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REVIEW: Icebreaker by Deirdre Martin

Dear Ms. Martin:

For many months, Jane had been talking about how wonderful your first New York Blades hockey Romance, Body Check, was. When I finally succumbed to reading it, I was elated with almost everything about it. I especially loved the set-up between the taciturn hero and the career-minded heroine. After reading Gina and Michael's story (Fair Play), I have skipped ahead to Icebreaker, anxious to check in with previous characters and discover new ones. And while Icebreaker didn't thrill me the way Body Check did, it was still an enjoyable read.

Icebreaker by Deirdre MartinSinead O'Brien had worked extremely hard to become the only female partner at her law firm, and if she had to sacrifice time with her family and even a husband who wanted her to be a traditional wife and mother, it was going to be worth it in the end. She did not mind the long hours and ever-growing workload, because she was passionate about her work and good at it, to boot. Still, she felt a little bit of jealousy whenever she saw her infant nephew, Charlie, because she did want a family of her own – just not on anyone else's unilateral terms. The distance this has caused between Sinead and her sister Maggie is one more thing Sinead needs to deal with . . . later.

Recently acquired New York Blades captain Adam Perry is known as "a man of
few words who only spoke when necessary," and a hockey player who is master of the old style "open-ice body check," a move that has become less and less common, especially with the league encouraging players to promote a more family-friendly game. When an ambitious district attorney decides to bring assault charges against Adam for injuries sustained by a player whom he body-checked during a game, the Blades hire Sinead's law firm to defend Adam and ideally get the charges dropped before trial.

Sinead is not unusually concerned about her case until she meets with Adam Perry and encounters the brick wall of his aloof resistance to her questions and, more importantly, to revealing anything about his personal life that Sinead might need to mount a defense, should the case go to trial, and, in the meantime, anything she might be able to use to get the charges dropped. Adam is similarly frustrated with Sinead, a woman he correctly pegs as completely ignorant of hockey. Besides his general disgust with the DA's obvious attempt to criminalize the game of hockey, he does not have a great deal of confidence in Sinead's ability to comprehend the importance of the game that has been his life since childhood:

"Tell me in your own words what happened on the ice with Nick Clarey."

"We were playing Philly, and I made a hit on Clarey. Philly released a statement saying Clary was concussed and had a fractured cheekbone. I was suspended for two games. The next day I found out I was being brought up on charges of assault causing bodily harm. Kidco has hired you to defend me."

Sinead waited for more, but after a few seconds, she realized that was it, that was all he had to say. He's a caveman, she thought. A simpleton.

"Could you elaborate a little?" she prodded.

"What's there to say?"

"Do you and Clarey have a long-running, acrimonious relationship?"

"Not particularly."

"Was he trash-talking to you or doing anything to incite you?"


"How did you feel when you saw what your hit did to Mr. Clarey?"

Adam looked baffled. "How did I feel?"

"Let me rephrase that," said Sinead, since feel clearly wasn't a word he was comfortable with. "What did you think?"

"I felt sorry when I saw he was hurt. I hoped his injury wasn't severe. That was never my intent. But I knew it was a clean hit. We're professional hockey players. He was doing his job. I was doing my job. End of story."

"Except it's not the end of the story, because you're now being charged with assault. Tell me about "your job,' as you call it."

"I'm a hockey player."

Sinead closed her eyes for a split second, trying to ward off the frustration building inside her. "Elaborate."

Adam looked genuinely perplexed. "What do you need to know?"

What we recognize early on is that Sinead and Adam have a great deal in common, particularly their unerring focus on career and a punishing work ethic, and it is, ironically but expectedly, these commonalities that make their initial acquaintance so rocky. Sinead is so focused on what she needs to know as a lawyer that she makes assumptions about Adam that are untrue (that he's stupid and recalcitrant). And Adam makes incorrect assumptions about Sinead, as well (that she's an uptight bitch). When he discovers that Sinead plans on visiting his Canadian hometown and interviewing his brother and other family and friends. Adam is extremely unhappy, although Sinead does not understand why, when the more information she has, the better she can defend him. However, once she visits his hometown and meets his brother, sister-in-law, and best friend, Ray, Sinead realizes that there is a great deal more to Adam Perry than he likes people to believe, and while much of it raises her estimation of his character, some of it might be damaging to his defense.

