I’m going to start off my review by saying that I’m not really one for sports romances or books that are centered around sports. I’ve never really cared for sports in general, so reading about them usually tends to leave me feeling bored. I put off reading Off the Ice for a long time because I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it, but when I saw that the author had another book coming out featuring some of the characters in this book, I decided to take the plunge and read it, even though I didn’t expect this book to really wow me or anything.
So imagine my surprise when I’m a quarter of the way through this book and I actually find myself really enjoying it – the story, the characters, the drama, the secrets – the whole book is just so much fun.
“‘Promise me something, Tate.'”
“Don’t change, okay?'”
“‘Yeah, I know. You wrote that in my yearbook.'”
“‘But I mean it now. Promise me you won’t become another varsity hockey player.'”
Claire left her home of Juniper Falls and went to college, but when tragedy strikes her father, she needs to come back home and help out with her family and her family’s bar. Since it’s hockey season, the bar is always busy, but not busy enough to make ends meet all the time, and Claire is keeping secret about her family’s funds, trying to figure out how she can make it all work, spend time and care for her family, and go back to school after the new year. Not to mention things are a bit awkward for her now, since Tate looks and acts a lot different than he did last year, when he had a run in with his father that Claire had helped him through.
Meanwhile, Tate has just broken up with his girlfriend, Haley, and is focusing on his hockey game. He has just been told he is replacing a former player, who quit the team and is looking after his pregnant girlfriend – and in the process, has become a town outcast. Tate steps up, playing his best, while always being judged by his opinionated father who was a former hockey player in town, as well. And then he notices Claire – and the two of them begin to rekindle a friendship.
When Tate’s father starts doing some shady things that will cause some of Tate’s teammates (and maybe even Tate himself) to lose their scholarship eligibility and force them to play with a team Tate’s father has chosen, Tate is torn between telling anyone about it, and letting it ride out.
“Tate is real, and his life is messed up, and my life is more real and messed up than ever. But his heart is beating beneath my hand, and I didn’t ask for it, but he’s given it to me. And there are some gifts you just don’t turn down. There are some threads that you hold on to as tightly as possible.”
As Tate and Claire start spending more and more time together, their friendship turns into something more, and the two of them develop a romance that is complicated and exactly what they both need at the time.
The relationship between Tate and Claire isn’t just realistic feeling, it’s complicated and messy and the kind of relationship you find yourself really getting behind. I loved how that was the main theme of the book, but there was also so much other stuff going on at the same time, like the whole thing with Tate’s dad being pretty much a jerk, and Claire’s family struggling so much.
There was just so much love and family in this book that it really stood out from a lot of other books I’ve read lately. I loved how close Claire’s family was, especially with her father, and how they took care of him and each other. Tate’s father wasn’t really that great of a guy, but his mother and his step-father, as well as his sister, Jody, were all there for him and cared a lot about him. There was also a great deal of friendship going on in this book, which I liked, too.
I honestly don’t know much about hockey, since I’m not exactly a sports fan, but I did find myself enjoying this book nonetheless. This was a really great book to read during the winter, because it makes it feel even more realistic (it was snowing when I read the ending, which was pretty neat).
I find myself eager to read the next installment in the Juniper Falls series, as it will feature Haley, and I found myself really liking her in this book and can’t wait to see what’s in store for her next.