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…
*Blurb from Goodreads*
I adore my hockey books, and while I’ve enjoyed many that I’ve read in the past, Willoughby absolutely blew me away with this one. This may be my new favorite hockey romance, or at least it’s in the top 3!
Tim loves playing professional hockey. It was always his dream, and one incident with a fan almost ruined his career. He let his temper get the best of him, and now he is paying the price by being traded to a new team. Tim is determined to show his new team that he still has what it takes to play in the NHL, but running into the sexy Erin is throwing a wrench in his all hockey-all the time plans.
Erin is a nurse that has hopes of marrying one of the doctors she works with, when Tim comes to her rescue at an event, Erin is thankful and willing to go to the media to help with his image. Erin is attracted to Tim beyond belief, and the more time they spend together, the more her doctor starts to look like second best. But Tim and Erin both want to take different paths in the future. Can they commit knowing one person has to potentially give up a dream?
There was so much in this book that really worked for me. I loved the progression of the romance between Tim and Erin. They didn’t have a whole lot of drama or angst, and they built their relationship up steadily over the course of the entire book. There was no big fight, no big traumatic thing to pull them apart. The obstacles they encountered as a couple were big, but they handled it like mature adults, communicating and talking and working through their hopes and dreams and fears in a very realistic and wonderful way. The romance was probably one of the best I’ve read in awhile.
I thought Erin was a great heroine. She didn’t really know anything about hockey, but I loved the way she was willing to learn as she and Tim became more and more serious. I thought the way she handled her crush on the doctor was cute too. As much as she wanted to hold onto the idea of being with her doctor, she was also very realistic in looking at how wrong he was for her, and how right her relationship with Tim was.
I thought Tim was an amazing hero. Between the struggles he had dealing with his past, and the concerns he has about still being strong in a sport where he is getting to be one of the old guys, Tim came across as a larger-than-life but really down-to-earth guy. He had a great support system in his two best friends, and I hope we get to see more of them in books to come. I loved the way he threw himself into his relationship with Erin 100%, and wasn’t even able to see a future without her. It was super sweet and endearing and oh-so sexy.
All in all, I thought Willoughby’s first In the Zone book was absolutely incredible. The hero and heroine were both well developed characters that drew me in from the very start. The romance was so realistic and believable, and I loved the way these two built up from nothing to the solid relationship they had by the end. I can’t wait to see what Willoughby has in store next.
I give On the Surface an A-