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REVIEW: Taking a Shot by Jaci Burton

REVIEW: Taking a Shot by Jaci Burton

Dear Ms. Burton:

I didn’t love Changing the Game  but enjoyed The Perfect Play and I was excited to read about the youngest Riley, Jenna. Jenna is the only girl of the Riley family and despite (or maybe because of) being around sports all of her life, she has sworn of all athletes. Not dating athletes is difficult as Jenna’s two older brothers are professional athletes and she runs the family sports bar that is populated by local professional athletes including members of city’s the pro hockey team.

Taking a Shot Burton

Tyler Anderson, one of those pro hockey players, takes an interest in Jenna Riley but she turns him down. Almost immediately, Ty begins a relentless pursuit of Jenna.

She locked the door behind him, then turned to tell Tyler to go, but he wasn’t in the kitchen. She found him in the bar pouring a whiskey.

“Hey. Last call was an hour ago.”

He smiled at her, tipped the glass to his lips, and downed the drink in one swallow, then put money on the top of the bar. She grabbed the money and slipped it into her pocket.

“Pocketing the profits, I see.”

“No, smart-ass. I already closed out the register. I’ll add it in tomorrow.”

He shook his head and leaned against the bar. “This is how you talk to your customers?”

“You stopped being a customer when you came behind my bar and served up drinks.”

“You needed help.”

“No, I didn’t.”

He folded his arms. “Are you always this bitchy, or just to me?”

“Just to you. Now get your ass out of here so I can finish closing up.”

The entire overtone of this book was that Ty knows best.  Ty knows that Jenna wants him. Ty knows that she needs help behind the bar. Ty knows that Jenna’s distaste for athletes doesn’t apply to him. Ty knows that Jenna should pursue this special ability. Ty knows that she should be pursuing it now and in certain ways even if Jenna protests.

She took a step back. “Why the hardcore press here, Ty?”

“Come on, Jenna. You’re not a kid. You know why. I’ve been coming to the bar a lot, hanging around. I like you.”

“I don’t like you.”

He laughed. “Liar. I see the way you look at me.”

“You are so full of yourself, Anderson. Go pick up another girl. I’m not the least bit interested in you.” She brushed past him and headed to the door, waiting for him to meet her there so she could set the alarm.

He did, his coat in hand. She had her fingers on the keypad ready to turn on the alarm.

“Wait a second,” he said.

“Did you forget something?”

“Yeah.” He hauled her into his arms before she could take her next breath, and his mouth came down on hers.

Instead of finding this charming, I found it unsettlingly paternalistic, particularly late in the book when Jenna’s refusal to fall into line with Ty’s timeline and plans leads him to having a tantrum. I also felt that no one was really on Jenna’s side. Everyone encouraged Ty to push Jenna. Maybe Jenna did need pushing but I wasn’t convinced that Ty’s pushing was done out of love versus him just wanting his way all the time due to him believing that he always knew the right decision.

Jenna attempts to deter Ty’s interest by dating other men.  One of the guys was genuinely nice and interesting and I found myself wishing Jenna would fall for him and not return Ty’s interest, but alas, that wasn’t the story.

I admit to being kind of worn down by the incredible success of all the Rileys.  Eldest Riley brother is a star NFL quarterback, middle Riley brother is a star baseball player, cousin is a star wide receiver, and now Jenna’s got a secret special ability.  Jenna’s secret and amazing ability was my least favorite part of the story, lent a spirit of over the top inauthenticity, and created a conflict that I disliked.

