After my verbal altercation with Damien’s coach, I trudged up the stands to the seat Mom had saved for me. Tonight’s was the first game I’d been able to attend since a new coach took over my brother’s hockey team. In all honesty, I don’t know much about hockey, but I know people. And that pretty boy behind the bench had “cocky idiot” written all over him.
“Mama!” Holden, my three-year-old son, jumped into my arms from his spot standing on the bench next to my mom.
“Hello, my sweet boy!” I hugged his warm little body to me, sniffing his silky, brown curls as I squeezed. “I missed you today.”
“I miss you, Mama,” he responded.
“Bad day at work?” Mom asked as she scooted over to give me room.
“Nothing crazy. Why?” I set Holden down and sat next to Mom, close enough to press the outside of my thigh against hers. I hadn’t had time to change after work, and the cold air of the arena had the bare skin not covered by my skirt popping with goose bumps.
“You just walked in the building and you’re already up in arms.” Mom threw her arm around my shoulders and squeezed me. “I’ve been here the entire game. You don’t hear me making a fuss.”
“You don’t care that he’s swearing at D?” I said, defending myself.
“You tell Damien to get his ass off the couch all the time.” Mom reached across me to pull the sleeves of her fleece jacket over her fingers. “How is this any different?”
“I’m his sister.” I shrugged. As Damien’s older sister, swearing at him was my birthright.
“He’s a good coach. Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.” Mom coughed, the throaty rumble and deep hack of a thirty-year smoker. Then she stood up and grabbed Holden’s hand. “Come on, sweetheart.”
My entire body shivered, protesting the loss of heat when she left my side.
“Mama. I pease go with Gramma?” Holden pleaded with huge, brown eyes.
“Sure, sweet boy.” I reached out and ruffled his hair.
Holden tugged at my mother’s arm. “I get popcorn, Gramma?”
“No one gets anything asking like that,” I called out as Mom led him down the steps slowly.
“Pease,” he added. “Pease, Gramma?”
Holden had my mom wrapped around his finger, but I never stopped trying to instill manners in him. Technically, he had me wrapped around his finger, too. That happens when your family is your entire life. And my son, my mom, and my brother were my entire life.
Once Holden and Mom turned the corner toward the snack bar, I shifted my eyes back to the new hockey coach. I couldn’t stop myself. I hadn’t expected him to be so young.
You do have to overlook the fact that this installment has even less hockey in it than usual (Jason’s a coach for high school age kids, though his brother’s Landon from the second book, Power Play ). The characters go to a few hockey games, and watch at least one on TV, but the focus in this book is far more on the characters’ non-hockey existence than Pilots hockey.
Fortunately, I liked Jason and Linden so much that it didn’t really bother me. But consider yourself warned–if you’re suffering from withdrawal symptoms because your team once again didn’t even make it into the postseason, let alone into the Cup finals, this book isn’t going to fill the void.
But if you’re looking for a story about a strong female single mother protagonist and the really great guy she’s dating? (Though he definitely tarnishes his halo toward the end…not only during their relationship black moment, but holy crap in the bar. I was not crazy about his behavior in the bar, no matter how much it was provoked. Fortunately, though, he’s pretty awesome for about 95% of the book, including a great ending, so that makes it mostly better.) Then this could be the book for you.
I really liked Indie, and am totally in love with her little boy, Holden. I loved how she completely changed the focus of her life when she got pregnant with him at seventeen, and how her mother and younger brother rallied around to help her raise her son right. She’s working two jobs and finishing up her college degree and is managing to raise a three-year-old who’s not only adorable but has darn good manners and is just an all-around good kid. Can I say how much I loved that she made him add a “please” onto each of his requests? And that he remembered to do so after only one prompting?
Ah, fictional children…
I also loved how she got Jason to see his birth mother, who also got pregnant as a teenager, in a new light. He’d long resented the fact that he’d been “given up” at birth, even more so when he learned that his mother had kept Auden, his younger sister (and heroine of book one in the series,Delayed Penalty ), born four years later. Obviously, the topic of teen pregnancy was a hot button one for both of them, and I was so glad that Indie was able to help Jason to get over his hangup with him mom–essentially by taking him down a couple of pegs.
Indie is darn good at doing that to Jason, which was something the guy definitely needed every now and then. You know, just to keep him humble 😉
I so absolutely love Jason’s adopted family, though. Especially his relationship with his mother–So. Awesome. They ways in which they all interact with each other, actually, makes for some really fun reading.
We did get to see the main characters from the first two books a bit–mostly because Jason’s related to two of them–which was a lot of fun. If you haven’t read the others, though, this one should work okay as a standalone. (Though things will “click” slightly better for you if you have read them, and one of Indie and Jason’s lunch dates in particular will be even more awesome if you’ve at least read book 1. It’s not necessary, but it will give the scene more meaning.)
I’m really hoping Ms. Henry has more from this series to come. I really enjoy her writing, though if she’d put a bit more hockey in her books, you wouldn’t see me complaining.
Rating: 4 stars / A-
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.