Although I have only read three of these New York Blades books, I already recognize a pattern in the relationship development: two stubborn, independent people meet and rub each other the wrong way; attraction wars with seeming dislike until it tips the characters into a tentative relationship; crisis occurs that break the couple up; a tentative reunion ensues that deepens the intimacy and therefore scares the hell out of the characters; which leads to another breakup; followed by the final, full-of-emotion reunion and HEA.

As a fan of both New York hockey and the law, and understanding a bit about the difficulties inherent in both, I appreciated some of the issues this couple has to contend with. First is the fact that both have had to sacrifice quite a bit to be successful, and both are sort of loners, despite the close family ties they both have. Both are reluctant to reveal too much of themselves and become vulnerable. Sinead, for example, is resistant to talking about her ex-husband and the issue that broke them up, namely that he expected her to stay at home and raise any children they might have. Adam is reluctant to talk about most of his past, and he is protective of the people in his life, and humble about his off-the-ice accomplishments.

Then there is the issue of Sinead's professionalism with regard to sleeping with a client. Although New York does not have an ethics rule against this (yes, I checked), Sinead knows that as the only woman partner in her firm it is much, much riskier for her to sleep with a client than it is for her male colleagues, who regularly indulge without qualm. In fact, her best friend, Oliver, has made a virtual avocation of sleeping with his female clients, and he regularly shows up to the office disheveled and hung over. It is a sad fact that the law remains a male-dominated, highly patriarchal profession, in which women do face various forms of sexual and gender discrimination. I liked that Sinead was aware of that and that the novel took that issue seriously. I also appreciated that Adam's dedication to hockey was treated with the same seriousness, that his "job," was, indeed, portrayed as inclusive of substantial responsibilities.

What worked best for me in the novel was the struggle that these two independent characters go through to become a couple. One of my favorite things about all three Blades books I have read is that compromise is an ongoing process and traditional roles are not reinforced when the characters do not fit within their narrow confines. In fact, despite my general wariness of epilogues, I felt that the one in Icebreaker was the most original I've read in a long time, a true and pleasant surprise that for me justified epilogue status. I also like that the protagonists tend to come from strong family backgrounds, and they both want families of their own. I really like the way they have to work to balance multiple, even competing priorities, and the way they do that such that it honors both individuals and the family they might want together.

What did not work as well for me was the way the actual relationship between Sinead and Adam progressed. It was obvious right away that Sinead and Adam found each other attractive. But given their mutual wariness and the very real ethical concerns that Sinead has, the shift from lawyer/client to first kiss felt awkward and forced to me. In fact, the whole trajectory of the relationship felt a bit forced, a bit shallow. Despite all of the interesting issues between these characters, what brings them together felt most like sexual attraction, and most of the issues that break them apart seem, well, a little ridiculous. Actually, it's not the issues that are ridiculous as much as the rapidity with which they create distance. And while I understood clearly that these were two characters who were resisting intimacy with almost everything they had, the issue from Adam's past that Sinead uncovers is so compelling that I really expected the book to make more use of that, both inside the romantic relationship and in general. When that did not happen, it felt to me like an opportunity for a much more interesting, much deeper book was bypassed, and that only accentuated the superficiality of Adam and Sinead's relationship.

Consequently, the book felt more constructed to me than naturally flowing. For example, since Adam is so reserved with Sinead, he is given a bromance with Anthony Dante, chef and brother of Blades captain Michael Dante (both men have their own books, as well), and Adam and Anthony talk like little old women on testosterone, complete with a long-running, and increasingly forced Three Stooges allegory/philosophy/bonding moment. The relationship created a contrast in Adam's character that seemed more convenient than logical to the rest of his character development. And ultimately, that is how I felt about much of Sinead and Adam's relationship development, as well.

