On the Surface (In the Zone, #1) by Kate Willoughby
Narrator: Dee J. Adams
Series: In the Zone #1
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: April 14, 2014
Format: Audiobook, eARC
Source: Purchased, NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Length: 10 hours and 2 minutes
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NHL player Tim Hollander lost his temper one time and threw a water bottle at an abusive fan. After "Bottlegate," he's traded to the San Diego Barracudas, where he'll need to keep the bad publicity to a minimum while proving he can still compete with the younger guys on the ice.
Erin Collier is a pediatric nurse who's never seen a hockey game, but gets in line for Tim's autograph at a PR event in hopes of impressing the doctor she has a crush on. When an obnoxious fan gets pushy toward Erin, Tim rushes to defend the pretty stranger, throwing a punch in the process.
Grateful for the rescue, Erin agrees to stand by Tim during the resulting press conference and host him at a hospital charity event. Their chemistry is palpable, and soon their lives are intertwined. But Erin doubts a hockey player is capable of anything resembling a real relationship. And if Tim can't get her to see beyond what's on the surface, they'll never last longer than a single season…
I requested this book from NetGalley back in 2014 because it’s a hockey book and I love hockey romances. Then I left it languishing for all these years. I’m trying to make a dent in my TBR pile, so I bought the audiobook for my commute. This was a sweet contemporary romance featuring a hockey player and a nurse.
Tim Hollander is nearing the end of his prime in the NHL. After an unfortunate incident with a water bottle, he’s been traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the San Diego Barracudas. After some initial frustration over the move, he decides to look at this as a fresh start. He puts his all into training and settling into his place on his new team. When a fan gets physical with a woman at his first signing event, Tim doesn’t hesitate to take the guy out. Even though it was the right thing to do, the Barracudas’ PR department isn’t happy that he’s already making trouble. They ask the woman, Erin, if she’d be willing to do a press conference to support Tim.
Erin Collier isn’t interested in hockey at all, but the doctor she’s crushing on at work is. When she sees some players signing gear outside her favorite lunch place, she figures she’ll get in good with the Doc by bringing him a signed hat. When the jerk in front of her starts making trouble and talking smack, she can’t help but call him out. She never expected him to push her down, or for sexy Tim Hollander to come to her rescue. She’s happy to help him out at the press conference. When he develops food poisoning shortly thereafter, she can’t leave him alone. They end up becoming friends and spending a lot of time together. Tim wants more from her, but Erin isn’t sure she’s interested in a relationship.
I really loved the first half of this book. The hero was super adorable and I loved how into the heroine he was. He was just an all around stand up guy. He didn’t play games or present himself to be something he wasn’t. He was just a dude who plays hockey. I loved him. The meet cute between him and the heroine was kind of fun, and I really liked watching them get to know each other.
Toward the middle of the book I started to get kind of anxious about the final conflict, then a little impatient for it. Toward the 3/4 mark the book fell apart. The angst of “I don’t want kids/Oh no, I do” was frustrating. Part of this may be my own personal feelings on the matter (WHY MUST EVERY COUPLE IN ROMANCE HAVE KIDS OT BE HAPPY!??!), but I was so ready for it to end. I wish the kids conflict hadn’t existed.
The hero was sweet and I enjoyed the romance, but that kid thing really killed a lot of my enjoyment.
Had that part been removed, I’d probably give this a 4.25. As it is, I have to give it:
3 out of 5