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REVIEW: Knock Me for a Loop by Heidi Betts

Dear Ms. Betts:

Knock Me for a Loop by Heidi BettsI came across your book cleaning out my towering stash of review copies that needed sorting and sending out to the reviewers. I read the back and realized that it had a hockey hero. I love sports books and I set it aside to read. When I opened, it however, it started with some magical frou frou prologue that saw some grandmotherly type infusing magic into some yarn. The magic is used to bring couples together because why? Is it that humanity left to their own devices could never find love without the help of magic yarn? The yarn bit played no part in the story, merely book ended the book, appearing in the prologue and the last chapter.

But the yarn bit is emblematic of how the other distinguishing characteristics are treated: shallowly and without much thought. Grace Fisher, a daytime talk show host out of Cleveland, and Zack Hoolihan, the star goalie of the Cleveland hockey team, had a spectacular breakup after Grace found a girl in Zack’s hotel room during an away game. When Zack injures his knee and refuses to rehabilitate, only Grace can get him out of his doldrums and forced together, Grace must reexamine Zack’s claims of innocence.

Grace is fairly dumb. She goes to Zack’s room. He not only invites her in, but lifts her bodily into the room and then starts kissing her, assisting her in removing her clothes. As they move toward the bed, Grace notices a girl in lingerie propped up there. Her first thought isn’t that some groupie snuck in but that Zack cheated on her and what? just conveniently forgot the body of cheating evidence waiting for him on the bed? Strangely no one, not Grace, not her friends, or even Zack points out how ridiculous it is that he would have INVITED her in and proceeded to maneuver her toward the bed when he already had a chick there.

But then Zack is no brainiac:

Zack–formerly “Hot Legs”–Hoolihan sat in his wheelchair, left leg propped straight out in front of him, staring at the fifty-two-inch screen of the state-of-the-art plasma television taking up nearly every square inch of the far living room wall.

His friends had been so damn impressed when he’d bought the thing…Little did they know his main reason for replacing his perfectly good thirty-two-inch flat screen was because he’d needed something to hide the hole Grace had left.

First, a hockey player who has more money he can spend in three lifetimes (per the book) would not be amazed by a fifty two inch flat screen. Those can be bought for less than a grand. Neither would his professional hockey playing buddies be impressed by this. I don’t know many men that would be. Further, a fifty two inch screen that took up “nearly every square inch of the far living room wall” would mean that the living room was about 4 feet wide. I certainly hope that a professional athlete, making millions, would live in an apartment that had more space than a kindergartner laying down.

(What hockey trophy could Grace have stuck in the wall? I looked up a list of them and couldn’t find one that had an “ass end” that could hang out of the wall)

And you continued to make a big deal out his television:

“Give them a week and they’d be back, ready to watch the next big game on his fifty-two inch plasma…”

“He’d put up a gaint, flat-screen televeision–even bigger than his old one, which had been mammoth…”

But let’s move beyond the giant 52″ flat screen in the professional hockey player’s living room which is apparently the size of a single man tent to the hockey player himself. The plot here is that Zack refuses to start rehabilitating because he has been told he might not be able to play again. A star goalie of a professional hockey team is not going to be allowed to languish neither would his drive to compete, to be the best, allow him to do so. Someone from the team would be there, doing something. He probably would have a contractual obligation.

Zack had no motivation. He mentions nothing about his team. Doesn’t watch them on TV. Doesn’t miss the ice, the competition. Doesn’t even watch ESPN. He knits and watches soap operas.* Seriously what is the point of making Zack a professional athlete if you aren’t going to include ANYTHING about the sport at all. He doesn’t have any close teammates? No one from his team visits him in the 6 week span of this freaking book?