I did, however, enjoy spending a little time with Ty Gallagher and Michael Dante, though, and had I not read Body Check, I might have found Icebreaker a bit fresher. Overall, it was a well written, diverting, mostly fun read, if not a revelation. B-

~ Janet

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isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!


  1. Tweets that mention REVIEW: Icebreaker by Deirdre Martin | Dear Author --
    Feb 07, 2011 @ 15:29:34

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robin L. and rissatoo, dearauthor. dearauthor said: NewPost: REVIEW: Icebreaker by Deirdre Martin […]

  2. Vi
    Feb 07, 2011 @ 15:56:12

    I just read this book and enjoyed it so much, I bought Body Check, Fair Play and the one about Michael’s brother(only because I had read there’s some conflict regarding Michael). None of the other books in the series seemed appealing. However, I will look for future books by her.

    I’m glad I purchased the early books on my Kindle so I don’t have to look at the cartoony covers. Those covers were why I hadn’t read this series earlier.

  3. Danielle D
    Feb 07, 2011 @ 16:35:04

    I’m getting this book tomorrow for my reader!

  4. AmyW
    Feb 07, 2011 @ 18:28:44

    Stopped reading when I read the hero is CANADIAN? I might have to read this one…even with the sports. I feel it’s my patriotic duty (he doesn’t say “aboot”, though, right?). Are any other characters in this series Canadian?

  5. Ridley
    Feb 07, 2011 @ 20:05:11

    Unfortunate that the day you post this review is the same day Marc Savard announced he’s out for the year with concussion issues stemming from such an open-ice hit last March.

    The hero of this sounds like a Matt Cooke, and that just won’t do.

  6. Robin
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 01:17:18

    @Vi: I haven’t yet read Anthony’s book, but after Icebreaker, I want to, because his life has obviously changed A LOT since Fair Play. Body Check is still my favorite, though. I cannot count the number of times I laughed out loud while reading that book, and I loved both Ty and Janna.

    @Danielle D: I hope you enjoy it!

    @AmyW: No, Martin thankfully does not try to simulate the Canadian accent. I cannot remember how many of her protagonists are Canadian, but I will tell you that at one point Sinead actually goes to Adam’s home town to do research on his background.

    @Ridley: If I remember correctly, there are quite a few more concussions in the NFL per year than in the NHL, which is something when you consider the different reputations each sport has. I actually thought Martin handled Adam’s position and his hockey philosophy very well. But then I’ve been watching hockey since I was a teenager, so I probably share some of those more traditional views of the game.

  7. Robin
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 01:20:52

    @Vi: Oops, almost forgot your comment on the cover. I actually dislike intensely this cover and prefer the older cartoon covers to this new one. Not that the cartoon covers were fantastic, but the chick in high heels and the jersey on this cover really irks me. Not at all true to the book, IMO.

  8. A Sonnet (or two) to the Packers by Sarah Wendell, poetess, and some random thoughts about sports romances | Dear Author
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 04:01:45

    […] of my favorite sports books of all times is Deirdre Martin’s Body Check. Martin has a new book out this month, Icebreaker, that brings us back to the hockey arena for the […]

  9. L.A.D.
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 07:16:27

    On one hand I think I might like this book. A hero who’s skimpy with the words? Yes, please.
    Bromance? Yes, please.

    On the other hand…
    Assumptions? No, thank you.
    Break-up to make-up? Nope.
    A sport that’s not boxing or MMA/cage fighting? That’s a no.

    Still, a no fluff hero and a bromance may make up for everything else.

  10. Laura
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 11:05:24

    @Ridley: I thought the Cooke/Savard incident involved an elbow to the head? I read Icebreaker last night, and Adam reminded me more of Scott Stevens than any other player I can think of.

    I have to say I enjoy the way both Martin and Rachel Gibson thinly disguise some “real life” players and personalities, and get some good digs in.

