This book was disappointing. Normally the fake relationship trope is one of my favorites but it was like Kelly Jamieson chose the exact wrong parts of the plot and character development to slow roll in Win Big. This is the third in her Wynn hockey series, a spin-off from her Chicago Aces series. I hold Jamieson to a lower bar than Sarina Bowen when it comes to hockey romance and this book proves why. I say this even knowing Bowen has a couple of not-great books. I’m probably going to get a little more spoilery in this review than I usually do because I have complaints and I need to voice them.
Everly Wynn is the daughter of California Condors owner Bob Wynn and the executive director of its charitable arm, The Condors Foundation. Something terrible happened when she was sixteen that only she, her parents, and the guy involved seem to know about and you don’t get to find out what the hell happened until most of the way through the book despite using a dual first person narrative. What is the point of giving us insight into both main characters’ heads if they tell us almost nothing? We don’t even find out that the panic attack Everly had earlier in the book is a panic attack until she has another one later on. Because of whatever happened when she was a teenager, Everly must. be. perfect. At all times.
Everly is the first Wynn woman to be the main character of a book, the previous two having been about her nephews Théo, general manager of the Condors, and Jean Paul (JP), player for the Long Beach Golden Eagles. Bob married after his first wife passed away and had Everly and her three younger brothers around the same time his older two sons were also having children. There is bad blood between Bob and his two older sons, Matthew (father of Théo and JP) and Mark, partially because of the remarriage to a younger woman, partially because of a hockey rivalry since Matthew owns the Golden Eagles and Mark is their head coach, and possibly because Bob may or may not have stolen money from them that they inherited with or without the help of his second wife, Chelsea. The fighting over money plotline has been dragged out over all three books so far, partially because Bob, Chelsea, Matthew, and Mark have decided to keep it among themselves but mostly because Jamieson does not know how to properly structure a plot to save her life.
Everly was apparently worried about an audit of The Condors Foundation the whole book but we mostly find out the results of it through a news report and subsequent explanation that, while the foundation does have improvements to make, that the news report exaggerated the problems and they were going to request an on-air apology from the reporter but other than that, Everly wasn’t going to worry about it because she was over being perfect all of the time thanks to the loving of a fun, but good, man.
Said fun and good man is California Condors player Wyatt Bell. He also has a secret that we won’t find out about until most of the way through the book because if it works once, why not do it several times throughout the same book? He requested a transfer to a California team, either the Condors or the Golden Eagles, so he could be close to his deceased friend’s widow and child. This, of course, shows that he can be responsible as well as fun. Everly sees fun as the enemy of good, plus she prefers older men and Wyatt is an entire year younger than her so he’s no good. Wyatt gets her to go out with him once, hijinks ensue to require a fake relationship but they also basically fall immediately into bed with one another, several stupid misunderstandings occur that could just be fixed by talking, Everly decides to stop being perfect, everyone is happy in the end, blah, blah, blah. Oh, and Wyatt says the one thing that almost all Jamieson heroes say. The following always squicks me out and is sexual in nature so I’m warning you up front to skip the end of this paragraph if you don’t want to see it. At least once during each book, the hero will basically be worshiping his partner’s body and he will tell her that she has a “pretty pussy.” I always cringe. I think there has only been one book of hers that I haven’t seen these two words together in.
I don’t know why I keep reading Jamieson’s books but I do. Maybe so you don’t have to. I do not recommend reading this book.