Cross-Checking is the debut novel of Evie Graham and the first book in the Lilac Harbor series. It’s a sweet, second chance romance and – as you may guess from the title – it has a bit of a hockey theme.
The story’s about hockey player Camden Locke and his College sweetheart Coraline, Cora for short. The book kicks off with Camden deciding to go back home for the summer to win back the girl he left behind ten years earlier. But Cora isn’t at all prepared to face Camden again. She still has feelings for him but she also holds on to a tragic secret that she’s convinced Camden will never forgive.
This is a pretty great debut. But as love stories go, it was a bit too much on the sweet side for me. However, it still had me crying a fair amount, and readers should be aware that the story contains triggers for some.
Camden’s character was utterly sweet. An absolute dream boyfriend and instantly likable. Cora though…. I had trouble with her. I’m sorry to say that I just couldn’t bring myself to like her. Maybe I’m being harsh, but I perceived her as pretty mean and selfish. There was also an imbalance between the two main characters in that Camden was always the one putting his heart out there and Cora just took without giving anything back.
Also, there are a few telltale signs that this is Graham’s first book. For one, there’s way too little dialogue. Instead most of the story is told through the narrative of either Camden or Cora which makes their interactions appear a bit impersonal. And as a reader I’m not entirely convinced that they’ve actually gotten to know the older, more mature, versions of one another. It’s more like they both hang on to the memory of their teenage love and then ten years later decides to pick up where they left off.
Another thing testifying to Graham’s inexperience is the fact that there’s a bit of a redundancy in the storytelling. And the recollections, the sections telling about events ten years prior aren’t really adding something, aren’t always bringing the story forward. Instead, those parts more often than not just provides an elaborate background to a thought or statement from either of the MCs.
So, obviously, this wasn’t a story meant for me. I prefer less sugar, more conflict and more character development. But Cross-Checking is still a great debut, and I will definitely keep an eye out for Evie Graham’s future writing.