DUAL REVIEW: Rookie Move by Sarina Bowen
Spoiler (Trigger Warning): Show
Dear Ms. Bowen,
I’ve enjoyed most of your Ivy Years NA books and when I saw that you had an adult contemporary romance spinoff series coming out, I decided to give the first book in the Brooklyn Bruisers series, Rookie Move, a try.
Georgia Worthington is the senior publicist for the Brooklyn Bruisers, but only on an interim basis. She is determined to prove herself to her boss, internet billionaire Nate Kattenberger, and obtain the position on a permanent basis when she encounters two setbacks.
First, Georgia’s father is hired to coach the team. Second, Leo Trevi, a minor league player and her one-time high school sweetheart, is also brought on board, much to her father’s objections.
Back in high school, Leo and Georgia were inseparable and snuck away to fool around at every opportunity. Georgia’s dad, then a college coach, welcomed Leo and even mentored him in the rink. Though they planned to attend different colleges, Leo and Georgia were head over heels in love.
But then Georgia was raped. In the aftermath of the crime, Leo was there for her, whether sitting by her on the couch to watch TV, or bringing her treats. They never talked about what happened or resumed their lovemaking, though, and on graduation day, after realizing they were always sad together where before they had been happy, Georgia dumped Leo, thinking he no longer wanted her.
Now, six years later, Leo is back in Georgia’s life, for worse or for better. At first it seems to be for worse. When the team captain refers to Georgia as a bitch, Leo threatens him, unaware that he is speaking into a microphone. A minor PR crisis results, and a second one follows when Leo cuts loose a date at a charity ball and she makes a scene.
Despite the workplace tension, Georgia and Leo are still attracted to each other, perhaps more than ever. Georgia is friends with Leo’s brother DJ, who convinces the pair to talk to each other. Soon after they do, Leo decides to pursue Georgia romantically. But Georgia is reticent, even when the team’s road trip brings them closer together.
Becca, a co-worker, Georgia’s roommate, and her best friend, assigns Georgia and Leo adjoining hotel rooms. Georgia must decide whether letting Leo back into her life is good idea now that they work for the same organization, she would be risking the promotion she wants, and Leo, whom her father appears to have it in for, could be traded away.
Rookie Move is the first of your romances for adults that I’ve read. At twenty-four, Georgia and Leo were younger than I expected, but I liked that aspect of it. I enjoyed the book, but with some caveats.
The premise that Georgia, Leo, and Georgia’s dad would all be hired for the same organization felt like an unlikely coincidence, but I went with it.
Spoiler (spoiler): Show
Georgia’s dad struck me as emotionally unstable and a real threat to Leo’s career, as well as to Leo and Georgia’s happiness. So when the conflict with him was resolved, the resolution felt too easy.
I also wondered whether a rape survivor who hadn’t had sex since her rape six years before, as Georgia hadn’t, would really be able to resume physical intimacy with so much enthusiasm and no setbacks whatsoever. But despite my doubts as to the likelihood of this, I was really glad of it, because she had been through enough and I wanted some joy for her.
Leo was such a wonderful hero, so very loveable, patient, caring and good-hearted. His determination to prove himself to his coach (Georgia’s father), as well as to win back Georgia, only added to his appeal. He was also a good human being, good not just to Georgia, but to others around him.
Leo was almost a little too good to be true, but I didn’t mind. In fact I liked him so much that I had some difficulty understanding Georgia’s reticence to reunite with him, especially since her reasons kept changing.
Georgia wasn’t ready to share her fears with others for much of the book, but I wanted them to be articulated better in her thoughts, at least, so that I could understand what was driving her more clearly.
But Georgia was a great character too. I loved that she took her career very seriously. I appreciated that she tried to master her fears with skydiving and tae kwon do, and that she’d been to therapy and done the work to understand that the rape was not in any way her fault.