What I thought was a great conflict — the family dynamic of how Jenna felt forgotten and pushed aside in her family and how running the bar was not what she wanted — was given little attention and was undeveloped. I would have liked to have seen more of the family dynamic and resentment from Jenna. Instead, I had unrelenting reminders of how happy everyone was from the previous books.   I think if a reader likes the Ty type of character, this could be a very fulfilling book. I never warmed up to him and I wished Jenna would have found someone else. C

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW: Thin Ice by Liana Laverentz

REVIEW: Thin Ice by Liana Laverentz

Dear Ms. Laverentz:

This book was originally reviewed by Jayne about four years ago, and I intended to read it after she wrote her review but then other books caught my attention and I forgot.  I ended up buying this book in January because it was included on a sports romance list at Goodreads.  It had a great setup.  A formerly abused woman falls in love with a hockey player who happens to be the enforcer on a pro hockey team.  She has an intense and instinctive dislike for violence. When her first encounter with Eric Cameron is in the emergency room after a bar fight, he seems to fulfill all her preconceived notions about hockey players.

Liana Laverentz Thin IceJayne’s problems resided primarily in the multitude of conflicts that existed in the story and while that was problematic for me, my main dislikes were the lack of realism to the hockey and the portrayal of domestic abuse, the latter being used as a prop.

Emily Jordan is an emergency doctor raising her son in Minneapolis, struggling with student loan debt. Eric becomes interested in Emily immediately despite (or because of) her prickly responses to his mild overtures. He begins to pursue her in earnest and isn’t above taking advantage of her son’s hero interest in him to inveigle invitations to pizza and movies. Emily has to come to terms with Eric’s profession in order for them to have a life together.

Unfortunately, the book was all promise and little delivery. I never bought into Eric as a professional hockey player.  Jayne disagreed. She’s not familiar with sports and felt that there was enough to feel authentic for her.

Eric spent far too little time on the ice and far too much time pursuing Emily.  The amount of free time he had during the story which was set close to the start of the playoffs and then continued throughout until the end of the season was not believable.  But even more than that was his entire attitude toward actually playing the sport. At one point, Eric offers to pick her kid up and take him out to dinner so that Emily can get some much needed rest even though he had to be on a plane for an away game. He says “I’ll tell them I had an emergency. Catch a later flight.”

The gesture is gallant but what kind of professional hockey player or professional athlete would simply lie about his absence at an away game? Perhaps if the story included a storyline about Eric’s fading desire for the game (which might be believable after having previously won four championships), this would have made sense, but instead it just rang my inauthentic bell.  The reference to The Lord Stanley’s Cup, the positioning of Eric as an enforcerer and a lead scorer of the team and the repeated insinuation that he drove divisiveness within his own team by turning people against a co captain all contributed to a lack of believability.

I wasn’t convinced of why he would so ardently pursue Emily when she was constantly telling him no and, even beyond that, being rude and insulting to him.

The abuse angle could have been employed with a greater degree of believability as well. Emily’s ex husband was abusive, patterned behavior he learned from his father. Despite living in the same town as her ex and his very wealthy and prominent family, Emily somehow manages to conceal that she has a son. I found this one of the more bizarre coincidences in the book. The ex doesn’t become a danger to Emily until after she starts dating Eric, convenient for the story, but the ex’s rage induced actions seem almost cartoonish and paint by number, diminishing any tension or impact.  I think that this might have been, in part, what Jayne referred to as the ever building number of conflicts introduced in the story.

While I appreciate the storyline of the abused woman reclaiming herself, I felt like it was more of a contrivance, particularly when the former mother in law who was also abused explains that the new girlfriend of the abuser treated the abuser like a “lap dog” and that the abuser tolerated it because the new girlfriend had “power he craves, the status…the money.” I had a hard time believing that a man who was raised to beat women and went on to beat women would allow himself to be treated like a “lap dog.” Instead, I felt like the characters were manipulated in order to have these big dramatic moments. It was irritating rather than interesting.

Finally, I found the book rather slow until about 70% of the story was completed as Emily played a push/pull game with Eric. The last third of the story was fast paced and contained a lot of drama, even if some of it was manufactured.

This was not a self published book and thus I will take a moment to complain about the formatting and editing. There were several areas in which paragraphs ran together, particularly dialogue. There were numerous quotation errors where quotation marks were omitted either at the opening or close of dialogue. There was no table of contents either. It was an amateurish product that I paid for. D

Best regards,

Jane

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