So maybe Zack is the Barry Bonds of his hockey team and no one likes or talks to him. Let’s move on to his injury. He has some problem with his knee but he “woke from surgery with a hip to toe cast.” What kind of knee problems involves a hip to toe cast? And if he has a hip to toe cast, he wouldn’t be a) in a wheelchair a month later and b) without a cast and c) having had missed three rehabilitation attempts already!   And this is hockey. A brutal sport were fights are an accepted part of the game.   A knee injury? That’s nothing to these guys.

Later in the book Zack agrees to do a photoshoot with Grace for her favorite underwear manufacturer, Inside Outs. Why would a daytime talk show host do underwear endorsements that could be worn on the outside? How does that fit the image? And you don’t think that Zack’s team would be incensed that he is off trotting to New York to get his picture taken when he’s supposed to be rehabbing his knee and preparing to get back in the game so that they can make the playoffs?

And why would a daytime talk show host like Grace be qualified to help him through rehabilitation like ensuring he is safely extracted from a shower or getting him dressed or moving him around (based on home exercises sent home by his orthopaedic surgeon??? This is a multi million dollar asset to a multi million dollar franchise!!!)

Oh details, right? What’s the point of details. This book isn’t about details, it’s about the love relationship between Grace and Zack. If it is not about the details, then why include them? Why make Zack a professional hockey player when none of his story revolves around actually being a hockey player. Why make Grace a daytime talk show host when none of her talk show hosting abilities are shown or discussed or part of the plot? They could be Zack, the plumber, and Grace, the rehab specialist. Frankly, they could be tchotchke one and tchotchke two for all the interest that they hold.

Half the time I wondered where the copyeditor was. Like the above reference to the tv size but also in lines like this that occur in a conversation about Grace liking soaps and maybe scoring a guest role on one of them:

“You angling for a daytime TV career now?” he asked.

She is a daytime TV talk show host. That is a daytime TV career. It’s not a primetime TV career. It’s not a radio career. It’s—I would :facepalm: here but my hand is sore from slapping my forehead so many times.   And Grace went all Carrie Underwood Before He Cheats on Zack, destroying his Hummer, throwing his clothes out of his apartment window, etc. etc.   Wouldn’t that have affected her talk show host status?   It was never addressed because I guess that isn’t important to the romance, right?

The book wasn’t even about knitting. Sure ol’ Zack secretly knitted and so did his two BFFs, conveniently heroes of the two previous books in this trilogy but the knitting could have been totally removed and this would have been the same book about the plumber and underwear fetishist.

I managed to read to the end. I don’t know how. But then it had this:

“The noise in the Quicken Loans Arena was deafening. The Rockets were ahead by six points, and fans were going crazy with every new shot of the puck.”

The average goals scored in a game is usually less than 6 but you have them ahead by six points and scoring more?   Maybe the yarn helped all of Zack’s teammates to have magical abilities?  I don’t know much about hockey, I’ll admit, but nothing in this story rang true about professional sports or professional athletes.   How was the romance? Who cares? I didn’t. I could not bring myself to care about underwear loving Grace and knitter Zack because it seemed like so little care was given to making the details of the story authentic.   D

Best regards,

Jane

| Book excerpt | no Kindle | Amazon | Nook | BN | Borders |

no Fictionwise | no Books on Board

*Zack expresses extreme embarrassment over watching soaps, but why? Common knowledge that athletes watch soaps. Several have been guest actors. Famously Mark Schlereth, a football player, had a recurring role that he lobbied hard for. ESPN wrote an article about athletes love for the soaps.

**I am not linking to the author’s website because I want her to come read but as a service for the readers in case they want to check out her books.

***This is a Macmillan book and thus the ebook list price is $14.00.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

26 Comments

  1. SAO
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 12:52:28

    FWIW My daughter fractured her tibia just above the ankle, not a big break, just a little chip that didn’t move out of place and she got a hip-to-toe cast. After a few weeks they cut it off and replaced it with a knee-to-toe cast.

