This is a hard book to review. The reading experience itself was pretty enjoyable, but I had a lot of problems with the story, so it gets a mixed review. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Why? Because I had SUPER low expectations for it. But, it’s an offshoot of the stories about my #1 favorite romance couple (from Him and Us), and it includes the scene of their wedding, so it was a given that I would have to read it. Yes, there were tears at the wedding scene. It was by far the best scene of the book.
Blake Riley is a giant goofball of a hockey player (with a really annoying vocabulary). Jess Canning is trying to find her place in the world and get over her family thinking she is a screw up. Blake was introduced in Us as a teammate of one of the heroes who has difficulty reading social cues and drops in on the guys at inopportune moments. He helped nurse Jamie when he was sick and met Jamie’s sister Jess at that time. Blake and Jess hooked up and then lost contact. They meet up again in this book at Wes and Jamie’s wedding. They hook up. They end up in a relationship. I wish there was more to the plot. I wish there was more to their characterizations. There really is very little of either in this book.
I really didn’t like Blake in Us. It was part of his character, but he kept getting in the way of time spent with the main characters and just seemed hopelessly socially clueless. In this book you get inside Blake’s head and see that he’s not entirely clueless and is more comfortable in his skin and just does what he wants. He still misses some of the typical social cues, and I did not appreciate (nor did Jess) that he just decided that they were dating without consulting her. It’s not even done in that sometimes attractive/sometimes disgusting super Alpha way. He’s just a total bro who decides he’s going to date this hot chick and calls it a day. Bleh. I really didn’t care for Jess either. She’s upset that her family is always judging her for quitting things, and then continually quits things that they have helped her with. I found her petulant and immature and did not connect with her at all.
This book is full of Blake’s unilateral decision making and his belief that things will work out between them. I want to call it a consent issue, but I know that has a lot of sexual connotations, and that is not really it. It’s more like, his continual attempts at contact and just showing up places and making decisions is only endearing because Jess is also interested and ends up liking him. But that’s the key: she ENDS UP liking him. As if the ends justify the means. If a totally creepy guy she hated was doing the same behavior it would be completely unacceptable. I can read this book and enjoy it from my grown up perspective, but I would never approve of a young girl reading it and possibly thinking that treatment was ok. (Yes, I have a running mental log of what books I will introduce to my daughter one day and in what order).
Beth Ellen and I talked about it a bunch, and my conclusion is this book is a really good example of why I was so hesitant to move from historical romance to contemporaries. There is questionable behavior in historicals that can be written off because it’s not a history book, it’s really more historical fantasy setting. I need more fantastical situations in my contemporaries to properly enjoy them. (eg. Laura Florand’s books set in France, which is how Beth Ellen dragged me to the contemporary side).
I’ll read the next one because I will always be hoping for more Wes and Jamie, but I definitely will not be paying full price the day it comes out like I did with this one.