the series could do with kicking up a notch in the next instalment, which I will definitely be reading.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Across the Line by Kate Willoughby (In the Zone #2) Contemporary Hockey Romance Carina Press (11 August 2014) Ebook: 287 pages
Deeper is the first book in the Caroline & West new adult, contemporary romance series. I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I hadn't heard of the author or the series before (although subsequently have found out it's the pen name of Ruthie Knox). However, from the first page I was hooked. This book is beautifully written, has two of the most amazing characters I've read in a long time - especially within the new adult, contemporary romance genre - and the added aspect of revenge porn which, although I knew about it, hadn't realised it was called revenge porn.
Throughout the novel the perspective changes between Caroline and West, but the chapters are pretty long so it's not like it's constantly swinging to and fro all the time. You really get to know the characters and their personalities, what they are about, and who they are inside. Although contemporary romance has its fair share of the trope of good girl falls for bad boy, there is a lot more here than just that trope. These characters are well rounded and three-dimensional. And once you get to know West, you realise he's not really bad boy at all, just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or trying to make ends meet.
The one thing I loved about this story is Caroline's personal growth. We start with her finding out that sexual pictures of her and her ex-boyfriend have gone viral on the Internet. We watch as she closes up, shuts down and isolates herself. She doesn't fight back, she doesn't go out, she doesn't have a life; and she wonders if she will ever get to be a lawyer, because nobody's going to hire a slut. But, by the time we get to the end of the novel, Caroline has come full circle back to the girl that her friends knew before all the craziness, and it was really nice to see.
West is one of the sexiest, most complex and interesting heroes I've read in a long time. Yes, he does seem to be a bad boy, but he isn't really. He comes from a bad area, but nobody really knows because he keeps it well hidden. He's embarrassed and so puts across a persona that he's happier with when at university. The one real aspect that makes West bad boy material is the fact that he deals marijuana, and if we were on the outside looking in we probably would look at West and think, 'you're no good', and I'm sure we wouldn't want anything to do with him.
However, once we see him through Caroline's eyes, see what he does for her, as well as hearing his own thoughts and feelings about the people in his life; Caroline, his mum, dad, and sister, his life really; as well as what he has had to deal with, we begin to understand (although not condone) why he sells marijuana. You begin to realise that he's not really bad at all, but that life has put him in a very difficult situation. He struggles to get himself to a really good college, in order to try and get a good job as a doctor, so he won't have to worry about money when taking care of his little sister, who he adores, and his deadbeat mum.
When Caroline and West do eventually get together, the sex scenes are just so well written, it's a beautiful coming together. There is nothing in the writing that is jarring or made me cringe. The buildup is so heart-wrenching, so beautiful that I was completely and utterly absorbed.
As well is the romance aspect, there is the revenge porn. I thought the author did an amazing job at expressing Caroline's feelings regarding this heinous act by her ex-boyfriend. Caroline's thoughts are very realistic and totally understandable, it made my heart bleed for her. To think that this actually goes on in the real world and not just in fiction is heartbreaking. However, from being a 'victim' to seeing her growth through both these two books, made me feel really proud of her and optimistic for her future, whether it was going to be with West or not.
Although Caroline's feelings towards West are all consuming, in that she needed, wanted, lusted after him, she knows that she would be able to live her life without him, and the ending of Deeper shows that. West is really supportive of Caroline and what she goes through regarding the revenge porn, and I loved how gentle and caring and understanding he is towards her, and how much it helps her get through such a dark time in her life.
The secondary characters are also very good, in fact, the whole ensemble of characters are fantastic. Not one of them got on my nerves or irritated me, unless they were meant to, such as Caroline's ex and West's mum.
As well as the support from West, Caroline's best friend is also there for her as she tries to navigate her way through this awful time. Caroline is surprised at herself for what she is eventually able to achieve in the face of adversity. When she begins to get back into life rather than hiding away, she joins an all-girl rugby team, where she makes more friends and starts to enjoy life again. It was nice to see Caroline eventually surrounded by people that supported and cared for her, and believed in her. It was a shame that her own family didn't do the same thing. When it all came out and she has to tell her father, his reaction is really disappointing. He does redeem himself somewhat, but something like that is not easily forgotten, or easy for a character to come back from.
Deeper and Harder have to be two of my favourite reads of the year, and I know my review just doesn't do either of them justice. Deeper really touched me, and Harder is a great second instalment.
The ending to Deeper is heartbreaking, but fortunately Harder does resolve everything, so make sure you have it to hand otherwise you will die. Yes, die - no this isn't an exaggeration. There is so much more to these books than simply romance, but going into it in too much depth would possibly lead to spoilers, which I don't want to do.
Make Deeper and Harder your two next reads, especially if you enjoy contemporary romance with wonderful, three-dimensional characters and a heartfelt storyline. Rating: 5 Stars / 4 Stars
Deeper / Harder by Robin York (Caroline & West #1/#2) Contemporary Romance Piatkus Books (2014) Paperback: 350 pages
I devoured this series in one go and read all the books back to back. I really enjoyed them, but my favourites are book one, On Dublin Street, and book three, Before Jamaica Lane. I was looking forward to reading Fall From India Place as it's the next generation. It's from the view point of Hannah, who, when we first met her was in her teens, is now twenty-two and an English teacher.
The first part of the book is a combination of the present and flashbacks to Hannah's past. The flashbacks are mostly of her relationship with Marco, who she falls in love with at the age of fourteen to Marco's seventeen. She's sure he feels the same way but his actions turn hot and cold. Then something happens when she's sixteen that crushes her and ends with Marco leaving her.
Hannah hasn't been with a guy since Marco left, which is quite a few years ago now, so when he comes back into her life it's a shock. There are plenty of secrets between these two, and so the rekindling of their relationship doesn't start out well. They have their ups and downs, but the love between then is still there, it's just that the trust isn't.
I can see why Hannah is reluctant to take Marco back. Having him leave her the way he did, at such an impressionable age, would scar anyone, especially with the ramifications that play out after he leaves, which I won't go into as it contains spoilers. However, I did find that their hesitancy to get together went on for a bit too long. The author should have had Hannah take Marco back a bit earlier in the story as the toing and froing became a little annoying.
Overall thought, I enjoyed Fall From India Place. The sex is hot, the characters are sweet, and I would still recommend it. I just wasn't invested in the characters as much as I have been with other characters in previous books in the series, and for me it wasn't a stand out novel in the series. Rating: 3.5 Stars
Fall From India Place by Samantha Young (On Dublin Street #4) Contemporary Romance Piatkus Books (3 June 2014) Paperback: 370 pages