Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Today's read... Off the Ice by Julie Cross

 I saw the first slight chance of snow in the forecast for next week, which makes today's read a perfect fit. Okay, maybe not perfect, but any mention of ice and snowy dreams fill my head (I'm a real snow girl...sunny beaches are not my thing). Ice hockey mixes with romance for what promises to be a heart-warming read. This one already released a few years ago and is the first in an entire series.



OFF THE ICE
Juniper Falls, #1
by Julie Cross
Entangled Teen
YA Romance
320 pages














All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

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MY TIDBITS

Trying to balance life on the ice is easier than real life in this drama-packed read, which holds more heart than just romance.

Tate seems to have everything with hockey and a girlfriend, but he harbors a horrible secret. Claire, a talented singer at his school, discovers his family problem, but it won't really pose an issue in the small town gossip ring, since she's already heading out to college. When she returns, though, everything's changed. Tate has broken up and is single, his mom finally divorced his dad, and he's on his way to becoming a star on the hockey team with the attitude to fit. Claire is disappointed, since she thought he'd turn out to be a nice guy, but then, she has enough problems of her own since her dad now faces cancer...and her college was cut short.

I was excited to see a romance staged around hockey and a small town, and this one does hold all the drama small-town gossip and life and give...and even more. It starts out right before Claire takes off to leave the town behind and begin, what could turn into a shooting career, in a special college program. So, we meet her and Tate not long before they part for a year. While this is well written and paced, it didn't give the reader any time to get to know either of them or the situation. The next scene sets Claire in a bad place and then has Tate facing down his dad with extreme violence. So we have a scene edging toward sexual force (although it didn't get that far), and then, family violence...both without knowing the characters, anyway. This ends abruptly, and the next chapter starts with Claire's return a year later and goes from there. But I kept reading and am glad I did because the book does get much better as it goes on, and the reader gets a chance to settle into what is happening.

Claire and Tate are characters, who are easy to relate to and come across naturally. They both have issues to deal with, but the author handles these with finesse and builds them effortlessly into the tale. Even the characters around Claire and Tate gain richness and depth as each brings their own personality problem and goals to weave subplots. It is fun to watch the two main characters grow together and learn to act as a support for each other as they both try to handle things as best as they can. 

The romance has tons of hesitation and angst, and this will sit better with some readers than others. The initial pull is there, but neither Claire or Tate are ready to fall blindly and completely into bliss. And considering all of the other problems they are dealing with, it does come across more believable. The romance is surrounded by quite a bit more drama than I expected, but it works great with the setting. 

Then, there's the hockey. These scenes add good change-up to the other drama and act as a wonderful break. The details of the sport are smoothly woven in and create a realistic atmosphere. 

All in all, this is a nice, romantic read for those sport/romance fans out there. It flows well, offers tons of tension, and does make the heart melt, especially at the end.

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