Joint Review – Under The Lights by Shannon Stacey

cover_under-the-lightsPublisher: Jove/Berkley
Where did you get the book: e-ARC from publisher
Reviewed by MinnChica, E, and Lou
Release date: Out now

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Kowalski Family novels, a sweet, sexy new series about taking hits, making second chances, and finding love…

They were the golden boys of fall: Stewart Mills High School’s legendary championship winning football team. Fourteen years later, they’re back to relive their glory, save the team—and find themselves again…

Chase Sanders’s life has taken a lot of crazy turns lately. But returning to his hometown to help his old coach keep his high school football team afloat might be the craziest thing to happen to him yet. That is, until he starts falling for the last person he should—Coach’s gorgeous daughter…

Kelly McDonnell learned the hard way that cocky, charming men are nothing but trouble, so she knows Chase is bad news. Still, she can’t resist his smile—or the rest of him. But when his loyalty to her father conflicts with their growing attraction, any hope for a relationship might be blocked before it can even begin…
*blurb taken from Goodreads*

Thoughts on Hero

MinnChica: I really liked Chase. He wasn’t what I was expecting when I picked up this sports romance book, but I have to say I ended up loving him. I thought it was so neat that Stacey twisted the sports hero on his head and made him older, a little out of shape, and nothing like the current sports heroes we see all over the genre today. It was refreshing and hilarious and so adorable. I also felt for Chase because although he had really made something out of his life, he hit a rough patch. Add in the small town nature, and he was subject to speculation and gossip that just didn’t help him get his feet under him. But I adored him nonetheless.

Lou: Chase Sander’s was such a refreshing hero. I loved that Shannon Stacey created a hero who was down on his luck (really, really down on his luck, the poor guy) financially and emotionally and he still wasn’t sure of how he was going to figure out his life after his business partner screwed him over, and his girlfriend leaving him for another man. That’s a lot of baggage to carry and yet when Kelly called Chase and asked him (she played emotional hardball *grins*) to help out his former Coach and high-school football team, he said yes. Chase was such a good guy because even though his life was in a mess, he returned home to help out the one man who got him through high-school. Chase understood his life was very unsettled, which is why he knew he couldn’t offer Kelly anything more than a fling.

E: Chase was having a seriously horrible moment in life when it seemed as if anything that could go wrong did. From his personal to his professional life so when the daughter of his High School Coach called asking for help saving the football team he was both stressed and relieved. Going back to his hometown brought back a mixture of good and bad memories along with the realization that Coach’s daughter was all grown up and sending signals he really should ignore. I enjoyed how torn he was between feeling guilty or shamed and being happy because it made him seem more of a complete character. His antics with his old teammates and how he tried to hide his attraction to Kelly seemed like he was in a sense able to momentarily return to a more carefree innocent life. I do have to say watching him relax as the story progressed made the “dark” moment that much darker. However, watching him fix things was touching.

Thoughts on Heroine

MinnChica: Kelly was another refreshing aspect of the story. Again, Stacey flipped the gender norms and had the daughter of the football coach/town hero be a police officer. =) I loved that. She cared deeply for the town and the people in it, especially the kids, and she went out of her way to make sure that no child fell behind, was lost in the cracks, or felt unsafe. She was dedicated to her job, her town, her family, and I loved that she was so conscious of that. She realized that people looked up to her, and she felt an obligation to live up to that. When she decided to say eff it and hook up with Chase, I loved her all the more for it!

Lou: I loved Officer Kelly McDonnell. Again, Shannon Stacey created a heroine that’s not the usual picture perfect type heroine. Chase and Kelly came across as people you could relate to, especially with the town’s financial hardship hitting many families which is happening to so many people in real life. Kelly was compassionate and she really cared about her town and the people. She felt she had a big responsibility and with Chase’s cheesy and flirty lines aimed her way, she didn’t allow him to woo her until she was good and ready. Kelly also had to deal with having the legacy of being Coach’s daughter. She wanted people to see her as an individual, and I think she got that with Chase, despite his worries about her being the Coach’s daughter.

