REVIEW: Love Game by Maggie Wells
She’s earned her position
Kate Snyder is at the top of her game. She scored her first national championship at Wolcott University in her undergrad days, and now she’s the coaching legend of the #1 college women’s basketball team. No one knows the meaning of the phrase “work your way up” better than Kate. So when the university hires a football coach trying to escape scandal—paying him a lot more than she earns—Kate is more than annoyed.
He just sailed into his
Danny McMillan had hoped for a smooth transition at Wolcott, but fiery Coach Snyder made that impossible. Every time he and Kate are in a room together, snark and sparks fly. Danny gets her frustration, but her pay grade isn’t his problem, right? When Kate and Danny finally see eye to eye, their sparks turn into something even hotter…and they need to figure out if this is more than just a game.
Dear Ms. Wells,
Until just recently, I haven’t read too many sports romances. The blurbs seemed too improbable or I couldn’t get real life sports issues out of my head. I asked to review “Love Game” on a whim and ended up delighted that it broke out of stereotypes and presented a strong heroine along with a hero who relishes her for that strength. She also kept her agency in the face of so many who either dismissed it or would have asked her to diminish her worth.
Kate Snyder is on top of the world when her women’s college basketball team wins another NCAA national championship. Her playing days are over due to a knee injury but as a coach, she gets to guide young women to the success she herself enjoyed along with picking up a handsome paycheck. With her contract up for renewal this year, she knows it’s time to demand what she’s worth and she’s not going to back down. When word sideswipes her that the college has hired a disgraced football coach for far more than she’s now getting, Kate is hot.
Danny McMillan has clawed his way back into Division 1 football after his former program got hammered by the NCAA for recruiting violations. He’s right in that everyone does it, but his people got caught right when Examples Were Being Made. It didn’t matter that he had no part in it, he was head coach and fell on his sword, taking the blame. The identity of the person actually responsible just rubbed salt in the wound. Taking this job at a college with a losing record that is mainly known for basketball is probably his last chance. When a fiery woman crashes his first press conference, Danny can admire and agree with her gripes even as he simmers over her casual dismissal of him.
Kate’s friend Millie, the brash public relations guru of the college, knows an opportunity when she sees it and soon engineers a social media campaign designed to strike sparks between Kate and Danny. For their small University, this is free publicity gold. Kate initially only adds fuel to the fire with her anger over the situation though she’s strong enough to admit when she’s gone too far and apologize for it.
Meanwhile Danny can’t get this woman out of his head for reasons that have nothing to do with her height or beauty. Kate is amazing, talented and a legend in her sport. She can also read and manipulate reporters, press conferences and alumni donors with as much skill as Danny’s learned in his years of playing and coaching. Kate’s undiluted love of the game along with some kick-in-the-pants words from one of his assistant coaches gives Danny what he needs to try and reach his players.
He’s drawn to her as an fellow athlete who has reached the highs and also suffered the lows of injury and forced retirement. They share a love of their game and capable Kate takes no guff from anyone. She’s a predator and not prey. Danny’s smart enough to quickly latch onto the perfect gift for her in an effort to win her over. Some women are weak for Jimmy Choos but Kate’s “a pushover for leather and mesh uppers with gel-filled insoles.” Ultimately he can’t resist her muscles and she can’t resist their sexy, double entendre quips which leads to a hot shower encounter and later pizza and beer – real beer and none of that “light” crap – at her house following sex that could light up Manhattan. A comparison of their surgical scars ensues. Their discussion as to what Kate has named her bedside table rubber sex toy and why is hilarious.
But the world, and especially the University that employs them both, isn’t going to ignore what they’ve got going between them – though for different reasons. Will they be able to keep their relationship as well as their jobs?
There are a whole heck of conflicts sprinkled throughout the book and Kate and Danny take them all on. They’re older, wiser and it’s a joy to see them use their knowledge. They do strike sparks but they also use their heads and intelligence when it counts. Danny does occasionally say some things that Kate ought to have got her hackles up over but as she says, “Danny respected her. More than that, he liked her. And she liked the note of wonderment in his voice… He sounded almost as if he couldn’t believe his luck.” And that’s his luck in winning her. For those who notice, he’s the one who realizes and admits to love before she does. He’s the one she saves and she’s the one who does it by popping the question. When Kate stands up for what she deserves, Danny watches her in admiration and delight.
The corner that Danny is backed into is real and the stakes are high. As several friends and Kate remind him, he’s got a lot to lose if things go sour but to him, Kate and their relationship is worth it and Danny doesn’t hesitate to let people know that. He realizes when he’s flubbed Something Major and makes it right, even if his knees are protesting. I cracked up at why Danny chose the ring he does and how he describes another one – “like little footballs” – but then he’s a football jock.
Knees aching, he tried to glare at her, but the smile on her face told him he’d come up short. “You know I’ve had this knee scoped three times, right? You’re going to have to seal the deal, or we’ll need a winch to get me back on my feet.”
She pulled a face. “Maybe I should look for a model in better condition.”
“Like you have any room to talk.”
“True,” she conceded.
“Take me as I am?”
“It is a pretty ring.”
And then things get better as the two of them unite to triumph over the obstacles hurled in the path of their HEA and jobs. The first wedding had me laughing even more and their steely handling of the job negotiations is masterful.
But wait, there’s more. Usually I don’t care much for epilogues but this one is fantastic. I don’t want to give it all away but Kate’s shoes, the location, the musical ensemble and the wedding march they played, finishing the ceremony before the NCAA basketball draft first pick, and the unconventional minister presiding –
Clearing her throat loudly, Avery stretched her arms wide as if calling down the deities. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to deliver this woman and this man into the bondage of eternal teamwork…”
This was awesome. A-