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4.6 out of 5
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  • deeply emotional, sexy romance

    This emotionally charged romance is the story of Scott and Rachel. Meeting at the wedding of Scott's hockey teammate who happens to be a good friend of Rachel's brother Rock, there is a spark of attraction between them that sets things in motion, even as they both know that Rachel is only in town for a week on holiday and that this can just be a temporary fling. But when Scott takes the brave step of opening up about his drug dependency, Rachel is in a unique position to help him, with hopes that there is the possibility of something more permanent in the works. With so much on the line and Scott's hockey career in jeopardy, will the steps Scott takes bring him and Rachel closer together or ultimately push them apart? In my mind, a successful author needs to be able to really get into the heart and mind of a character and examine everything from their standpoint - how they feel, how they react, what their needs and desires are. This deep point of view isn't easy to achieve and takes skill and practice. Ms. Aicher has accomplished this in spades with this story about Scott and the reality of a hockey player on the edge. He's had a knee injury that is no longer treatable in any manner except drugs, he's at the end of his contract's lifetime, and he's getting old in hockey playing years. Yet, he's not willing to give up his sole reason for being just yet. He's made past decisions, unwise ones, that have started to haunt him. Reality is a slapshot in the face as Scott faces the crossroads of his future. Enter Rachel. A warm, friendly, loving woman who sees the man Scott is (or at least, the parts he wants to share) - funny, caring, strong, dependable. He makes spending time with him fun and sexy and everything she could possibly want in a man. Just being with him stirs her senses. Their love scenes are steamy and passionate (but also come with some surprises). As Scott realizes that what he wants with Rachel is more than a week long fling, he must take a hard look at his life and comes to the conclusion that to make things more than temporary, he'll have to come clean - in more ways than one. Trusting her with his secret vice takes more courage than he ever thought he had, especially when it first must come with the realization that he has a problem. I really loved the way Scott's whole being was presented to the reader - his self discovery of his addiction was a huge part of the story and the ups and downs he goes through as a result were equally heartbreaking and eventually hopeful. Though we also get to see things through Rachel's eyes, it is Scott's that really tell the tale. The other interesting thing about this story was that unlike the first in the series, Game Play, which featured a lot of on ice action, this one was about hockey behind the scenes. Agents, coaches, up and coming players, team dynamics, politics, money - the backbone of the sport is laid bare in all its ugly truths. I found this to be quite fascinating, a real behind the scenes look at what goes on in the off season and how the drive to succeed for some players (like Scott) can overshadow the health and welfare of the players. Scott's teammates play an important role in the story as he is reminded that his decisions ultimately affect his friends and family too. This was a sexy, deeply emotional and well told story of a man, his demons, and the woman who is willing to stand by his side. 5 stars.

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  • not just a sports romance

    Once again I’ve joined a series in the middle – although technically this time I actually joined two series in the middle because there are characters from Aicher’s Power Play series and her Wicked Play series. Not having any familiarity with either series I can’t be sure but I don’t think that it impacted anything at all. There were some references to things that happened with earlier stories but enough details were given that I figured things out (but not too much to bore returning readers). I love an author who understands how to make that work for everyone. You might think that this is just another sports romance but you would be so very wrong. Back in Play is definitely a rollercoaster of emotions. We get the high of that initial attraction and lust, but Scott is hiding some pretty big secrets. My heart aches for everything he’s trying to juggle and keep hidden. It is easy to see how it spiraled so far beyond his control. Aicher details very well the complexity and depth of his addiction, how it has infiltrated so much of his life, the impact it has had on him and how so very close he is to losing it all. Rachel does an amazing job of keeping things together when Scott starts to let it all out. She’s very strong but she does have a few hang-ups of her own that start to impact things. Throw in all of Scott’s and it’s a rough ride to a HEA. But it is a ride that is worth taking. I realized what an amazing author Aicher is by how quickly I flew through the book, understanding where both of the main characters were coming from when things go sideways on them, and having the ending be so very satisfying. If the rest of her books are anything like this, I’m going to have a lot more reading to do soon. (Complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review)

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