Book Review: Back in Play by Lynda Aicher

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Title: Back in Play (Power Play #2)
Author: Lynda Aicher
Genre: Sports Romance
Length: 256 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis

For Minnesota Glaciers captain Scott Walters, skating on a bum knee—and self-medicating to keep skating on it—is all part of the game. That the painkillers he’s eating prevent him from having meaningful relationships is just one more sacrifice in a lifetime of them. He’s worked too hard to let his image be ruined by injury or dependency, so he hides the pain and fakes the rest—a girlfriend would only complicate matters.

High school teacher Rachel Fielding never needed a man in her life, but she also never intended to grow old alone. When she meets Scott while visiting her brother, she’s intrigued to find herself wanting him in her bed. For hours at a time, as often as possible. Scott is a giver, and just the memory of his attentions is enough to drive her crazy. Anything long-term is out of the question, though—the pills she finds in Scott’s house indicate he’s struggling with a lot more than growing older in a young man’s game.

When what starts out as a what-the-hell weeklong fling turns into Scott and Rachel exploring each other outside the bedroom, Rachel hesitates. But Scott asks for her support to break his addiction, and hearing him admit his secrets has her ignoring her own rules—until he breaks her heart. With the Glaciers refusing to renew his contract and his future with Rachel uncertain, Scott has some big decisions to make and a lot to prove—especially to himself.  

Ivy

Scott Walters has been headed straight for a crossroads in his life and career, one that every professional athlete faces, but it’s never easy. He’s at his friend’s wedding when he meets Rachel Fielding, a high school teacher on vacation visiting her brother. Romance, and so much more happens.

The Good, The Bad and Everything In Between

A more serious premise than expected : So much of the hockey romance you’ll find is new adult and focused on the wonder and excitement at the beginning of a player’s career and the choices that come with that. It is fluffy and fun, and entertaining. This, is not that book. The hero and heroine are in their thirties, and they are pondering questions of what to do with the rest of your life? What will you sacrifice for that dream you’ve had since you were a child? And what happens when the reality is your body cannot fulfill the dreams of your youth? I love that this book explores this topic.

This is hockey, warts and all : Ms. Aicher has crafted a very different, and very compelling, take on hockey romance and I am beyond fascinated with it. The first book in the series, Game Play, shone a light on female hockey players, as well as the stress and strain of a contract year for a young male player. In this book, it is about the flip side of it all, when the lights begin to fade and that career that was everything they lived and breathe, is fading fast. There’s a clear love of the game, but it doesn’t gloss over the toll it takes on a body and mind, the sheer physical abuse players suffer for the love of the game. Much like Scott….

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Scott broke my heart : One. More. Year. That’s the heartbreaking mantra Scott has. You can feel his pain, see the heartache in giving up the dream he’s spent a lifetime working towards, to get his name on that cup. His body is failing him and his knee can’t hold on, but he is doing his damnedest to make it happen. I think the depiction of a serious dependency on prescription painkillers is very realistic. The denial, the excuses, and rationalizations that Scott makes to justify his use all ring true. I admired his strength in admitting his problem, and doing something about it. But it’s his eventual acceptance that the dream isn’t meant to be that’s bittersweet and pulled at my heartstrings.

Rachel’s a strong heroine : Scott’s struggle is compelling on its own, but Rachel’s strength and support really add alot to this story. She’s dealt with the fallout of her brother coming out of the closet and the family NOT singing kumbaya and accepting it. She also struggles with the relationship with Scott for many reasons, all of them very reasonable. A big one is her career in another city. So often it’s just blindly expected for the heroine to drop what she’s doing to be with the hero, and I liked that Rachel wouldn’t blindly drop everything. While she’s drawn to, and begins this relationship with Scott, she will not simply allow him to dictate the way their relationship will go on either.

So little time for something so serious : About the only issue I have is the timeline for their romance. Considering where Scott is with his addiction, I struggled to reconcile them actually getting into a long term relationship. The story is very realistic and that one note felt juuuuust a bit off because of it. I would have bought their HEA had their relationship played out over a longer period of time. But I let it go because it is a romance, and sometimes, condensed timelines are the price paid for a HEA.

The Bottom Line
I really liked it. I’ve been so impressed with Ms. Aicher’s writing and this is no exception. I’d recommend it for those who love hockey, and appreciate a more realistic, bittersweet type of romance. I’m interested in what’s next in this series.

– Ivy

*ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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