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    Under the Spotlight

    Willoughby returns to the world of hockey with a muted flair that really allows the sport to shine through. Her descriptions and narrative bring the entire story to life while also creating a fun atmosphere to get to know the characters in. Hockey rules the day, but this novel is about so much more. Romance and life in general both make their way into this remarkable tale. I enjoy the fact that the story can be read as a standalone while also adding to the series as a whole. I enjoyed the rounded feel of the individual characters and of the cast as a whole. I found that the entire team was well represented without overshadowing the main characters. The contrast between the incoming and outgoing team members was fantastic. And the way that we get to know them in and outside of their careers gave a well-rounded feel to everything. This was definitely a fun hockey novel that brought the sport to life. Willoughby easily combines the sport with the people who live it in a way that everyone can enjoy. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
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    In the Zone!

    I was given an advanced copy of this book to write an honest review for Netgalley and Cocktails and Books. This is the fourth book in series and each book is a standalone about a different hockey player on the San Diego Barracudas. Joe Rutherford, a professional hockey player with the Barracudas meets Christine Caspary, a struggling actress when she contacts him about visiting a little girl in the hospital. There is an immediate attraction between Joe and Christine although their relationship develops slowly over time. Since their careers require so much travel, Joe and Christine rarely see each other for the first half of the book and they keep in touch with phone calls and texts. Christine is an aggressive and confident woman and she knows what she wants and goes after it. She works hard on her career and does not let anything get in her way of succeeding. On the other hand, even though Joe is a successful hockey player, he lacks confidence. Joe is a sweet guy and has many admirable qualities. What I admired the most about Joe was that he never weavers in feelings for Christine and also how he helps a rookie develop into a great player. Even though Joe isn’t enthusiastic about mentoring the rookie, it is sweet how he worries and gives so much of his time to the rookie. Joe has a strong bond with his teammates. In fact, my favorite parts of the book were the guys on the team and the camaraderie they shared. They love to play jokes on each other but always have each other’s backs. I really enjoyed the other books in this series and I was excited to read this book but something was missing in this one. I wish there was more conflict and excitement in the story and I had a hard time connecting with Joe and Christine. I always enjoy stories about hot athletes and Kate Willoughby writes a sweet hockey romance and I look forward to reading the next book in this series.
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    Two stars shine together!

    Christine is a stage actress, on the cusp of making the big break onto a cable tv series (the kind with lots of sex and violence). She's involved in a children's charity, Grant A Wish, and one of the young girls she meets happens to have a serious crush on Joe, a hockey player for the local Barracudas team. When she contacts him through their agents to see if Joe would be interested in helping out with the organization, Joe is quite happy to oblige - especially because Christine is an actress he's seen and admired on stage, and the chance to meet her in person leaves him a little bit awestruck. He's a celebrity in his own right of course, but one who's starting to lose his appeal as his hockey career is on the waning edge. As Christine and Joe connect, their changing fortunes impact their burgeoning relationship. Will their shared experiences keep them together or will the wave of the future break them apart? What an enjoyable story! I found it to be a very steady paced and interesting read, with lots of well researched parts about both Joe and Christine's careers. As a stage actress, Christine knows the move to TV is one that can make or break her future, and also one that will change per public persona (for better or worse). But she's willing to take the risks with the paparazzi for the commercial success that she's been gunning for, for several years. I liked all of the scenes describing her experiences behind the stage, and with the auditioning process and so on for the tv show. Christine came across as a smart, confident and sexy woman. Joe too is no stranger to the public eye. As an accomplished hockey player, he's been on a winning and losing team and seen the fallouts from both. He's a determined, strong man - but he's also smart enough to know that his career is winding down, and he doesn't have the stamina that he used to. There are several scenes describing on ice action (the hockey kind! I know what you were thinking!) and Joe is also a mentor for an up and coming player, so we see some scenes detailing the kind of struggles new players to the game have as well. Lots of bromance too, with Joe's hockey teammates having an important role in the story. Joe and Christine connect from the start, and share several very steamy scenes, as Christine isn't shy detailing what she wants and Joe is more than happy to deliver. But the sex isn't enough to keep things going, as they encounter the long distance reality of him playing for a successful hockey team and Christine having to travel to where the work is for her acting career. On top of that, Joe struggles with the reality of the sex scenes that are in Christine's scripts, and how his past relationship (that included a cheating ex who bared all to the public) affects his current one is part of their problems to overcome. Of course they eventually get past all the conflicts that bar their way, and we get a wonderful happy ending for the couple. I'm looking forward to catching up on the series and hearing more about the Barracudas team! 4 stars.
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