  11. Sunita
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 12:48:26

    Robin, your comment about concussions piqued my curiosity so I went and looked it up. I found info that the NHL averages about 75 concussions a season, while the NFL has 115-120. They’re hard to compare, since there are more NFL players per team but far fewer games, but both numbers struck me as quite high. I think there’s more awareness now than there has ever been.

    I saw a comment from a doctor (commenting on a sports column) which said that the problem was that safety regulations for helmets haven’t kept up with our knowledge of how head injuries affect the brain (i.e., which kinds of blows cause which kinds of damage). So the helmets meet the current safety standards, but the safety standards are outdated.

  12. Jane
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 15:11:44

    My biggest problem with the book was the inconsistent rendering of Adam, particularly given WHY he was aloof and guarded. For him to engage in an insta-relationship with Dante was difficult for me to accept as he had had no such relationships before, even with off the ice people.

    Dante could have been considered safe because of his non hockey involvement, but Adam didn’t seem to have any of those relationships prior. It was discordant and seemed just convenient.

    Still, I liked Icebreaker better than many of the past Martin books.

  13. Jane
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 15:15:09

    Also, I know that our reply feature is currently effed up. Am looking into that.

  14. Ridley
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 15:59:28

    The Cooke/Savard incident was an elbow, but it was also a lateral, blind-side hit. It was legal then, but Rule 48 makes it illegal now.

    I guess I’m thrown off by the criminal charges. It’s not without precedent in hockey, but those hits were dirty, dirty, dirty. So presenting me with a hockey player known for hard, open-ice hits who’s injured a guy so hard he’s been charged with assault says “Bobby McSorley” more than it says “hero.”

    I say this as a lifelong B’s fan who grew up watching players like Terry O’Reilly and Cam Neely and watches hockey broadcasts with Mike Millbury – the player famous for beating a fan with his own shoe when the B’s scaled the boards at MSG in the 70’s. I love hits, I love the fights, but I’ve also watched great players like Bergeron and Savard lose whole seasons to concussion.

    It just seems an odd choice on the author’s part to make light of the NHL’s current efforts to limit concussions by making a victim out of a player who’s caused them. It seems irresponsible.

  15. Andi
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 20:04:07

    I agree with Ridley. For criminal charges to be filed, it has to bad. Seriously bad. I am definitely put off by this, although I might still pick it up if I can be reassured that he’s suitably repentant by the end of the book. On a side note I find it pretty unlikely that assault charges would’ve been filed in an incident like this one, so maybe that’s how they get him off at the end of the book? I feel like the DA would have wanted to be sure they could demonstrate intent to injure before they would actually file charges — or wait, is she just hired to begin preparing a case while the DA is considering pressing charges?

  16. Robin
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 20:26:09

    Re. the assault charges, it is a spoiler to discuss the issue in detail, since it’s central to the plot arc of the book, as well as Sinead’s case, which in turn introduces much of the tension around dating a client, Sinead’s own journey to understanding the game in general and Adam more specifically, etc. I tried to offer a couple of hints — politically minded DA and the league’s interest in toning down the game — as a way of indicating that things might be amiss around the charge.

    As for Adam’s attitude toward the incident, here’s an excerpt in which he explains to Sinead what happened (it’s from the scene I quoted first in the review):

    “Tell me in your own words what happened on the ice with Nick Clarey.”

    “We were playing Philly, and I made a hit on Clarey. Philly released a statement saying Clarey was concussed and had a fractured cheekbone. I was suspended for two games. The next day I found out I was being brought up on charges of assault causing bodily harm. Kidco has hired
    you to defend me.”

    Sinead waited for more, but after a few seconds, she realized that was it, that was all he had to say. He's a cave- man, she thought. A simpleton. “Could you elaborate a little?” she prodded.

    “What's there to say?”

    “Do you and Clarey have a long-running, acrimonious relationship?”

    “Not particularly.”

    “Was he trash-talking to you or doing anything to incite you?”


