James Steels is determined to win back the love of his life, and he’ll do anything to prove that his wife and daughter mean more to him than the game.
What’s it About?
A second chance may be just what James Steele needs…
I might be one of the older players on the Arizona Vengeance, but I like to think that also makes me one of the wisest. Or at least I used to.
Turns out, I’ve been a bit selfish. I’ve been married to hockey and my team for years, which hasn’t left much time for my actual wife, Ella. Now I’m juggling a separation I never wanted, the pressure of being a single dad to our teenage daughter, and the career I sacrificed it all for.
While my game on the ice might be on fire, the game in my personal life is clearly lacking, as evidenced by the fact I just saw my wife on a date with another man. If I have any hope of saving the family I love, I need to re-prioritize, and fast. So it’s time for me to get back to fundamentals, just like I did when I learned how to play hockey. I’ve never backed down from a challenge, and romancing my wife is a challenge I am very much looking forward to.
Time to put on my game face, because I’m in it to win it.
Steele and Ella are unlike any couple we’ve come across in the Arizona Vengeance series to date, as they’ve already found their happily ever after with each other. After years of what seemed to be a blissfully happy marriage, Steele feels blindsided when his loving wife suddenly asks for a separation. After all, they get along, rarely fight, and regularly have sexy fun times together. What could possibly be the problem? We were initially introduced to James Steele in the previous book as he was just going through the motions like a zombie following the separation from Ella. It is only after she starts seeing someone else that Steele gets the kick in the pants he needs to officially make things right. He’s honored her wishes to stay away this long, and now it’s time to face the music by facing his own previous behavior in their marriage.
The bulk of this novel is spent looking back at where things went wrong, and with that realization trying to figure out how he might win back the love of his life. It was interesting to see that a decent majority of this book is told from Steele’s point of view. While every installment in this series provides alternating points of view between the hero and heroine (and this ninth book is no exception), we’re either typically presented with a fairly even split between the two, or the female voice will often take the lead as the primary focus of the narration. With this book it was imperative that we see things mainly from Steele’s viewpoint to demonstrate that he’s not just in this to gain the upper-hand due to a bout of jealousy at seeing his wife with another man, but rather that he’s genuinely dedicated to making things right with Ella. We see him learn and grow throughout the entirety of the novel to the point where we can truly believe he’s changed for the better.
Meeting Her Needs
Something I particularly enjoyed about this retrospective look at their marriage was the fact that neither Steele nor Ella ever acted in a way that was irredeemable, outlandish, or even truly offensive. There was no cheating here, no childish name calling or physical violence. It was just the reality of life interfering with love. We can completely sympathize with Ella’s decision to take a step back from a relationship where her emotional needs weren’t being met, just as we can understand how easy it would have been for Steele’s professional hockey career to take over every aspect of his life to the detriment of his wife and daughter’s happiness. Steele was blindsided by her request for a separation because he was blind to the fact that he wasn’t giving her the attention she deserved when he was off the ice. She understood that the very nature of his career would result in days and nights on the road, as well as missed experiences and celebrations.
The problem was during those times when he could have been home with them all as a family, but instead he chose to spend even more time with the game or his teammates. The defining feature of their separation was his inability to meet her emotional needs, not physical. Sexual chemistry was never an issue for these two. In fact, they’d enjoyed a good romp in bed in the lead-up to their separation. It would have been such an easy fallback for Steele to remind Ella of their physical connection as a way to win her over, but they can both appreciate the fact that there’s a deeper issue at play that must be rectified if their relationship is going to survive in the long-term. We essentially have to wait until the half-way point in the novel before Steele decides there’s no harm in bringing the physical element back into play as a subset of his case for why she should give him a second chance. And let’s just say she is more than happy to consider the evidence he brings forth.
Series: Arizona Vengeance, book 9. Most of the books in the series can be read as stand-alones, though they do typically reference some of the couples and events from previous novels. In this case though, I would say it’s pretty important that you read book 8 in the series, as that is when we first see Steele decide to take action towards getting his wife back.
Would I befriend the heroine? In looking back on this read, I can’t say we learn enough about Ella for me to make an informed decision here. I don’t really have a clear sense of her likes, dislikes, or how she enjoys spending her free time, so I’m kind of at a loss over whether or not we’d have any shared interests.
Would I date the hero? If I were in Ella’s shoes I would definitely take him back. That being said, I’m not sure I would have fallen for this guy from the get-go. After all, he primarily eats…dare I say it? Healthy food.
Final Impressions: As with most of the books in this series, we’re dealing with a fairly low-angst read, which makes it a great carry-on for your next beach vacation. It happens almost every time in this series where just when I start to question the fact that everything is almost going along too swimmingly for our lead characters, a wrench will be thrown into the mix to knock the socks off our couple. It’s not too hard to guess what the issue would be with this read, as Steele is ultimately faced with a choice between spending time with Ella or further elevating his hockey career. His thought process and ultimate decision, as well as Ella’s reaction, was quite interesting to see play out. Overall it’s a fine read, though a noticeable absence from the book as a whole was the sense of team camaraderie that has permeated this entire series. The members of this hockey team are like brothers, and it was kind of disappointing that we didn’t get to see them interact with and support each other more. That being said, considering the time Steele spent with the team was one of the key issues leading up to Ella’s request for a separation, it’s not too surprising that he would put them on the back-burner for the bulk of the novel.
Smut Level: These two weren’t kidding, sex was never an issue between them. The chemistry is still there after years of marriage, as well as a short-term separation. We get a few hints at some of the more sultry sexcapades they used to get up to back in the day, and they certainly engage in some steamy fun times at this point in their lives as well.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. Big Dog Books, LLC. 268 Pages.