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  2. Susan Helene Gottfried
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 13:21:18

    I got stuck at the Cleveland part. They had a couple of minor-league teams, the most recent of which folded in 2006. To put a full-fledged NHL team in a city so close to Pittsburgh, Detroit, Columbus, and others that are pretty close? I can’t see it happening.

    Yeah, I know. This is fiction. Suspension of disbelief and all. But I can’t disbelieve. It just doesn’t ring true. The NHL would never allow it. Knowing that, I have no reason to go along with the choice of city.

    Nor does the hero’s refusal to rehab. I played hockey for a bunch of years. That toughness about injuries is an ingrained part of the personality, not the sport. Ask my sports med doctor; he’ll tell you I usually show up to have something fixed — after it’s too late. No wonder my joints are hosed…

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  3. Ros
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 13:45:26

    It’s such a shame that everything else about the book really doesn’t appeal to me, because I totally love the idea of a hero who knits.

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  4. Maddie
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 14:29:20

    I don’t even follow hockey and I know that game scores are never that high, she the author seems to be all over the place and the logic behind all of characters and their actions seems to be missing.

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  5. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 14:36:54

    I got stuck at the Cleveland part. They had a couple of minor-league teams, the most recent of which folded in 2006. To put a full-fledged NHL team in a city so close to Pittsburgh, Detroit, Columbus, and others that are pretty close? I can't see it happening…It just doesn't ring true. The NHL would never allow it.

    Is it more believable to put an expansion team in East Podunk, Nebraska, though? Stadiums are in cities so they can fill the seats and the cities are pretty much taken.

    You can’t use a real team and there are very few cities big enough to support a pro team that don’t already have one, so you make up an expansion team. Susan Elizabeth Phillips had the Chicago Stars. In movies, Any Given Sunday had the Miami Sharks and The Replacements the Washington Sentinels.

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  6. Joanne
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 14:44:45

    Jane I wish you would express yourself a little more clearly when doing a review. Did you like this book? Gah.

    God, I needed a laugh today, thank you.
    I think the 52inch tv is a phallic symbol.
    “Quicken Loans”… they have an arena?
    The “hot legs” thing, I’ve got nothin.

    @Ros: There is a YA book titled Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George with a soldier hero who knits…. with magic yarn, too!

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  7. Kerry
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 14:52:50

    It’s problematic because yes, there is a Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland(formerly Gund Arena–say it quick!)but that’s where they play basketball. Basketball and ice hockey seasons overlap. Huh?

    I take it that they totally left out any authentic Cleveland details too.

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  8. Casee
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 15:17:32

    I admire you for even getting through it. I read less than half of it before I chucked it.

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  9. Angela James
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 15:48:44

    @Maddie: Actually, anyone who watched the Olympics would tell you they CAN get that high. I like hockey so I think the author has to get a pass on this one because, while it might not happen often, it can happen and happen quite spectacularly!

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  10. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 15:57:00

    I know Minnesota beat Winnipeg 15-2 in the 80′s, but I don’t know if that’s the record.

    That said, Olympic hockey and pro hockey are pretty different animals and that kind of score differential is very rare in the NHL.

    Not enough for me to not enjoy a book, though, because it can happen.

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  11. Chicklet
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 16:07:06

    Oy. There’s no way an athlete would refuse to go to injury rehabilitation. I was watching the Summer School commentary, and Mark Harmon’s collarbone got separated from his shoulder DURING A SCENE — you can see it onscreen! — and he didn’t tell anyone with the production until they were recording the commentary 20 years later. Harmon shrugged it off as “a jock thing.” (He played college football.)

    If anything, this author should have had the hero reinjure his leg overdoing the rehab exercises. That, I would believe.

    It’s too bad this book is so sucky, because I’d be all over a romance hero who knits. Hell, I’d be all over a real-life straight guy who knits. :-)

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  12. May
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 16:09:16

    oh thank you for the laugh – and for confirming my decision to huck this back onto the shelf at my local bookstore after reading a few bits… your review expressed exactly why I didn’t buy it – glad to know I didn’t miss out.

