by Lia Riley
Series: Hellions Angels
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Publication Date: November 21, 2017
Neve Angel’s life is all work and no play, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. One of Denver’s top sports reporters, she’s fought hard to make it in a male-dominated world, and she won’t back down from a fight with anyone–not even the Hellions’ gruff head coach, Tor Gunnar. Her hostile relationship with the icy Scandinavian is the stuff of local legend.
Tor Gunnar hates dealing with the media; at best, they are a nuisance and at worst, a distraction. And no one distracts him more than the scrappy, sexy reporter who gets him hot under the collar. When he wins a not-so-friendly bet with Neve, he decides it’s high time they either kiss or kill each other, and invites her as a date to an out-of-town wedding.
But what happens when enemies become lovers? Will they be able to smother their sizzling attraction, or is it time to start playing for keeps?
Stuck in a Rut?
The billboard’s tacky font splashed across the image of a blonde woman dressed in a corset, high-waist underpants and garter belt. Neve Angel scowled through her windshield at the rest of the tagline.
Shimmy into a Whole New You!
BEGINNER Burlesque Classes at The Twirling Tassels
“Humph.” Neve tucked an escaped strand of hair back into her bun. Ms. Blondie could pop an egg in her perfect pout and suck it. Since quitting figure skating at the age of eighteen, she had developed an allergy to glitz and glamor, favoring low-key personal grooming.
Fake lashes were out.
Foundation contouring? Negative.
Waxing? Please. She wasn’t a masochist.
These days the word pragmatic carried far more value for her than pretty, thanks very much. Flicking on the radio, she relaxed her shoulders as a familiar guitar riff filled her ’78 wood-paneled Jeep Wagoneer. She had an unabashed love for classic cars and classic rock, and Tom Cochrane was a guy who knew his stuff. Life was a highway, except forget the part about driving it “all night long.”
Or driving anywhere for that matter. Satan would ice-skate through hell before this insane gridlock budged.
A silver Prius inched forward until it practically dry-humped her bumper.
Meep! The driver leaned on a wimpy-sounding horn.
Honking under these conditions was a ballsy move, akin to sitting in the last row of an airplane and standing when the cabin crew disarmed the doors—a good way to tempt ordinary citizens to commit murder.
The driver beeped again.
“Use your eyes. There’s nowhere for me to go!” Neve glanced to the rearview mirror and gazed at the distinctive red cursive on the Prius’s license plate.
A California driver. Surprise, surprise. She’d bet the loose change in the bottom of her purse that this chick was a Bay Area transplant, relocating her traffic problems to Denver along with skyrocketing home prices. The whole West was getting Californicated, from Nevada to Montana, Texas to Colorado.
The horn beeped a third time. She fisted her insulated travel mug and then took a careful sip. Madam Prius better thank her astrological chart that Neve had hot coffee within arm’s reach because otherwise things could get ugly.
A minute passed.
Blessed silence reigned.
After blowing up her bangs, she pulled an everything bagel from the flimsy paper bag on the dashboard, cramming it into her mouth. In a parallel universe, Alter-Neve woke with ample time to prepare a nutritious breakfast, perhaps an acai bowl topped by sliced bananas and kiwi fruit or Greek yogurt and granola, Instagram-worthy concoctions bursting with enough omegas and fiber to make any Prius driver water their home herb garden with organic tears.
But in this world, Einstein Bros. and a dark roast had to do the job.
She brushed stray poppy seeds and flecks of dried garlic off her charcoal pants with a muffled sigh. Charcoal, i.e., dark grey . . . not black. Her somber closet palette might be as cheerful as a funeral home, but it never required expending mental energy at seven a.m. trying to coordinate funky colors or mix and match patterns.
From her roadside perch, the burlesque model appeared amused, as if she knew Neve ate the same humdrum breakfast day in, day out and dressed in the same humdrum wardrobe. Or that while she might have an impressive LinkedIn profile, that didn’t translate to a social life worth posting over.
Neve poked out her tongue at the model’s image. This low-maintenance duckling had grown up to be . . . if not a preening swan, a confident duck.
She had a good—scratch that, great—career as a sports columnist for the Denver Age covering the hockey beat, and her life was too consumed by deadlines to bother with extra fuss. Work was the priority, and as for her biological clock . . . well, it could keep right on ticking. She had another baby to grow, her side hustle, a podcast—Sports Heaven—that kept climbing iTunes rankings; she had even been featured in their New and Noteworthy section last month.
