When you’re twenty years old, there’s nothing music and a drink can’t cure.
At least that was my best friend’s response when I told her I’d been cut from Central State’s women’s soccer team that morning.
The overzealous stylings of two drunk chicks bellowing “It’s Raining Men” wafted through the air, and I’d just received my vodka club from the bartender, so why did it still feel like someone scratched my heart out with a serrated shovel?
Maybe “It’s Raining Men” wasn’t the right song?
Or maybe my friend’s remedy lacked one vital piece. Like, five minutes locked in a bathroom stall with the crazy-haired hottie approaching me. His head was buzzed short on the sides, leaving a thick patch of dark locks, gelled into a neat pompadour in front. Sort of like 1920s gangster, except less slicked, more height.
Every muscle in Crazy Hair’s body rippled under his clothing as he walked. He had to be over six feet tall, with a broad chest and massive arms stretching the seams of his long-sleeved black Henley. His skin was smooth and pale, a contrast to the thick dark eyebrows resting above his jump-in-and-drown-in-me blue eyes. From the scar on his left cheek to the smug smirk of his lips, he was exactly my type: dangerous, confident, and totally lickable.
I flipped my long blond hair behind my shoulder and glanced to my left, pretending Crazy Hair’s advance had no effect on me. In reality, I’d checked to make sure that he wouldn’t pass me up on the way to some beautiful bombshell I hadn’t noticed standing in the vicinity.
Like when you see someone wave, so you wave back. Then you realize they weren’t waving at you but the person behind you. So you try to play off your lame wave like you were batting away mosquitoes, which aren’t there because it’s December in Canada. Just trying to avoid an awkward situation like that.
Crazy Hair continued to close in, before stopping just inches away.
I’d opened my mouth to ream him out for stepping too far into my personal space, but the sweet scent of clove cigarettes flooded warmth through me like a sip of hot chocolate on a January morning in the Upper Peninsula.
“You work at post office?” he asked in a thick Slavic accent.
“Um, no.” I took a swig of my drink. Though I was unsure where he was going with that line, he was hot enough for me to stick around.
The left corner of his mouth curved into that sexy little smirk. “Because I see you check out my package.”
Carbonation stung my nose as I snorted and choked trying to hold in my laugh. Without time to turn my head, I sprayed vodka club and saliva across the front of Crazy Hair’s shirt.
“Weak!” I heard from somewhere behind me.
I turned to see who had yelled, still coughing as I noticed a group of guys and girls at the high-top table behind me. Shaggy blond hair bounced against one guy’s forehead as he snickered. The dude next to him held his fist in front of his mouth in a horrible attempt to hide his laughter. A brunette in a tight red sweater didn’t look amused. At all.
Crazy Hair threw the guys not one but both of his middle fingers.
“That girl’s a fucking smoke show. Why’d he use a shitty line like that?” the blond one said.
Smoke show? I bit down hard on my lip to fight back a smile. The last time I’d heard that phrase was in high school from my hockey-playing best friend, who’d informed me that “smoke show” was player lingo for “hot girl.”
Unsure of how to recover any semblance of cool after spitting my drink across Crazy Hair’s muscular chest, I spun around and shuffled back to the table my friends occupied in front of the karaoke stage.
It felt weird to drink in public, though we’d been to Canada on multiple occasions. As lifelong residents of Detroit, Michigan, we thought of Windsor—the Canadian city connected to Detroit by a bridge and a tunnel—as the next town over, rather than a foreign country. Nineteen was the legal drinking age in Windsor, so it made sense for underage Americans like us to cross the border for some legit cocktails.
My butt had barely brushed my seat when I heard my name, and my name alone, called over the speakers. I lifted my eyes to the outdated popcorn ceiling, as if the voice resonated from the heavens beyond, rather than the karaoke host.
“Why is he calling my name?” I asked Kristen.
“I picked you a song,” she responded, taking a swig of her beer.
“You picked us a song, you mean?” Emphasis on the us, because I’d never sung alone in my life—not counting the shower and car, of course.
“Nope. Just you.” Kristen placed both hands on my back and pushed me toward the stage. “You need to sing it out. Keeping shit bottled up never works.”
I had no problem singing it out if I was singing with other people, but not when it was just me. Hadn’t I been embarrassed enough today?
My short-lived “smoke show” happiness vanished, and the embarrassment of making a fool of myself in front of Crazy Hair returned. I tried to reverse, but Kristen’s trampoline-like hands propelled me back toward the stage.
Climbing onto the stage, I snatched the microphone out of the host’s hand. I almost felt bad about taking my anger out on him until I saw the lyrics to “Proud Mary” light up in white against the teleprompter’s blue screen. Fuck.
What the hell? I exhaled and lifted my eyes to Kristen.
“Girl power!” She saluted me with her glass.
Was “Proud Mary” a girl-power song? I thought it was about a boat.
“Do you have ‘Good Feeling’?” I asked the karaoke host. He was around my age, with big brown eyes matching his neat, trimmed beard and his shoulder-length hair.
“Flo Rida?” he asked, as disapproving wrinkles formed on his smooth forehead.
“Oh, no,” I said. “The Violent Femmes.”
A smile spread across his lips, and he nodded. “Give me a second.”
So glad I did! I’ll definitely be looking forward to more from this series.
Delayed Penalty was a fun and quirky read that also had a serious side to it. Both Auden and Aleksander dealt with early losses in their lives–Auden’s mother was killed in front of her when she was in elementary school, and Aleksander’s parents were killed in a car accident when he was a teenager. She was raised by her mother’s parents (her father had taken off years earlier) and had decided to go into social work to help other needy children. After the accident, Aleksander left Russia to move the States to play hockey and fulfill his parents’ dreams for him. As a result, in some ways they both were a bit more mature than is typical for others their age.
Though they’re technically both main characters, the story is told from Auden’s first person point of view rather than alternating. As a result, there is a bit less of a focus on hockey than we probably would have gotten if we’d heard directly from Aleksander (which was a bit of a bummer, I’ll admit) but ultimately I liked the single first-person POV. It worked for this story, and I really enjoyed Auden’s snarky voice–in many ways, we are kindred spirits:
After my first real-life crush didn’t work out, I resumed my infatuation with fictional characters and unattainable men. It was easier knowing that I had zero chance from day one.
See? It’s like we were separated at birth. 😉
There were some tell-tale signs that this is a debut work. A few side plotlines were a big deal for a while and then disappeared, never to be mentioned again or really resolved. Auden’s mother’s murder, for one–though maybe her cop half-brother will have a story that deals with it? Another is Auden’s relationship with her former BFF, Drew–the aforementioned first crush. It’s a fairly major focus for a good chunk of the book, and then it just goes away… Auden’s antagonistic attitude toward her grandparents isn’t adequately explained; at least not in a way that justified it in my mind–this is one way in the book that she actually seemsyounger than her age.
I enjoyed liked Ms. Henry’s voice, and look forward to reading more from her in the future as her writing matures.
Rating: 4 stars / B+
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
with an English degree from Central Michigan University, she moved to North Carolina, where she spends her time writing books featuring hockey-playing heroes, chasing her two high-energy sons, watching her beloved Detroit Red Wings, and rocking out at concerts with her husband.