Ella Verran has three goals this semester: get off academic probation, repair her relationship with her friend Skylar, and take some responsibility for her life. All of which are hard enough without hot, snobby hockey player Ben Buckingham around to distract her. Ella can’t stand Ben, and she knows the feeling is mutual. But he’s best friends with Skylar’s boyfriend, so he’s always around—taunting and tempting Ella in ways she never thought possible.
As the star forward of the Bayard College hockey team, Ben has goals too, like playing well enough to land a spot on an NHL roster. Ben is perfectly poised on the ice, so why can’t he keep his cool around Ella? Her wild behavior rubs him in all the wrong ways—and a few of the right ones. But as they skate around each other, Ben learns that there’s more to Ella than her bad reputation. And when the line between love and hate starts to blur, he can’t resist crossing over and sweeping her off her feet.
Kelly Jamieson does it again! I loved book one in this series and eagerly looked forward to seeing Ella and Ben’s love/hate relationship play out. Though the book started slow, the last half was fantastic. The thing that sets Jamieson apart from other hockey romance writers is her knowledge of the game and how much she puts into showing readers the team dynamics. This is such a huge part of who an athlete is and so it’s a huge part of the character she’s writing about. She nails it every time.
Like the earlier book in this series, Cross Check deals with serious issues on college campuses. In Shut Out, we met Ella as she was partying her way through the current semester at Bayard as she dealt with her friend’s suicide. She became known as a party girl who liked to sleep around. A lot of Cross Check focuses on the double standard applied to young women who like to have sex and how they’re viewed. While Ella’s behavior was reckless and unhealthy because of her emotional state, being labeled a slut by her peers was even more damaging. As she seeks counseling, she learns to love herself, to stop judging herself and others, and to let go of the guilt she felt over her friend’s suicide. To a larger extent, Cross Check addresses the prevalence of depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety on college campuses. As I always find with Kelly Jamieson, she teaches her readers as much as she entertains them. (though sometimes this resulting in stilted narrative)
I did struggle initially with Ben and Ella as a couple. Ben’s a dick for at least the first 30% of the book and I had a tough time liking him. After a few weeks of supposed hate-filled chemistry, Ben and Ella give into their passion and, while I wouldn’t recommend this as a way to start a relationship, it’s the catalyst for them to connect emotionally. By the end I was definitely cheering for them and maybe shed a tear or two as their dreams came true.
My only real issue with Cross Check is one I’ve had before when reading books by Kelly Jamieson and that’s too much sex. I’m all for it when love scenes move the story forward (for instance there’s a wonderful scene that starts with a striptease that goes a long way in showing how comfortable Ella and Ben are together), but when it’s more gratuitous than not, I end up skipping pages.
Bonus moment: There’s a brief Chicago Aces cameo!!
4 stars for Cross Check. Heat level: 3.5
I received a copy of Cross Check from NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback.
Cross Check was published in July 2017 by Loveswept.