Out of the Game (In the Zone #3) by Kate Willoughby

I was very surprised by the emotional depth of this particular book. In the first two book of the In the Zone series, there was a very strong emotional core of every book, but this book in particular struck me as very strong.

The story follows Alex, the resident playboy of the Barracudas team and how he comes to terms with having an actual relationship. His growth and development through the book absolutely fascinated me. His love interest is Claire, the sister of the love interest in On the Surface. Claire is recovering from a bad divorce of her ten year marriage that happened at the end of On the Surface. Her healing and getting back in to dating is good to read about as well, but I think Alex was by far the more interesting character. There is the normal hassling he receives from his teammates, running in to exes, and learning to share his life with another person. He is also dealing with issues from his past that really make you feel for him and hope he makes things work with Claire. It was fun, though, to see Claire grow into being a strong hockey girlfriend and learn to spread her wings after her divorce. She even organizes a fundraising event I though was awesome. You also get a better feel for the team dynamics in this book. It is interesting to get to know the other players a little better. I am hoping some of the others get a book soon. Hart and Jeremy also play a minor role in this book which was nice to see, but they are more prominent in Across the Line.

Like the other books, there is a lot of hockey in it which is nice for fans. Granted, it’s not a huge lot, as it is a novella, but it is definitely a part of the story and it is integrated beautifully. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for an intense, beautiful read for a day. It can be read as a stand-alone, but I would recommend reading On the Surface first. There are a few things you learn in it that makes things in this book a little more clear. This book parallels with the second book Across the Line. The story lines are occurring at the same time. It is definitely a good romance without tripping over into erotic, which is great for a romance novella. It is even hard for me to classify this as a novella as it is a rather long one, which I thoroughly appreciated with the strong development of the story.

My rating:

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Across the Line (In the Zone #2) by Kate Willoughby

This is the second book in the In the Zone series. Like the first book, there is a lot of reference to and descriptions of hockey in it, which is nice for the fans.

The story follows Calder Griffin and Becca Chen. Calder is one of the enforcer type players that stay in the background on the ice, supporting the runs of the headliners to the goal. He is constantly trying not to be compared to his older brother Hart and found lacking. The story line covers the brothers reunion and changes in their relationship as the story develops. Becca Chen is a cafe owner in Boston. She comes from an Old World Chinese home where she has angered her parents by not following their idea of her life, having planned on her being a doctor. They happen to meet by chance on an airplane and they slowly begin to develop a cross-country relationship. The story primarily focuses on Calder and how he deals with shifting into his first real relationship in a long while and his confusing relationship with his brother.

I liked the story line. It had some general aspects, but the author developed them in a good way. The couple has its share of fights and making-up, but like the other books in the series, this is not an erotica novella. Calder and Becca fight over the same things that most couples fight over, which made the story more realistic and interesting. I particularly liked how the author helped develop Becca near the end of the book. Also, the side story of Hart is done extremely well. I hope he has his own story in the future. Another good read, by Willoughby. I would recommend this to romance and hockey fans.

My rating:

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On the Surface (In the Zone #1) by Kate Willoughby

This book popped up on one of the Twitter feeds I follow the other day as being a “Good Read on Sale” for $.99 in the Kindle store so I picked it up since I was looking for a simple read for the night. I was quite impressed with it. I thought it was a fairly original story line and done quite well.

The story follows a seasoned hockey player (Tim) as he works to remake his image in the league. He happens to meet a local nurse (Erin) by accident at a signing event, and the story unfolds. I don’t want to give too much away, but there are a lot of emotional highs and lows in the book relating to past and how each character deals with it. They really pull at your heart strings. I was absorbed while I read it. The characters are developed extremely well and go through a wonderful development of a relationship. There was also quite a bit of hockey bits and pieces here and there, which I liked being a rather novice hockey fan (I am in no way a hard-core fan LOL but I am learning to love the game). It gives a great impression of what a player’s life is like and the glimpse into that world is as fascinating as the growing relationship between the couple. There are some steamy sex scenes, but they definitely do not rule the book. The story grows and develops focused on the characters, not the sex. I am hoping in the following books, we will interact with Tim and Erin again in the future to see how they continue on and grow.

I found this to be a surprisingly good novella. This is an adorable read for anyone who likes hockey, or a good, fairly original romance. I will probably be reading it again, which definitely is saying something.

My rating:

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