Rut-shmut. By any measure, Neve was doing great in her career and living her best life. Except her smirk faded as she glanced to the console clock. She’d risk missing the puck drop if traffic didn’t improve soon.
Hopefully, the Hellions would get a much-needed win tonight. After their recent back-to-back championships, it appeared the team’s days in the sun had fallen into one serious shadow. The roster had been shaken ever since the unexpected retirement of captain Jed West last summer. This season had started as a big disappointment for Denver fans, and worse, whispers of NHL labor disputes were gaining traction. For the past few weeks, trusted sources had even uttered the dreaded term lockout—a word that kept her up at night restless and fretting.
Fingers—and toes—crossed that the powers that be would navigate through the negotiations and get the league back on track. During the 04–05 lockout, the whole season was cancelled—the worst possible outcome. Stadiums sat empty. Fans grumbled. Refs and arena workers forwent paychecks.
She shuddered, mentally elbowing away the terrible idea. Hopefully this time around, cooler heads would prevail.
And as for the Hellions, there was another place where cooler heads needed to prevail. Maybe if their goalie would practice a little Zen meditation and quit getting players sent to the penalty box every damn ga—
Meep! Meeeeeeeeep! Madam Prius hit the horn as if she’d face-planted on the steering wheel and died.
Tension migrated from Neve’s neck, making the slow climb to her temples. The first throbs of a headache emerged. Between lockout worries and this racket, she might spontaneously combust. To release steam, she rolled down the window and flipped the Prius the bird before grabbing her phone off the passenger seat.
Ignoring the new—and so far unlistened-to—mindfulness podcast her friend Margot had recommended, she clicked on Byways, the popular navigation app that relied on community-sourced traffic updates to create the fastest routes. It needed to get her moving before she found herself arrested for disorderly conduct.
She plugged in the Hellions stadium address and an avatar of a pitchfork blinked from a quarter mile ahead. Her tummy performed a flawless triple-axel jump.
She took a deep breath and issued herself a stern reminder. There had never been any official confirmation that Rovhal30 was even male, but in her mind, he was six feet of strapping sexiness, lounging behind the wheel of a black Subaru Outback—a ginger-haired Ewan McGregor doppelgänger. Not Trainspotting Ewan either. Not even Moulin Rouge! Ewan. No . . . straight-up Obi-Wan Kenobi Attack of the Clones Ewan, with the shaggy hair and delicious beard.
One thing was for certain, the pitchfork avatar meant that Rovhal30 was a Hellions hockey fan.
Or a devil worshiper who lives in his mom’s basement hand-feeding his pet bull pythons.
The pitchfork didn’t budge. Rovhal30 was stuck in this traffic too. She sucked in her lower lip, debating: To message or not to message? That was the question.
No point glancing to Burlesque Blondie for advice. The model would just shimmy her tassels in a “you go, guuuurl” affirmation.
Eenie, meanie, miny . . . ugh. Fine. She was doing this.
I. Loved. This. Book!
It feels like a betrayal to say this, but Neve and Tor’s story might even top Breezy and Jed’s. The enemies-to-lovers element (with a hint of You’ve Got Mail/The Shop Around the Corner vibes make this one so much fun to read–I can’t tell you how many bits I read out loud to Mini Moe #2 (I had a captive audience while reading much of it–she was driving me around for half of the day). And the way Tor interacted with his ten-year-old daughter, Olive? Heart. Melting.
The conflict here was a believable one–a sports reporter and the coach of her favorite hockey team, the guy her editor loves for her to skewer in articles such as “The Five Worst Coaches in the NHL,” complicated by the fact that his best friend and the former captain is living with Neve’s sister–and for the most part, they handled things like grown-ups, which was nice. There were a few things that I would have liked expanded on (the way their main conflict is resolved literally comes out of the blue–was she working on that prior? Or did it seriously fall into her lap the way it seems in the book?) but overall this was just a really fun read, even if it was sadly lacking in hockey (I don’t even want to say why, for fear of a real-life repeat of that nightmare scenario).
Head Coach works just fine as a standalone–even though the hero and heroine of book one ( Mister Hockey ) are in this book a few times, they’re usually kissing. (You’ll probably be tempted to find out how they got together, though, so I highly recommend reading their book to find out.) The next in the series, Virgin Territory . doesn’t come out until March, so you’ve got plenty of time! 😉
Rating: 4 stars / A-
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
About Lia Riley:
After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, Lia Riley scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. She counts shooting vodka with a Ukranian mechanic in Antarctica, sipping yerba mate with gauchos in Chile and swilling fourex with stationhands in Outback Australia among her accomplishments.