REVIEW: King & Queen of the Roller Derby (King & Queen series Book 2) by Diane Michaels
When love is a full-contact sport, surrender may be the only way to win.
Roller derby is more than a place where Amelia can unleash her inner beast. It’s her safe space. And yeah, she gets the irony. Off the track, men have thwarted her every move. So when her all-female team brings in a male coach, it stings worse than an epic case of rink rash.
Declan is more nervous about facing his new roller derby team than he was before skating in the Olympics. And the evil glares he’s getting from Amelia aren’t helping.
She may be spoiling for a fight, but his heart has other plans. If she can take a timeout to dial back her rink warrior instincts and learn to stop resenting him for being a man, will she see that he may be the prize she didn’t know she was fighting for?
Dear Ms. Michaels,
The first novella in this series, “King and Queen of the Bouncy Castle,” made me pull up and think about what you as an author were trying to do with the characters. Darned if you haven’t made me think some more in this novella.
Amelia realized fairly quickly that teaching just wasn’t going to be her thing. Luckily her sights had already shifted to tattooing. Unluckily she discovers how sexist an industry it is. But she’s finally found a place, owned by a woman, that will take her on, and has built a family of friends in the roller derby team she skates for. That all goes to shit when she realizes the arrogant asshole she encountered earlier is their new coach.
Declan knew he would have to win the trust and respect of the women he’s now coaching but one in particular is giving him hell. Too bad for him she’s the one who intrigues him. Just when they’re finally making progress at the rink, something he unwittingly did sends their relationship back beyond square one. Can he manage to get Amelia to listen to him and see what kind of a man he is?
The initial encounter between Amelia and Declan sets the tone for a lot of this story. Declan gets off on the wrong foot on many counts as far as Amelia is concerned and that’s even before she knows that he’s going to invade what she considers to be her safe place. After a lifetime of watching her father leave, her mother hook up with losers, and her own brother take on the loser mantle, then facing men telling her that “girls can’t ink,” Amelia isn’t in the mood for a man to tell her anything. And that includes just telling her he’ll take her skate bag inside.
Declan kicks himself for not offering a hand when Amelia trips but it was his vanity in hiding his profession – auto mechanic – that would have shown in the grease under his nails. His former girlfriend did a number on him about his job and he’s not over feeling self conscious about it even though he enjoys it. Amelia impresses him as a skater though. She’s got drive and determination but she won’t listen to anything he has to say as a coach.
Amelia’s fierceness is a product of her upbringing and witnessing the blight of today’s social bullying; it’s made her hide her emotions behind a tough facade. Being part of her team has given her a place where she can trust people and be strong. At times early in the story, Amelia’s tough woman attitude does feel a little forced, as if she’s pushing it and not quite comfortable with it.
Declan does something, as a man and a coach, that I admired. He realizes that Amelia isn’t listening to him but rather than double down and forcing his views on her, he stops and interrogates himself. What can he do better or differently in order to channel Amelia’s natural talent? He won big points from me here.
When he does something that affects the team and later something that they mistrust, he’s baffled. I like the subtle way this is used to show Amelia’s changing feelings about him – her disappointment in him after a week of improving relations showed me that she had started to see him as he was instead of what she was projecting onto him. Declan knows something is wrong but it takes a talk with his friends to set him in the right direction. Their discussion about what women have to put up with that as men they don’t managed to be the “smack to the head” that he needs without coming across as too twee for belief.
While the acknowledgement of her feelings comes on a bit quickly, Amelia has been changing her thoughts on Declan as the story went along while Declan had always realized his (positive) attraction for her. But I like how each person does grow and evolve. Amelia sees the real man while Declan gets an understanding of what Amelia has been up against and admires her strength. While the novella ends at a HFN point, the quick scene here that shows us that Dan and Caitlin from book one are doing well after eight months and the promise that there will be more Declan+Amelia to come makes me satisfied. B