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.
Jayne’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
Realism is a real problem with sports romance, I think. I considered writing one with a football player hero a while back, and after doing some research on football players’ lives & reading a book about their spouses and girlfriends, I decided I couldn’t realistically portray what it was like to be a professional football player and also write a romance novel, because the life is so awful, so demanding, with so little free time. It would only work, I figured, if the hero had recently suffered a career-ending injury.
I thought Nancy Warren’s Power Play (Harlequin Blaze) was cute. It has a hockey player hero, but he’s older, playing in an amateur-league tournament for fun.
Seeing as how Tyler Seguin – a #2 overall draft pick and the Bruins’ leading scorer – was benched for a game for missing a team breakfast during a road trip, catching a later flight sets off serious bullshit alarms. Does the author think these guys fly commercial or something?
Also, enforcer + leading scorer = lol (unless his name was Cam Neely.)
I think that after reading the NYT’s series about brain injury and NFL enforcers, I could never read a hockey romance. And I love sports.
@cbackson: I didn’t know the NFL had enforcers. Maybe I should start watching football.