ABOUT THE BOOK
Once upon a time, the Vlasta Vipers hockey team was so incredible — on and off the ice — they were almost mythical. Every other university wanted their team to be them. Every chick who crossed their paths wanted to bang them.
Now? Their clout on the ice is questionable. Their competition cutthroat. Their beds… Well, there will always be puck bunnies ready to keep them warm. After all, no matter how well they do or don’t do, they are the university’s most important athletes.
However, when Remington Ronald Rutledge the 3rd, lands himself on the new head coach’s bad side, which threatens his chances of playing for the season, he finds himself striking an unusual deal with a blast from his past he can barely remember.
Did she always wear these glasses? Was her hair always this curly? Has she always had a smile that makes him wanna smile?
What happens when the bad boy who makes all the rules is forced to play by someone else’s? Can this good-looking goalie let love score, or will blocking it be the biggest mistake of his life?
I love Xavier Neal’s dirty bad boys and the sweet feisty girls that steal their hearts so I couldn’t wait to read her newest novel.
Owning who you are is the most powerful and freeing thing that you can do.
With a name like Remington Ronald Rutledge the 3rd I’m sure you can guess the privilege and entitlement, this one has had. When his hockey coach calls him out on an incriminating video and punishes him with community service at an animal rescue league, he thinks he can buy himself out of it, but the mouthy little manager at the league is not an easy payoff. She has a proposition of her own.
Poppy Diesel has known Ren Rutledge since they were kids, but he disappeared from her life when she was eight years old. An age when she felt abandoned by the people she cared for and anxiety set in. Now, while in college when he tried to buy her off so he wouldn’t have to do his community service, she was saddened that he didn’t remember her name. I mean why would he? He’s the MVP of the hockey team. He’s every girl’s dream. Why would he remember the landscapers’ kid who knew him before his rise to hockeydom? When he proposes a deal to get out of community service, she takes her roommate’s suggestion of using his social status and gaining some status of her own. Namely, a date with one of his teammates. A date Ren will set up for her. A request that doesn’t go as planned.
Ren is such an unlikable person at first. He’s a pompous ass who thinks he is invincible until first, the very likeable Coach Stiles takes him down a few pegs; and then, secondly, the adorable nose-twitching Poppy aka “Hootie” (Ren’s endearing name for her) appears back in his life. I love how Poppy’s confidence grows as she is around Ren and I love how Ren’s humanity surfaces while he is around Poppy. My favorite part about Ren is his love of reading which he hides from his teammates because he doesn’t want to be labeled a nerd. In addition, he wants to become a writer which Poppy supports wholeheartedly. It’s the struggle between his duty to be a winner (Rutledge) and his dream to be a writer (Ren) that holds him back from just being himself and having a healthy relationship with Poppy. Poppy’s patience and kindness to animals are precious, and she even wins Ren over with a few canine friends. It’s her cute nervous tick and her happy steadfast nature that bring Ren out of his dickhead mode. She wanted him to find his compassion. I love that he, early on, reneges on his deal to set her up on a date with his teammate because he wants her for himself. He also eventually starts dating her himself, shows her his book collection, and claims her v-card, but only on her terms. She has never forgotten Ren and has loved him from afar. Her opportunity to finally be around him is her dream come true and she doesn’t give up on him. She makes him whole by being herself around him. Of course, they have some ups and downs, but there’s a happy ever after plus a sweet epilogue that gave me the feels.
The supporting characters really shined for me. Especially Ren’s teammates and friends who were there for both him and Poppy. Poppy’s roommate Della, is a solid friend as well with her direct and outspoken advice and support. But my favorite supporting character was Coach Stiles who really handed Ren his ass at the beginning (way to go, coach!) and becomes a wonderful mentor and matchmaker.
This was such a captivating story, to see a cocky asshole finally meet his match and discover all the good things a healthy loving relationship holds… it did my heart SO good. If you like steamy and funny friends-to-lovers stories, then I have no doubt you will love meeting Ren and Poppy. I can’t wait to read more in this series.
Thank you to Ms. Neal for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.
The Hockey Gods Series:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Xavier Neal is a USA TODAY bestselling romance author who enjoys hopping from sub genre to sub-genre like a game of Hopscotch she can’t resist.
In between writing, she loves to read (everything from romance to self improvement books), watch movies (old and new), eat too much Tex-Mex (her Chuy’s t-shirt collection is out of control), and watch AHL hockey games LIVE (preferably against the glass whenever possible).
She currently resides happily in Texas with her bearded husband “Lumberjack”.