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  13. Sam
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 17:12:30

    A knee injury? That's nothing to these guys.

    Well, to be fair, a knee injury is probably the one thing that hockey players do take seriously in terms of their bodies. Not taking care of one’s knees has ruined the career of many excellent players (Bobby Orr, for example). Which is why it makes it even more unbelievable that the team wouldn’t be around to help him out, recommending doctors, rehab, etc.

    With all the examples you provided it definitely sounds like a case of the author not doing a significant amount of research either, or appearance of the copy-editor. It’s a small detail, I know, but as a devoted hockey fan, the phrasing of “ahead by 6 points,” should actually be “ahead by 6 goals.” points = team standings in the season. (And for what it’s worth, yes 6 goals is pretty high in this era of the game, but it does happen several times a season; Penguins beat the Islanders last year by a score of 9-1)

    If the details are insignificant to the plot, as you said, or just flat out incorrect (there’s no way a player would be allowed to keep a major trophy in his home; those things are guarded in the HoF), then it completely takes me out of the story.

    Sigh. I wish there were more hockey-centric romances out there.

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  14. Ridley
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 18:15:21

    Someone beat me to it, but I was going to say that there are two injuries hockey players take seriously, and #1 are knee injuries with concussions as #2.

    Boston fans still smart from that dirtbag Ulf Samuelsson and what he did to Cam Neely’s knee. That’s almost 20 years ago now.

    I don’t doubt the book wasn’t great, but that knee comment was a wee bit off. Wicked shame too. I’d love to find a good hockey romance. <3 hockey.

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  15. Ann Bruce
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 18:27:07

    Authors butchering my favourite sport and athletes is the main reason I steer clear of hockey romances, but there are a couple of things I should mention:

    I certainly hope that a professional athlete, making millions, would live in an apartment that had more space than a kindergartner laying down.

    There are a few hockey players living in my condo building and the units are pretty small…pricey, but still small. These guys spend very little time at home and one only spends the hockey season here, so it’s not really an issue. Anyway, I have a 5 feet by 4 feet painting that pretty much dominates one wall. However, no man I know, professional athletes or not, would be impressed by a 52″ plasma (plasma?!? really?!?).

    The average goals scored in a game is usually less than 6 but you have them ahead by six points and scoring more?

    Back during the eighties there were a number of very memorable games where the scores were in the double digits, so this is possible. It wouldn’t happen often, but it’s possible.

    fans were going crazy with every new shot of the puck

    Ah, fans only go crazy with shots on goal or clearing shots during penalty kills.

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  16. Ann Bruce
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 18:31:04

    @Angela James: Scoring during the Olympics is very different than the NHL, though. In the Olympics, you have multi-million dollar professionals going up against daytime accountants, lawyers, engineers, and the occasional minor league player. Blow-outs are expected.

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  17. Chicklet
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 18:31:24

    With all of the inaccuracies in this book, maybe a new grade or tag should be added: GIFE (Google Is For Everyone).

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  18. Michelle
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 21:51:08

    gah! wish i had read this sooner… =(

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  19. Susan Helene Gottfried
    Mar 20, 2010 @ 06:03:41

    Shannon — Cleveland doesn’t work because it’s too close in proximity to other major league teams. Cleveland is only 100 miles from Pittsburgh, for example, and about 150 from Detroit (at least as I used to drive from here to there). This is why there was that MAJOR Bru-ha-ha from the NHL when there was talk of a new team in Hamilton, Ontario. It’s too close to existing teams; it would pull the current fan base from (in that case) Toronto and Buffalo. In the case of Cleveland, it would pull from the fan base of Pittsburgh (where I know I’ve seen big, lopsided scores, and in recent years, too.), Detroit, and Columbus. And possibly Toronto and Buffalo, as well.

