ARC review: Slap Shot by Kelly Jamieson

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Max Hall is a professional hockey player who’s been off the ice since the death of his beloved wife sixteen months ago.  In that time, he not only quit playing hockey, but he fell into a deep depression and cut off nearly all human contact.  At a friend’s wedding, he meets the gorgeous and intriguing Kendra, a woman whose offer of no-strings-attached sex has him breaking his self-imposed celibacy.  The two agree to a strictly friends-with-benefits arrangement, but how long can that last before one of them develops feelings for the other?

some mild spoilers ahead~

I was pretty excited when I saw Slap Shot on Netgalley since I’ve read some of Kelly Jamieson’s previous work.  Loveswept requests that reviews not be posted until the book is published, so this book sat on my virtual shelf for a bit while I read and reviewed books with more pressing deadlines.  But then I was feeling like a good smutty romance, and this seemed to fit the bill, so I jumped in.

And… it was okay?  I guess? I mean, it took me six days to read a mere 276 pages, which isn’t great. I’d give it two and a half stars, but I’m rounding up to three since a Goodreads rating of two stars seems low.  The beginning of the book was great.  You can go back in Goodreads and see my notation that I was already in love with Max by the 4% mark, which is coincidentally the part of the book where he mentions his favorite musicians:

“What kind of music do you like?” she asks.
“I dunno… Jimmy Eat World, Something Corporate, Blink-182. Taylor Swift.”

I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be serious or if he’s just messing with Kendra at this point, but Max just listed four of my favorite artists, so he won a small piece of my heart.

At this point in the book, I was also feeling a connection to Kendra, who happens to be a fellow Wisconsinite.  So, we’ve got a hero with my taste in music and a heroine from my home state (which is so often neglected in books) – what could go wrong?

Well, it turns out that a lot could go wrong, mostly in the form of completely, 100% unnecessary angst.  I could have told you exactly how this book would play out without even reading it.  This starts around the 25% mark and made me pretty much lose interest in the entire book.  I mean, is it even a spoiler to tell you that obviously one of them develops some feels and the other one is all like, “Um, hey, we had an agreement about this?  So bye…”

But the thing is that Max and Kendra are in a relationship, even if they don’t define it.  Even if they’re trying to avoid that label.  Even if they pretend that they’re not.  They’re always calling and texting each other (I’m going to come back to this).  They’re always thinking about each other.  They’re exclusive. They love and care about each other, even if they pretend that they don’t.

So I don’t really understand the point of the whole “Remember, we’re not in a relationship” thing that runs throughout the entire book.  Was this only there to cause drama?  Because, last I checked, you can still have a smutty romance with characters who are in a loving relationship.  A smutty book and a healthy relationship don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Now, some of the sexy scenes are pretty sexy, but can we talk about the sexting for a minute?  I’ve talked before about how I’m in a very, very long-term relationship.  We’ve been together for almost nine years now, and the dating landscape has changed so much.  I am honestly terrified to ever be single again if what happens in romance novels actually happens in real life.  Take, for example, this conversation between Kendra and Max:

Max: 👉👌🐇🐇
Kendra: 😍
Max: 👉👉👉👉👌 💦
Kendra: 👄 🍆💦
Max: 👍
Max: 🏒
Kendra: ?????
Max: 🍆

Is this actually how people do relationships now?

Anyway, the final thing that I want to talk about is Max’s relationship with his now-deceased wife and how unhealthy it is.  First of all, Max likes to say that he doesn’t want to compare Ariana and Kendra, which is fine and great and wonderful, but then he does compare them.  But I can get over that.  Because that, I think, is a very realistic thing to do.  (Not that I’d know, but I can assume.)  The thing that really bothered me was Max’s image of Ariana sitting on a while cloud somewhere, sobbing her eyes out because he had the audacity to move on.

I don’t want to be crass or rude or mean, Max, but Ariana is dead.  She’s not crying over you or anybody else.  She’s dead.  And, if there is an afterlife and Ariana’s made it there, I sure hope that she’s not plotting to keep you single for the next fifty years just to spite you.  I hope that she’d want you to move on. That she’d want you to be happy.  I certainly hope that if I go before my life partner does, they’ll know to keep living their life.

But, anyway, this is the fifth book in the Aces Hockey series, and, coincidentally, the first one I’ve picked up. I feel no burning desire to go back in the series and read the books that I’ve missed, but if I come across them, I wouldn’t say no.

All in all, this was more of a miss than a hit for me, but I think that a specific demographic of hockey-loving romance fans will enjoy it a lot.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

I received a free ARC of Slap Shot from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for my honest review.