Review: Falling for the Backup by Toni Aleo

 

Title: Falling for the Backup

Author: Toni Aleo

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

After serving as a dutiful bridesmaid in the wedding from hell, Aynslee Shaw just wants to slink home to Nashville and forget the whole trip. That is, until the hottest guy she’s ever seen is seated next to her on the flight and dazzles her with his easy laugh and killer smile. But just when she thinks things are getting good, he vanishes, leaving Aynslee wondering, was that guy the one? And did she just let him slip through her fingers?
Former superstar goalie Jordan Ryan is back on the ice—finally. After a crippling knee injury that had him wondering if he’d ever play pro hockey again, he’s got his full attention on rebuilding his career. So a pretty—okay, beautiful—girl on a plane shouldn’t be a distraction. But Jordan is very, very distracted. And when Aynslee crosses his path again, he’s not sure any job in the world is worth missing his second chance with a woman like her.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from the Loveswept title Empty Net.


Review:

This novella did not work for me, and judging from the ratings on GoodReads, I am definitely in the minority in regards to this title.  I wanted to read Falling for the Backup because it’s a sport romance with hockey, and I love hockey.  How can I not? I’m from Detroit, and hockey is in our blood.  What else is there to look forward to in the middle of the long, dreary winters?  Why, the battle for the Stanley Cup is about all that keeps us from falling into a bleak, seasonal depression.

Jordan Ryan is a goalie for the Assassins, but after an injury that almost ended his career, he’s gone from superstar to backup.  Frustrated with his life, he’s watched his career go down the toilet, his fiancée left him when he was at his most vulnerable, and now he’s warming the bench for a hotshot youngster who’s taken his position, as well as the all of the glory that goes with it.  Desperate to play again, he’s shopping himself around the league with his father’s help.  His father is his agent, and he’s adamant that Jordan stay on the straight and narrow and that he doesn’t do anything to jeopardize a contract offer from another team.  Easy enough.  Jordan’s only interest in life is getting back on the ice full-time.

Until he meets Aynslee on a flight home to Nashville.  After he accidentally dumps a cup of coffee on her dress, Aynslee can’t keep her eyes, or her mind, off of Jordan.  She thinks they have a connection, but after disembarking, he takes off with a curt good-bye.  No phone numbers are exchanged, and Aynslee is confused.  And disappointed.  How could the most breathtaking guy she’d ever seen take off without even getting her number.  Ugh!

When they continue to bump into each other, Jordan finally gives in and allows Aynslee to sweep him off his feet.  The timing stinks because he’ll be leaving town once he signs with a new team, but he lets her know up front that they aren’t, and can’t be, a long term thing.  Aynslee goes along, willing to put her worries about their breakup in the back of her mind.  She’s sure that Jordan will change his mind and that they will figure out a way to stay together.

Why didn’t this work for me?  Because Jordan and Aynslee are obviously meant to be together, but Jordan is too caught up in himself to even think of asking Aynslee to go with him to his new team.  He’s convinced himself, without asking her, that she’s got a perfect life, with perfect friends, in Nashville, and that she would never consider moving.  This just frustrated me, because after dismissing a long distance relationship because they never work out, he is resigned instead to breaking up with the love of his life and moving off to reestablish his glory on the ice.  Aynslee isn’t much better, because she can’t seem to discuss their impending breakup, either.  She’s just content with the way things are, and she has faith that things will work out, without any effort on her part.

The other aspect of the novella that bothered me was that both characters acted too young for their ages.  Jordan is in his early thirties, but his behavior was closer to a guy in his early twenties.  Sure, his confidence has taken a few knocks after losing his starting position and after getting dumped by his girlfriend, but it was like he reverted to a much younger version of himself, and I just couldn’t buy into that. 

This is a quick, steamy read, and you can get beyond the contrived conflict, it will make a great beach read.

Grade:  C-

Review copy provided by publisher