    “How did you feel when you saw what your hit did to Mr. Clarey?”

    Adam looked baffled. “How did I feel?”

    “Let me rephrase that,” said Sinead, since feel clearly wasn't a word he was comfortable with. “What did you think?”

    “I felt sorry when I saw he was hurt. I hoped his injury wasn't severe. That was never my intent. But I knew it was a clean hit. We're professional hockey players. He was doing his job. I was doing my job. End of story.”

    “Except it's not the end of the story, because you're now being charged with assault. Tell me about ‘your job,' as
    you call it.”

    “I'm a hockey player.”

    Sinead closed her eyes for a split second, trying to ward off the frustration building inside her. “Elaborate.”

    . . .

    “I'm a defenseman,” Adam said, with a bit of annoyance.

    “I know,” Sinead said with a touch of frustration. “But what does that mean?”

    Adam closed his eyes and lowered his head for a moment, as if gathering himself. When he lifted his head back up, his expression had changed; he looked more cooperative.

    “Every player on the ice has job,” he said patiently. “The job of the goalie is to prevent the puck from going across
    the goal line. All of his efforts are focused on that one task. Wingers, by and large, are supposed to score goals. Their
    aim is to put the puck in the net. Generally, everything they do is with that end in mind. Centers are supposed to facilitate the forwards in goal scoring, while also assuming some defensive responsibilities. I'm a defenseman,” he repeated. “My job is to keep other players from scoring and from threatening my goaltender. Unlike everyone else on the ice, a defenseman's role is to oppose another player. To a goalie, winger, or center, the puck is primary. To a defenseman, the puck is secondary. My job is to physically deter and impede other men-‘strong, fast, determined men-‘any way I can, within the rules. When you look at the video of that hit, you see me doing my job-‘very well, I might add.”

  17. Robin
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 20:32:59

    @Sunita: I was listening to a professional football player talking about how many players don’t necessarily even report symptoms of a concussion because they don’t want to be taken out of a game or a couple of games. So who knows what the numbers really are. I find is odd, though, that hockey is viewed as so much more violent than football when even the existing stats show something a bit different.

    As for the helmet issue, it’s the same with motorcycle helmets. You see these people wearing what many call “brain buckets” that meet the bare Department of Transportation standards but won’t protect you from anything. I will never understand the vanity that supplants the need for safety there, because if you’ve ever been on a bike, especially in heavy traffic, you know how vulnerable you are without all that metal and airbags around you.

    @Jane: I agree. The relationship with Anthony was obviously a device to get some emotional depth out of Adam’s character when he’s still so reserved with Sinead. But the speed of their friendship, along with the lack of reticence on Adam’s part to confide in Michael Dante’s brother seemed pretty forced to me. Although since Anthony is now with a completely different woman from the woman he was going to propose to at the end of Fair Play, I might need to read his book #justcallmesucker

  18. Molly O'Keefe
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 08:08:03

    I was doing a lot of research about concussions for my hockey hero book and concussions are tricky tricky things and often times hard to diagnose AND the medical data about the long term effects of concussions seems to just now be gathered with any regularity. Athletes are donating thier brains to science after they die – boxer Micky Ward being the latest. Taking players “who have had thier bell rung” off the ice or the field is a pretty new practice in both the NHL and NFL and the way the Penguins are taking care of Crosby – keeping him off the ice in order to prevent that terribly dangerous second concussion is practically unprecedented. And poor Sevard who is out of the season because of that second concussion – speaks to how much different players are valued. I think Lindros changed the game. A lot of teams put a lot of money is that great player only to watch him go down time and time again. I hope he’s all right.

  19. AS
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 08:13:47

    I was interested in this book until you dropped the bit that the attorney slept with her client. As a practicing attorney, I cannot even tell you how inappropriate that is. And while it may not be against the ethics rules in NY, it is certainly nothing that should ever happen.

    And yes, of course it DOES happen – but very infrequently. I’ve practiced both in NY and my current state and I’m just appalled that this book might make people think that lawyers do that on a regular basis.