Even with all her strengths, there was a vulnerable side to Georgia that was well-portrayed. In some ways she was very grown up and mature, and in other ways she was still the eighteen year old who had lost so much as a result of a crime. Details like Georgia’s love of filled pastries and dumplings, or the ugly couch she and Becca shared, also rounded out her character.
There was a pattern of non-communication in Leo and Georgia’s backstory — when they were in high school, they couldn’t talk about her rape. That was very believable and poignant, and it was great to see them begin to change that pattern in the second half of the book.
Spoiler (“spoiler”): Show
Another thing I really liked about this book was the workplace milieu. I know next to nothing about ice hockey so I can’t really judge whether the portrayal of the sport was accurate but I liked that the main characters were professionals who cared about their careers and treated them seriously.
Overall, this was an enjoyable book with very likeable protagonists. It had a lot of heart. I detect the possibility of a romance between Becca and Nate in the future. If there is one, I’ll probably check it out. For now, Rookie Move gets a B-.
*Trigger warning: rape*
Dear Sarina Bowen,
I liked Leo Trevi from your Ivy Years series and have been looking forward to reading his own story in Rookie Move, which is the start of your contemporary Brooklyn Bruisers series. I don’t think it’s necessary to have read the earlier books however (except in the sense that they’re really good).
Two years have past since Leo graduated from Harkness College. He has been playing for an AHL team and working hard to create opportunities to get his big break and play in the NHL. It’s one of the best days of his life when he is traded to the Brooklyn Bruisers – until he finds out who the new Bruisers coach is and who is their acting head of PR.
Georgia “Gigi” Worthington and Leo were that couple in high school. The couple who were all loved up and had to always be touching. The couple everyone thought would be together forever. Leo certainly thought that. But when Georgia was raped while she was away on a spring tennis camp, things fell apart. She dumped Leo after their high school graduation and he’s never understood why.
Since then, Leo has been (unconsciously) careful to only date women with whom he can form no lasting attachment; girls who never actually touch his heart. Seeing Gigi again is hard. All the heartbreak he’s been careful to bury deep comes rushing to the surface. He wants to understand why they broke up and more than anything, he wants her back.
However, given that the new coach is Georgia’s dad – who suddenly started hating him around the time Georgia was raped – Leo may not have much time with the Bruisers to win the girl, let alone cement his career.
Georgia, for her part, is extremely uncomfortable that the Bruisers’ newest player is her ex. He’s a reminder of a difficult and traumatic part of her life; something she’s worked hard to put behind her. After she was raped, she and Leo were both so sad and everything changed in their relationship. What had been joyful and fun was morose and cheerless. Georgia couldn’t handle it and broke things off. She still feels guilty and conflicted about it but it’s not like Leo chased her after she dumped him (the reason why is explained in the book by the way). Nevertheless, she is still irresistibly attracted to Leo – who has matured in the best of ways in the six years since she last saw him.
The team had a series of home games this week, and it was weird knowing that she could turn a corner at any moment and come face to face with the only man who had ever loved her.
Naked Leo would be more than her poor heart could take. She’d probably burst an artery if she spotted all six-foot-two, two hundred muscled pounds of him (thank you, stat sheet) across the locker room. Her imagination kept wanting to veer off and picture Leo 2.0 without his clothes on. As a teenager, he’d already been strong and fit. She used to admire his biceps while sitting in the passenger seat of his truck.
Now? If she stood in that locker room while he stripped, they’d have to surgically remove her gaze from his muscular ass.
She could never go in that room again. Obviously.
The conflict between Georgia’s dad and Leo – something she also doesn’t understand – makes her professional life more difficult too. Her boss took a new position some weeks ago and Georgia has been acting head of PR for the Bruisers while the team administration makes a decision about their future PR direction. This is Georgia’s chance to prove she can do it and she’s desperate for things to go right. She’s young but she knows she is capable of doing the job. When she becomes the story in her first major press conference, Georgia is mortified. On the other hand, Leo did call her “the love of his life”. Silver linings.
