Home Game by Odette Stone
Home Game is the second book in The Vancouver Wolves Hockey Series. The books are stand-alones so it didn’t matter at all that I hadn’t read the first one.
It’s a super-cute romance featuring Zoey, a homeless former fosterkid, and Ryan, an NHL star. And one thing that’s fabulous about this read is that despite the story outline, it’s actually not a cinderella story.
The story starts with a fluke meeting between Zoey and Ryan where Zoey ends up helping Ryan out. Later, when Zoey is attacked and hospitalized, it’s Ryan’s turn to help Zoey. What starts as akward and apprehensive interactions between strangers in time evolves into a tentative friendship. And it’s a good long while before any romantic feelings enter the equation. It’s refreshing and real. I think it’s annoying as all hell with characters that starts to pant after each other with only one look. In Home Game the affection between Zoey and Ryan grows slowly. Zoey is skittish and cautious after living on the streets and Ryan keeps his distance as not to spook her. The portrayal of their budding relationship is simply terrific.
And it’s not only the lovestory that’s great, but there are several side-stories and great secondary characters. There’s a former foster-dad of Zoey’s who is stalking her. There’s a bitchy personal assisstant of Ryan’s who tries everything to get rid of Zoey. There’s a rival hockey player trying to compete for Zoey’s feelings. And of course, there’s plenty of sexual tension.
I got really caught up in this book. It surprised me in the best way. Of course, very few romance books are entirely cliché free, but Home Game managed to put a new spin on the good old rich-guy-meets-poor-girl trope. Sure, there’s an immense difference between Zoey’s and Ryan’s circumstances, and sure, the fact that Ryan has boatloads of money doesn’t hurt. But in the end this isn’t a story about a rich dude saving a poor, defenseless woman. Because Zoey saves herself. In more ways than one. I won’t deny that there’s some cave-manning going on at times, but that’s sort of a pre-requisite within the genre. Also, it’s hot. But the bottom line is that Zoey is a really strong and self-sufficient woman and that’s awesome. She doesn’t need Ryan. She chooses him. And that’s lovely.
The only thing that brought down this read was the completely unnecessary and improbable innocence of Zoey when it came to sex. Really, I understand the importance of creating a character that isn’t too hardened by her up-bringing and street-life. But in a few of the scenes she bordered on Victorian virgin territory. Quite superfluous.
Anyway. This might be the first book by Odette Stone that I’ve read, but it will certainly not be the last. I’m just contemplating whether I should get the first book in the series next, or if I should go for number three that features Ryan’s buddy Mica.