    Sorry. Thumbs way, way down on that particular plot twist.

  20. Chicklet
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 09:01:13

    Oy, that cover. Not only do I have to put up with the cliched chick-in-jersey-and-heels BS, the score of the game is 7-7? Has the designer ever even looked at a box score for a hockey game?

  21. Robin
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 10:54:04

    Here’s an article — just pubbed today — on the “concussion culture” in hockey (with specific discussion on Lindros, Crosby, and Savard):

  22. Jane
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 11:22:37

    @Robin Just loving the conversation here.

  23. Molly O'Keefe
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 11:35:22

    Robin – that’s an amazing article. I think it’s smart that Crosby is far far away from the pressure to get back on the ice (he’s in Halifax with his folks) and I wish Sevard had had equal distance.

  24. Ridley
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 12:23:30

    Unfortunately, Savard plays for a Boston team, and Boston fans are relentless. In the past week I’ve lost count of the commenters calling him “soft,” “brittle,” “in the twilight of his career,” and so on. Knowing he’s been struggling with depression makes these comments bother me even more. Way to kick a man when he’s down.

    But these issues are why the book’s premise irks me. Rule 48 and other measures put in place to legislate hits aren’t to make the game “family-friendly.” Eliminating the line brawl and imposing the (bullshit, imo) instigator penalty were about keeping it friendly. Rule 48 is about protecting players from devastating injury. The NHL doesn’t want to be like the NFL, which not only has more concussions but also a higher rate of ALS sufferers than most demographics. It seems unwise to make light of this effort in a novel.

  25. Sunita
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 13:20:34

    @Molly O’Keefe: I agree with you, and it’s a shame that that kind of distance isn’t even possible in the NFL. Unless you’re on IR and done for the season, you are required to show up to team meetings, etc. NFL players only get one day away from the facility per week in the season (unless the coach gives them an extra day for a win).

    I wonder what it’s like for the non-stars in the NHL, the ones who are afraid they’ll get cut or released if they stay out too long. That’s a big problem in the NFL, IMO. The combination of reluctance to talk about concussions (to put it mildly) and the pressure to perform when injured create a very unhealthy environment.

  26. Ridley
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 13:35:59


    I don’t pretend to be a salary cap or CBA expert, but my understanding is that you can’t cut or release a player on IR or LTIR. Even if you do decide not to play a player, via a buyout, their salary still counts against the cap, and you can only buy a player out during certain times of the year.

    I don’t think it’s a huge concern for most hockey players. It’s not a superstar-driven sport to begin with and the NHLPA has a fairly player-friendly CBA. Owners made a number of concessions during the lockout year to get a salary cap in place.

  27. Molly O'Keefe
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 13:38:12

    I think the NHL is way ahead of the NFL in terms of trying to combat this problem (all though waaaaaay to late to help so many players) – all the NFL solutions – the fines and helmet to helmet hits – are tiny bandaides and I don’t know if they can ever change it because it’s the way the game is played – everyone uses thier head as a battering ram. And for years they ignored thier vetrs who were suffering from head trauma related dementia and depression. Remember the guy that was found living homeless on the streets of the city he played? I should google his name but I’m supposed to be working, damn it, not discussing sports injuries on a romance review blog!!

    I didn’t know about the NFL rule about one day a week away from the facility…crazy.

  28. Sunita
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 13:58:36

    @Ridley: Thanks for that info. My knowledge of NHL rules is very deficient. Of course, I don’t start watching seriously until this point in the season, so it’s my own fault.
    @Molly O’Keefe: I don’t know if it’s a rule per se, but the NFL life during the season is unbelievably intense and regimented. Every day of the week works a particular way. Monday Night games throw off the schedules the week before and the week after the game. And as the season wears on, more and more players play hurt. That’s one of the reasons DeMaurice Smith is saying an 18-game season is a dealbreaker. I don’t have any private info on whether that’s true, but while I understand why fans would like it, it’s going to be really hard on both the regulars and the guys trying to make the team in the summer to have 2 fewer preseason games.