Hero in pursuit is one of my favourite tropes and Rookie Move has it in spades. Leo is a genuinely nice guy, deeply in love with Georgia and willing to go all out to win her back. It takes him no time at all to decide to go for it and hardly more for him to be professing his ongoing love. Perhaps he tends to a more rosy view than Georgia does, but he’s convinced they’re meant to be together. (He’s doesn’t display this conviction in any kind of stalkery way though – he’s always respectful of Gigi’s boundaries. He stays firmly on the right side of the line between dedicated and dick.)
But Leo is not just after the girl. He wants his career in the NHL and that means impressing Georgia’s dad – who has made it clear that he wants Leo gone yesterday.
There were a few things I felt were a little underdone in the book: for all their improved communication, Leo and Georgia don’t actually talk about what happened to her at the tennis camp and the conflict between Coach Worthington and Leo felt a little tacked in, it’s eventual resolution somewhat convenient. Georgia hasn’t had any sexual relationship since she was raped – she and Leo didn’t have sex again afterward as they broke up about two months after the rape and Georgia hadn’t been ready before then. It’s been six years since then. I thought Georgia’s… ease in having sex with Leo a little surprising. I’m in no way an expert here however. I’m sure it’s one of the many possibilities of actual reactions a woman might have in that position and Gigi did say that she’d never been afraid of Leo and she wasn’t “about to start now”, but I thought Gigi might have some triggers around it (so did Leo actually), particularly given she hasn’t been with anyone since the attack.
Also, there are a few references to “puck bunnies” which I feel I should mention. It doesn’t really bother me but I know it’s an issue for some readers. However, I didn’t love that Amy was portrayed so stereotypically. She seemed to have no nuance or redeeming qualities. When I think about it, it doesn’t really make Leo look good that he was with her for a year in college, even if he was deliberately trying not to get attached.
That said, I nonetheless adored Leo and how totally gone over Gigi he was. I loved how he respected her and cared for her and flat out loved her. I also loved Georgia. She’s making her way in a male dominated industry, she’s a good friend and she’s clearly more than a survivor of sexual assault – by that I mean, that her characterisation shows that while being raped changed her life, it doesn’t define her.
Also fun was the friendship and banter between Georgia and her BFF and roomie, Becca. Becca also works for the Bruisers, as the personal assistant to the team owner, billionaire tech mogul, Nate Kattenberger. I think there might be something going on with those two…
As teens, Leo and Georgia had been not great at communicating about hard things (not a surprise in the circumstances) and, in Rookie Move, they have to learn how to do that as adults. There is also explicit and implicit acknowledgement that they are not exactly the same people they were in high school so it wasn’t as simple as merely picking up where they left off. I was left in no doubt that this couple was Meant To Be however. I spent the book alternatively smiling and going “awwwwww” over all the swoonworthy things Leo says and thinks and does.
That’s when he threw in the towel. When they were together, he always let her win the fights. Georgia was a smart girl, she never steered him wrong. And the makeup sex had always been spectacular. “Fine. I think it’s pretty clear tonight that I’m an idiot. Maybe the girl made a few good points there at the end.”
Georgia’s lips twitched. Then she gave in and smiled. And it was like the sun came out. There was more warmth and humor in Georgia’s smile than he’d seen anywhere else in six years. His heart said, This. This right here.
This is not a new adult book and it took me a while to realise what was different about it – and then I twigged that it was in third person past tense instead of (dual) first person present. It’s the first book of yours that I’ve read which has been in third person and I admit it felt a little odd at first! However, I was caught up in the story very quickly and it soon ceased being something on my mind at all.
I’m very curious about the somewhat mysterious Nate Kattenberger and wondering what is going on with him and Becca. The next book however, features team captain, Patrick O’Doul (he’s intriguing me too).
Even though there are some heavy topics canvassed (but only canvassed, they’re not detailed) in Rookie Move, the book itself is more in the way of a feel-good story and it’s a definite recommend from me.