E: Kelly, Coach’s daughter had grown up, left her hometown, and returned after some unpleasant experiences to become a member of the local police force. Unfortunately, the economic depressing was taking a serious toll on the town to the extent the school board was forced to choose between academics and athletics. Athletics and the threat of not making/staying on the team were the only thing which kept some of the teens in school and out of trouble so losing athletics in a sense meant losing them. She could see first hand the damage caused by poor economics and the impact of the athletic cuts so she was willing to do whatever she could to keep them in the school including inviting her unrequited crush back to town. Like Chase, Kelly had regrets and insecurities from her past along with the heavy responsibility of living in the public’s eye and prominently figuring in the drive to save the school athletic program. She was a lot of fun to get to know.

Favorite Scene

MinnChica: There were so many good ones, not sure I can choose. Although it was super early in the story, I loved when Kelly first pulled Chase over for running a stop sign. He was cheesy, trying to flirt his way out of a ticket, and she was trying so hard not to both laugh in his face and melt at his feet. It was adorable. Then, given the fact that almost every other guy back in town for the game ran the same stop sign, well, I loved it!

Lou: When Kelly caught Chase, Alex, and Sam breaking into the high-school after a few too many beers was pretty hilarious. There is a lot of humour in this book that got me right on the funny bone. Another favourite scene of mine was the “old-team” practicing football and the guys releasing good naturedly they had no chance in hell of beating a bunch of teenagers. Lots of bromance going on which I loved.

E: I think my favorite scene involved the dunking tank. It really exhibited both the small town flavor in friendship and camaraderie as well as grudges. And the post dunking tank scene certainly made up for the chilly water **wink.**

Anything that didn’t work

MinnChica: For me, the book felt like it was a little slow in the beginning. I don’t know if my expectations of “sports romance” had me panting for some actual sports stuff, or what. Either way, it took me a few chapters to really become fully invested in the characters and world.

Lou: There’s not anything I disliked. I did find the beginning to be somewhat slow and the ending a little abrupt but it didn’t take away my enjoyment of the book.

E: I think I only had a single niggle which I am sure Stacey will address in future stories. Several of the other “Boys of Fall” had some negative childhood histories, which were hinted at but not really explained. While I liked how they didn’t take over the story, my curiosity wasn’t satiated by just a taste, I wanted to know everything. Otherwise I can’t complain.

Overall thoughts/Grade

MinnChica: All in all, I adored this first book in a new series. I loved that Stacey really took everything I know and love about sports romance and flipped it on it’s head. This was more small-town contemporary romance than anything else, and I adored the small town. The characters were great, the town was wonderful, and I’m so anxious to read more!
I give Under the Lights a B+

Lou: Under the Lights was a super fun read with lots of small-town problems that really touched my heart, especially the kids feeling they had no future. It was very community orientated based on friendships and I loved the romance between Chase and Kelly, though I wanted more heat time between them. I can’t wait to read the next book with Gretchen and Alex!

I give Under the Lights a B+

E: I have seen MinnChica rave over the Kowalski Family series but for some obviously illogical reason I never picked up one of Stacey’s novels, so I think this is the first non-holiday story by Stacey I have read. Something I seriously need to rectify given how much I enjoyed Under the Lights. She took a few of my favorite tropes by combining the forbidden interest meeting high school crush and discovering they were incendiary together along with the nosey neighbors, appearances to be kept up, and respected parental/authority figures. On a couple of different occasions, I found myself giggling out in public while I was reading.

I really enjoyed watching Chase and Kelly get to know each other as adults who still had a fear of getting caught by those they grew up respecting. They were forced to work together and stay in close proximity as they prepared for the different fundraising events. Their friends also added to my enjoyment with their teasing, encouraging, and the rekindling of old mischievous bonds. As a result I certainly plan on picking more more of Stacey’s work.
I give Under the Lights a B.


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