    I would love to see more authors write about these sports stars as people with tough, demanding JOBS. One of the great things about Seidel’s Summer’s End is that you get such a great feel for how hardworking and focused the heroine is, and how her athletic career has totally shaped her life.

  29. Robin
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 16:52:39

    @Ridley: Rule 48 pertains to “blindside” hits to the head, though, not open ice hits in general. In no way do I see Martin’s book as belittling Rule 48 or lionizing blindsides. Certainly the coaching staff does not treat the players like meat or like mere products (if anything, I think Martin might be taking a bite out of the corporate ownership of hockey teams).

    I saw the book as taking on a difficult issue in the game and working through it with a man who feels strongly that he plays fairly and with respect and dignity, and a woman who has no knowledge of the game and must struggle to understand its rules and risks. Her first reaction to the hit in question is one of horror, and she must grapple with the question of how much violence is a) commensurate with the game, and b) generally acceptable, regardless of whether it’s accepted in the game.

    And Martin definitely does not shy away from the physical risks players take, risks of concussion, broken facial bones, etc. in playing the game, nor does she make any moral pronouncement on the wisdom or value of such injuries. I personally appreciated that about the book, because I think that there will always be risks in games like hockey and football and that players (and fans) will believe that such risks are both assumable and acceptable. In fact, in the two other Martin hockey books I read — Body Check and Fair Play — players are substantially injured and/or dealing with the long-term effects of the game’s physicality in ways that do not IMO glorify the game, but also do not demonize it. In fact, I found Martin’s fictional hockey players more grittily realistic than, say, Rachael Gibson’s, for this very reason.

    @AS: I understand your discomfort, because I struggled with it, as well. But at the same time I am glad I read this book because IMO Martin deals straight on and very well with the inequities between men and women in the legal profession, one of those being the way the male partners in Sinead’s firm are not penalized for sleeping with their clients, while Sinead would likely be fired for the same.

    As for Sinead’s choice, it’s one that she struggles with and one that imperils her budding relationship with Adam. At one point she proposes they stop seeing each other until the case is settled because she feels so terrified of discovery and guilty, and she does not want to lose the gains she’s made through incredible hard work and adherence to a much stricter moral code than her male counterparts are expected to follow.

    In other words, IMO Martin takes the issue seriously, and for the record, Adam is the first client Sinead has had that she even considers having a sexual relationship with, which is one of the reasons it’s such a powerful dilemma for her.

  30. AS
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 08:58:14

    @Robin: Robin, what I was trying to get across is this: the “inequities” that the author apparently describes simply don’t exist. I’m sure that SOMEWHERE some lawyer has slept with his or her client. But I’m friends with a number of male and female partners and associates at large NYC firms – and sleeping with a client imperils the relationship between the firm and the client. It just doesn’t happen that often and, frankly, is much more likely to happen in a family law type situation (at least according to the studies I’ve read).

    So not only has the author described a wholly unethical situation with this book, she’s also contrived a “conflict” by describing a power differential that, in my experience, does not actually exist. Believe me, there are a ton of power differentials in the world of law, especially in the world of litigation. This is just not one that I’m willing or able to look at and say, “Yes, that’s true.”

    Finally – any lawyer I know would have either stopped the relationship or switched the client to a different attorney in the firm in that situation. And any sexual relationship that DID result would have had to occur well after the case was over.

  31. Jane
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 14:03:00

    @AS I hear what you are saying. I really do. I am a lawyer too and books with lawyers rarely make it pass the smell test for me. However, the way in which the sexual relationship with client is written is in keeping with the spirit of your objections. The sexual relationship with clients is not portrayed as common. Siobhan’s partner who engages in such activity is a notorious lawyer who brings in gobs of business. We all know that the peccadilloes of big time lawyers who have a huge book of business are often overlooked. And it isn’t as if the firm is looking past those infractions. Initially they were because of Oliver’s book of business but as his drinking and whoring begins to interfere with the firm’s reputation, Oliver is placed under scrutiny.

