I was on such a soccer high after reading Kulti that I put down the 6 other books I am reading to pick up this one. It came out in June this past year, and I actually preordered it because it was a soccer book where both hero and heroine were athletes. Then, I promptly forgot about it until reading Kulti, and J mentioned it in a comment on that review. I should have read this one first. If I had, it would probably have a higher rating.
In many senses this book is a traditional sports romance. It is steamy, lighthearted, low angst, and it doesn’t feel like a lot is on the line for either party. It is mostly just fun. But, what took this beyond the basics for me was that both the hero and heroine were players and there was a reversal in gender roles. The story lacked the depth to truly take it to someplace great, but for its sub-genre, it’s up there on my list.
Lainey Lukas is the captain of the women’s expansion team in Seattle, and is recovering from a major injury she sustained while helping the US Women’s Team win the last World Cup. Gabe Havelak once played in Europe, but he’s in his mid 30s now and decided to come home to Seattle to play out the end of his career. They get off to a contentious start because Lainey is trying to bring attention to her team and Gabe steals the spotlight at a press conference. They engage in a Battle of the Sexes between the men’s and women’s teams. There is a skills competition, a trivia contest, a cooking contest and it all culminates in a final soccer match. During this battle Gabe and Lainey begin to date and work out their future together.
So, this gender reversal I mentioned? Lainey is the closed-off party who has given up everything to advance her career. She grew up on a farm and left it when she realized she had to get away if she intended to devote herself to playing soccer. While her aunt and uncle have been there for her some, she has no other close family members or friends. She doesn’t believe that she can have a life outside of the game and has made a bucket list of things she wants to do one day, after she retires. I appreciated Lainey being a truly competent professional who took her job seriously. But, I had a real problem with her lack of friendships because as soon as other players started making overtures to Lainey to befriend her she, while awkward, was into the idea. So I didn’t buy that she didn’t/couldn’t have friends over the years of playing.
Gabe on the other hand, is the easy-going and family oriented one. He came back to Seattle so that he could be close to his parents and sister, and he happily spends time with them throughout the book. Gabe is also superstitious. He doesn’t want to play on a particular field and he carries a lucky charm with him. I liked this – it took him down from the ultra alpha athlete who is so big and strong and has ultimate confidence in his abilities, to a much more relate-able place. Lainey is the one who puts the halt on their budding relationship and insists it is short term and not serious. Gabe wants it to be serious from the beginning, but lets her take the lead in defining what she wants out of it and how long it will last.
If you’re looking for a nice, happy sports romance, you can do far worse than this one. There’s some decent banter, though not as much as I would have liked. It really suffered based on my timing reading it. I don’t think I’ll follow up with the sequel because I didn’t particularly like the set up for it, but I would be open to other books by this author in the future.