REVIEW: For the Win by Kelly Jamieson
Dear Kelly Jamieson:
This is the fourth book in the Wynn Hockey series, a fact I was unaware of when I started reading it. I read the first two books, and when I saw that For the Win was available for review, I snapped it up. It was only after I started reading that I realized I’d missed book three in the series, which apparently came out late last year. Luckily, I’m not a stickler for reading in order.
Harrison Wyatt is 26 years years old, which in most contexts is still pretty young (at least to a crone like me). For a hockey player who wants to play at the pro level, though, he’s getting to be a bit long in the tooth to accomplish that goal. Harrison has been sent up from the farm team, the Pasadena Condors, to the NHL team, the California Condors. He’s there to help plug the hole caused by a rash of injuries as the team finishes the regular season and heads into the playoffs.
Harrison’s been with the pro team before, but he never “sticks” (wait, did I just make a hockey pun?) – he always gets sent back down eventually. He believes he has the talent to play in the NHL but he doesn’t quite know why it’s not working out for him. As the book opens, the Condors coach suggests to Harrison that he lacks the drive and desire to be a top tier player. Harrison understandably bristles at the notion, but privately he does doubt himself.
Harrison’s family is hockey royalty – his father is an ex-player and now owns the Condors, while Harrison’s older half-brothers Matthew and Mark (who are estranged from their father) own and coach, respectively, the Condors’ rival, the Long Beach Golden Eagles. Harrison’s brothers, sister, nephews, and for all I know pet guinea pig are all involved in hockey and most work for one of the two teams in some capacity. It’s a little unrealistically incestuous, but it’s good for setting up conflict in the series, I guess.
Arya Ross is also 26; she’s a yoga teacher who has encountered Harrison several times in previous books in the series. He hasn’t made the best impression (he’s a bit goofy and sometimes seems young for his age). Arya has moved to Southern California to restart her life after a traumatic experience back home in North Dakota. Arya is not interested in relationships but is working on rebuilding her self-confidence and enjoying developing her yoga practice and the new friends she’s made.
Harrison is all in on Arya from very early on, though. He tells his teammates that she’s the woman he’s going to marry at the 17% mark. That makes him an unusual romance hero and it was kind of a welcome change for me. I didn’t love Harrison in all dimensions (again, he was a sort of immature and perhaps a wee bit basic), but I really did like this aspect of his personality. He falls in love early, he knows what he wants, and he still manages not to be an alpha jerk while pursuing it. (Though later revelations make him wonder if he did act like one.)
The relationship between Harrison and Arya gets a boost when she’s hired to teach yoga to the Condors. Harrison asks Arya out, and she surprises herself by accepting. Though Harrison isn’t obnoxious in his pursuit of Arya, he is persistent, and he doesn’t always pick up on her discomfort with that. He’s hurt when she doesn’t want him to drive her home from their date, for instance. For someone who is basically falling in love very quickly, Harrison is a bit incurious about the rather obvious signals Arya sends that there’s something holding her back. He figures she’ll tell him when she’s ready, which is appropriate, but I thought it was odd that he didn’t wonder more about it.
Harrison has his own struggles, in the meantime. His father is ill and besides the stress and pain that goes along with his diagnosis, Harrison has to sort through his feelings about his dad and hockey. His father never made Harrison feel “less than”, but still, as the son of the great Bob Wynn, Harrison has always been aware that he doesn’t measure up, at least as a player. He has to come to terms with how that awareness has held him back.
Arya was for me the more likable and relatable character, but I still don’t have a lot to say about her? She’s beautiful, nice, has a hidden secret trauma, and she’s good at yoga. So far the characters in this series have all felt a bit young and callow to me – they have baggage but I never really get the sense that it affects them that much. I mean, I’m *told* that it does, but I don’t feel it. Call it angst-lite. The late-in-book conflict between Harrison and Arya felt particularly thin, as both made assumptions about how the other felt, in fine big mis fashion. This was really more like a little mis, but it still felt like manufactured conflict.
My grade for For the Win is a C+. I will seek out book three at some point; it features another hockey-player hero, but the heroine, Everly Wynn, has been one of the more interesting secondary characters and seems like she might be a little bit difference from the heroines of the series thus far.