    The inequities that I believe that Robin refers to is the fact that “what is good for the gander is good for the goose” is not observed in the law. (liberties taken with the phrase to be more aptly analogous). Women are often held to a higher standard than men in terms of sexuality, even in the law or perhaps especially in the law. Your skirt is too tight? That’s inappropriate. Ever hear of a man getting reprimanded because his suit pants are too tight? (and yes that exists because I remember trying a case against counsel once and my counsel table was across from the jury box and every time he put his hands in his pockets, I worried the seam would give out).

    The sex with client scenario wasn’t portrayed as normal or good and Siobhan not only struggled with it, but it came to be a source of contention between her and her senior partners and was putting her firm position in jeopardy.

    Now, having said that, I totally understand that this is a plot point that you can’t push past. I have those too. But having read the story, I was not bothered by this, recognizing that while Martin may have taken liberties with this, she did so in a way that captured the spirit of how women and men are not equals in a firm.

  32. Robin
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 20:00:39

    @AS: Wow, you are so fortunate, AS! Although I did not go into firm practice, I can say that I had no difficulty buying the set up, even though I agree with you that the client/attorney hook up is beyond problematic, not only in terms of the professional relationship between the individual attorney and client, but also for the welfare of the firm as a whole. I remember when we reached this section of the Model Rules in my professional conduct class that a number of the male students were checking and double checking the CA rules, lol. CA is one of those states that has a more liberal rule:

    Rule 3-120. Sexual Relations With Client.

    (A) For purposes of this rule, “sexual relations” means sexual intercourse or the touching of an intimate part of another person for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.

    (B) A member shall not:

    (1) Require or demand sexual relations with a client incident to or as a condition of any professional representation; or

    (2) Employ coercion, intimidation, or undue influence in entering into sexual relations with a client; or

    (3) Continue representation of a client with whom the member has sexual relations if such sexual relations cause the member to perform legal services incompetently in violation of rule 3-110.

    (C) Paragraph (B) shall not apply to sexual relations between members and their spouses or to ongoing consensual sexual relationships which predate the initiation of the lawyer-client relationship.

    (D) Where a lawyer in a firm has sexual relations with a client but does not participate in the representation of that client, the lawyers in the firm shall not be subject to discipline under this rule solely because of the occurrence of such sexual relations.

    But, as Jane said, the issue was mostly limited to one male partner who was kind of the rock star of the firm, a divorce attorney who brought in many clients and successfully litigated his cases. I don’t think the other partners are thrilled, and they eventually step in when that partner shows a certain level of instability because of his partying lifestyle, but IMO Martin was dead on in portraying the deeply ingrained sexism in the legal profession. From what women wear to how they drop back down to the bottom of the ladder when they take time off for kids, to how they negotiate salaries (as explained in this study:, I think it’s still pretty screwed up re gender double standards. Also, Sinead hardly takes the issue lightly:

    Sinead took a deep, fortifying drink of water and plunged in, telling [her sister] Maggie all about Adam. When she was done, she held her breath expectantly, waiting for Maggie's pronouncement. Maggie just stared at her as if the answer was self-evident. “Go out with him.”

    Sinead blinked. “Just like that.”

    “Just like that.”

    “But he's my client, Mags. It's unethical. And if any of the senior partners in the firm found out, my career would be dead in the water.”

    “He's not going to be your client forever.”

    “What if we become a couple and I lose the case? Don't you think I'd lose him?”

    “You're deliberately putting up roadblocks. Keep it simple: if you like him, date him. Go with the flow.”

    Sinead put down her fork. “I hate that expression! I don't go with the flow; I control the flow.”

    Still, if this issue that won’t seem realistic or even plausible to you, then it would probably be difficult for you to read the book. As someone who had no problem believing it, I still struggled with it, and had Sinead not been so conscientious, I probably would not have been able to finish the book.

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