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REVIEW: The Striker’s Chance by Rebecca Crowley

Landing the PR contract for North Carolina’s new soccer team could take Holly Taylor’s career to the next level. Her task? Make Kepler “Killer” de Klerk, an athlete with a party-hard reputation, a star. But revamping the sexy footballer’s image while battling her unwanted attraction to him is easier said than done.

The car accident that derailed Kepler’s European career also gave him some much-needed perspective. He’s ready to give up on fame and focus on the game he loves. The last thing he needs is a headstrong brunette pushing him back into the spotlight, even if butting heads with her is the most fun he’s had in ages.

The more time Holly spends with Kepler, the more she sees how different he is from his tabloid persona. But when she’s offered her dream job for a price, she finds herself torn between the career she’s spent years building and the man she doesn’t want to give up.

Dear Ms. Crowley,

This is my second sports romance in a month which is quite unusual for me. But I’m trying out sports I don’t generally follow so footie (soccer to the US) it is. While I ended up liking the sports aspect of the story, the set up and resolution of the romance conflict felt very tried and true and nothing new.

Strikers-ChanceFirst off – why do so many romance heroines have to be so insecure about their looks? Here is Holly, slim, medium tall, nice hair and she has no self esteem whatsoever. Kepler thinks she’s beautiful from the get-go but more often than not Holly mentally denigrates herself. Then comes one of the standard romance scenes of Holly getting tipsy and whinging to Kepler about how she’s so much less pretty than her sister. Of course she hasn’t had sex in ages. Maybe I’ve just read too many of these set ups before but I’m tired of this.

Meanwhile Kepler is handsome and gobsmacked when he discovers what Holly thinks of herself. One change I am happy to see more of is the thought-to-be rake hero who turns out not to be as rakish as everyone thinks he is. Holly has seen the British tabloid photos of Kepler with gorgeous women hanging on his arm but in actuality, he’s much more restrained about who he beds – especially in comparison to his early, young, wild days.

The conflict between Holly and Kepler – that she’s building him up and burnishing his rep so that his US team can sell him off to the highest bidder – is revealed early on as are the two villains – a freelance reporter and the Evil Corporate Henchwoman. And just as most romance readers will guess, Kepler finds out before Holly can tell him of her change of heart. The main difference in how it plays out is that a few months actually pass before the reunion scene. So there is that.

But I said I mainly picked up this book for the sport and this didn’t let me down. Kepler feels like a guy who is on the downward side of his career, who has seen it all and is tired of the manipulation and lack of control he has over it. The media has blitzed him in the past so he has no love of the PR spots Holly sets up for him. He does realize that this opportunity with the US team is probably his final one and he’d better make the most of it. I love the transition for Kepler from last chance, to team leader, to inspiration for kids. I can see him settling into his new leadership roles and the maturation that follows.

I also like that he redeems himself with the press and fans by his own actions rather than the fluff stuff that’s fed to the media. The game descriptions sound correct but don’t quote me on that. At 31, he’s also getting old for a pro athlete and this isn’t papered over. His hamstring tightens up, his ankle can get gimpy, and post game ice downs are a matter of fact. Despite all this though, his love for the game and determination to play his best shines through. And that is why my grade rises above average and is a B-

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

12 Comments

  1. Sunita
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 08:35:46

    Even with the caveats, I can’t resist a sports romance if the sports stuff seems right, and this sounds great. Especially the aging sports star character, those are my favorites. Thanks Jayne, great review!

    ReplyReply

  2. JL
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 09:03:20

    I ‘m excited to read this one. I like sports romances and I love soccer. Glad to hear the author got the sports part right.

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  3. facing my critics | Rebecca Crowley
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 09:04:45

    […] Jayne at Dear Author: “I love the transition for Kepler from last chance, to team leader, to inspiration for kids. […]

  4. library addict
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 09:24:38

    I bought this the day of release but haven’t had the chance to read it yet.

    ReplyReply

  5. Jayne
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 10:16:01

    @JL: Well, I think she got it right but then I don’t generally follow the game that closely. Think of me as the mom in “Bend it Like Beckham” who has to have certain plays explained to her using salt shakers and other condiments to map out the moves.

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  6. Jayne
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 10:18:49

    @Sunita: Most sports romances seem to involve players who are at the top of their game or already retired so it was nice to see one who is probably in the twilight of his career but still enjoying the game despite the knocks and aching muscles.

    ReplyReply

  7. Christina
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 11:31:45

    With a surname like de Klerk I have to ask: Is he from the Netherlands? And if he is, is this addressed (cultural differences do impact on romance after all)? I would probably try the book either way, but the name does make me wonder.

    ReplyReply

  8. Jayne
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 11:45:21

    @Christina: He’s from South Africa. He tells Holly a bit about his life and family there and misses things about it.

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  9. Christina
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 12:20:28

    @Jayne: Ok, so this might be all kinds of awesome or rather terrible, because now I am going to spend most of the book deciding if he comes across as South African or not. Fun fun times ahead. :)

    Thanks for letting me know.

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  10. LeeF
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 13:14:42

    I was tempted to pick this one up since I recently enjoyed Knowing the Score by Kat Latham. However, The Striker’s Chance is only 149 pages while the Latham book was 228 pages. Seems a bit short to me.

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  11. Amy
    Sep 21, 2013 @ 00:50:36

    I feel like the last few sports romances I read all had a female PR person assigned to rebuild the image of a player . I am getting bored with that relationship. And the low self-esteem woman and super confident man pairings don’t work well for me. I don’t buy the dynamics; I think confident prople tend to be drawn to other confident people. And why does the low self esteem character always have to be the woman? I think I’ll pass on this one.

    ReplyReply

  12. library addict
    Sep 23, 2013 @ 18:21:09

    I thought this book had a slow start and the heroine really got on my nerves at times. But I actually ended up liking her more because the author did not try to make her more sympathetic/likeable (if that makes any sense). Once the story got going I really enjoyed it.

    I do think the PR person/sports star trope is overdone. But this is one of the better ones.

    ReplyReply

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