I’ve liked previous Kate Sherwood stories so I took a chance on this one even though it’s from a publisher I usually avoid. Sadly I should have known better and stayed away even though I like this author. Home Ice is a cliché on a cliché filled with super quick actions, repetitive elements, very little unique detail and ultimately wooden characters. I liked the hockey elements, which come across genuine and interesting. The coaching environment and the teens are fun and eye catching but there are too many distracting elements. The story can’t quite decide what it is and therefore throws a bunch of unrelated actions together to try to create some tension. It works but not successfully or in a good way.
The novella begins with Jason at the hockey rink coaching his players. Almost immediately talk turns to Mike, an ex-NHL player and Jason’s old flame. Predictably Mike has returned to their hometown and gets involved with the local hockey team. Jason and Mike rekindle their long ago romance pretty quickly and life settles into a happy routine. Yet when Jason tries to counsel an unhappy player, misunderstandings abound threatening Jason’s career and his relationship.
The plot of Home Ice is very predictable unfortunately. I had hoped the author would take a unique or fresh spin on the concept but instead the story stays well within previous lines. There is nothing that makes this particular offering stands out from the genre and it’s pretty much similar to any other sports related book, down to the pseudo tension. The writing is perfunctory but really stumbles on the amount of repetitive internal musing. The main character spends more time in his head than actually doing or saying anything; this includes lengthy internal monologues during sex scenes too. The brief shinning light in the story is the actual hockey detail. These scenes are interesting, well crafted, and keep my focus from beginning to end. It’s the relationship scenes and external drama that loses me.
The main couple supposedly had a brief but unremarkable fling fifteen years ago. There is no real explanation of that relationship but a few brief references to frantic groping and the like. So why these two fall immediately into a serious relationship is a stretch. There is no real basis for their feelings (going from nothing to in love) since the novella offers no explanation or visual about their life together. We’re told that they immediately have sex and just as soon start a comfortable and predictable relationship. These details are recited quickly and then never mentioned again. It’s hard to invest in characters and their relationship when it’s not shown to the reader. I didn’t feel any kind of real feelings of deep love or sexual attraction between Jason and Mike. Instead they feel like two almost random men that are thrown together because they’re both gay and into hockey.
Likewise the main tension in the story comes from a very predictable source and one that continues to be flogged in books over and over. I don’t want to give any spoils but it’s not a real stretch to figure out what happens. However that being said the story could have given the issue some real weight and tension. It tries but the scenes are too weak and easily picked apart to have the impact it’s trying for. Not to mention the resolution is gimmicky and silly. It takes away all of the seriousness the story has achieved and makes it too pat and convenient, down to Jason’s totally ridiculous argument against himself.
I wanted to like this as I was in the mood for a light, contemporary romance but instead this is almost too light considering where the story tried to go. The wooden characters don’t help and Mike is almost non-existent except as a plot point. His past, his marriage, his child, his own struggle with his sexuality the story hints at, are all ignored. Mike exists only to have sex with Jason and that’s not much of an in depth main character. In the end I just didn’t care about either man or their relationship unfortunately. This isn’t a book I enjoyed reading though I did like the hockey details. I’ll think twice before I pick up another Kate Sherwood book.