    If you want a better city, look at Kansas City (All you fellow Pens fans will get that one). I’d buy Memphis, maybe Charlotte. Houston’s a possibility. San Diego.

    There are lots of major metro areas in the States without an NHL team. Which is both good and bad, but that’s a discussion for another time.

    Oh, and injuries? Add the hip to that list of what players take seriously. Not groin. HIP. The surgical repair for the hip isn’t what it was cracked up to be.

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  20. Sunita
    Mar 20, 2010 @ 07:39:59

    I enjoyed this review so much that I read it aloud to my husband. I love the *idea* of sports romances but never read them because the execution is usually so terrible. I have spent a bit of time around professional athletes and I can assure you that they are rarely alone, especially during the season. Also, all the highly paid ones have agents. There is no agent on this planet who would let his injured star alone for 6 weeks. And a vaguely described knee injury? There is no such thing in professional sports. Every sports fan knows the complete breakdown of the human knee, along with the scientific terms for each knee part. And NHL trainers spend huge amounts of time with the players; they’re on the bench during games, the younger ones socialize with them, etc. This is just a hero who needed a career. I’ll stop here, but I could keep going.

    I think the book is set in Cleveland because it’s part of a series where all the heroines are part of a knitting group there.

    I love hockey players, they are the most normal acting and normal looking athletes of all the professional sports. And the ones I’ve met are incredibly sweet and modest and polite off the ice. They deserve to be cast as heroes in romance novels a lot more, but definitely not the way they are portrayed in this book. Yeesh.

    Hey, we have a 42″ plasma TV I talked my husband into buying for the World Cup. It was the height of decadence. In 2002.

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  21. Kim
    Mar 20, 2010 @ 09:40:47

    Actually, basketball and hockey teams can share an arena – the NY Knicks and NY Rangers both play in Madison Square Garden. The NJ Nets and the NJ Devils used to both play at the Izod Center (I don’t know if the Devils are still there, I think they moved into Newark, but can’t be sure.)

    It sounds like the book has a lot of problems, but I don’t think the the arena is one of them :)

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  22. Liz
    Mar 20, 2010 @ 17:53:33

    @ Kerry “It's problematic because yes, there is a Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland(formerly Gund Arena-say it quick!)but that's where they play basketball. Basketball and ice hockey seasons overlap. Huh?”

    Basketball teams and hockey teams share stadiums all the time. For example, both the NY Rangers (hockey) and the NY Knicks (b-ball) play at Madison Square Garden.

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  23. Jackie U
    Mar 21, 2010 @ 14:26:49

    Meh. I liked this book. : ) Romance books aren’t accurate as a rule–no man or woman is that perfect. : )

    I do have to agree about the beginning, though. The crazy knitting old woman almost made me put the book back on the shelf.

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  24. Kelley
    Mar 21, 2010 @ 19:35:18

    I really enjoyed the first books in this series but thought this one had a heroine TDTL. I was waffling on buying this one after so long but I think I’ll continue to pass.

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  25. Michelle
    Mar 27, 2010 @ 19:49:05

    Oh drat, you guys already pointed out most of the comments I was going to add. The Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals both play at the Verizon Center, so add that to the list of basketball/hockey arenamates.

    Also, isn’t this guy a goalie? A knee injury for a goalie would be catastrophic. Just try whipping your knees up and down sideways the way they do. It’s like knee problems for a catcher in baseball, but worse.

    But of course the trainers would be all over him rehabbing that sucker, and the spirit of this review sounded just spot on. Cracked me up. What an awful addition to the very limited sports-romance club!

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  26. Jane
    Mar 28, 2010 @ 08:38:52

    @Michelle Yes, he was a star goalie. My problem with the knee injury was how vague it was. Was it just a break? Was it a shattered knee cap? What was it????? And why is he in a wheelchair a month later. I kept thinking that his worst problem was atrophy of the muscle.

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