Review & Excerpt: Shot on Gold by Jaci Burton @Berkleyromance

May Contain Spoilers

This is the first Play-by-Play novel that I’ve picked up, and I was interested in it because of the backdrop of the international games. Even I knew that the Winter Olympics were looming when I started reading this, and even though I haven’t watched much of the Games since I was in high school, I still remember with fondness sitting in the family room and cheering on the home team with the family (how we all saw the action on that little screen, I’ll never fully comprehend). Two of my favorite events are represented here – hockey and figure skating. What could go wrong?

NFL hockey player Will “Mad Dog” Madigan is hyped for his second opportunity to play in the Winter Games. Last time he was a little casual about the partying and having a good time, but this time he’s going to savor the experience. He wants to play and represent the US and take home the gold. When he meets figure skater Amber Sloane, his interest is piqued.

Amber is at her third, and probably last, Winter Games. She is determined to win the gold medal that has eluded her in the past. Constantly under pressure from her mother to train harder, she’s overcome with a sense of freedom once she steps into the athletes’ village. Her mother and her hurtful nagging aren’t allowed inside, and Amber is going to loosen up and have some fun this year. She is going to make friends and mingle, and be a part of the whole experience, which she had missed out on in her previous Winter Games. When she meets Will, he seems like the answer to some of her prayers. They can have some no strings attached fun, and then go back to their lives when the Games are over.

I have a weird relationship with this book. When I would first pick it up after setting it down (to let the dogs out, to fix dinner, to go to work, whatever) I would have a really hard time getting back into the story. But once I had a chapter or two behind me, I was caught up in the book again. I don’t know if that’s because the past few weeks have been hard for me to become really engaged in anything other than buying more aquarium fixtures for my fish in Fishdom, or because parts of the story weren’t as interesting to me.

Amber kind of drove me nuts, but with her overprotective, shrew of a mother, I guess it’s understandable that she would have some issues. Her mother is awful to her, pushing her to do her best, to not eat because she’s looking a little heavy, to putting her skating career ahead of all else. When Amber, at 23 years of age, rebels against the constant pressure, her mother isn’t hesitant to threaten to withhold funding her skating as punishment for her behavior. So Amber, who isn’t a teenager, sort of acts like one because she has basically lived in the box her mother locked her in, expecting her to think only of skating and obey her every demand.

I had a hard time relating to Amber. At 23 I was already a homeowner. I worked two jobs and went to school, carrying a full course load. Amber has no source of income, is completely depend on her parents for every little thing, and, understandably, kowtows to her mother’s every demand. I wanted to fist pump when she finally dug her heels in and stood up for herself.

I found the backdrop of the Games very fun. It gave Will and Amber’s romance a fun setting. Amber’s roommate is a snowboarder, and as Amber lets down her guard and starts befriending other athletes, she gets more involved in the activity around her, instead of hanging out in her room during her time off the ice. Will also pulls her out of her shell, as their romance heats up and they start spending more and more time together. I enjoyed the feeling of camaraderie that developed between Amber and the other athletes, and that by the time the Games were over, she finally had some good friends she could rely on.

Not everything worked for me here, but unique setting and sexy hockey hero kept me entertained.

Grade: 3.25 stars


SHOT ON GOLD by Jaci Burton

“Yeah? What are your cravings?”

“Hmm, let’s see. Thick crust pizza with sausage and extra cheese. Lasagna. Chocolate chip cookies. Brownies. Oh, and cheeseburgers. I really love cheeseburgers. With onion rings.”

He laughed. “That’s a damn fine menu, Amber. Surely you can have some of those things at least once a week, right?”

“I get healthy proteins, like lean chicken and fish. Only when I finish a competition am I allowed to indulge.”

“Allowed? Come on, honey, you’re a grown-ass woman. You can make your own decisions.”

She looked down at her ice cream, suddenly losing her appetite for its creamy sinfulness. She pushed it aside. “I do make my own decisions. Like now. I’m full.”

Will looked over at her cup. “You barely ate two bites.”

“It doesn’t take much to fill me up.” Which was her mother’s mantra.

Eat half of what’s on your plate, Amber. You’re thin anyway, so you don’t need a lot of food.

Except she was always hungry, and drinking more water never filled her up.

“Yeah? Well I’m eating this entire cone and two scoops, which I know I’ll burn up on the ice. You should do the same.”

Will didn’t understand how hard it was for her to maintain the balance between strength and figure. But she did. She’d worked so hard, and nothing was going to derail her.

Not even the tempting chocolate raspberry ice cream that sat in front of her.

This had been a mistake. She should have never come here with Will. But since she had, she’d politely wait until he finished his ice cream and then she’d make her way back to her apartment.

“Would you like to taste mine?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No, I’m good.”

“So’s this mint chocolate chip. And I promise I don’t have germs.”

Oh, she’d love to put her mouth where he’d had his mouth. That wasn’t the issue at all. Just the thought of swirling her tongue where his tongue had been caused flames to lick along her nerve endings, making her wish they were outside where it was cooler.

“Do you like mint, Amber?” he asked.

“I do.”

He leaned forward, offering the cone. “Take a lick.”

She was going to self-combust if he kept talking to her that way.

“Okay.” She started to take the cone from him, but instead he wrapped his hand around hers and held the cone steady. She leaned forward and flicked her tongue over the top of the cone, watching the way his gaze was glued to her mouth, which only made her previous heated state grow more incendiary.

She sat back and pulled her hand from his. “It’s really good.”

“Yeah, it is really good,” he said, and Amber was certain he hadn’t been talking about the ice cream.

She’d been hit on by a lot of guys over the years, mainly at skating competitions, and especially at the international games. She’d ignored them all to focus only on her goal of winning. Never before had she been affected by flirting or guys coming on to her. She knew she’d be nothing more than a one-night stand, and she wasn’t much interested in being some guy’s forgettable bang.

But there was something about Will Madigan that intrigued her. He was hot, and had a magnificent body. She liked that they were compatible from a skating point of view, but she’d had attractive male figure skaters hit on her before and they had certainly been more compatible than Will, so what was the deal with this guy? Why him, other than she’d madly crushed on him four years ago when he’d never once even looked in her direction.

That was probably it. He’d noticed her tonight, and she felt vindicated. Plus, she was determined to live it up these games.

Though she was going to do it on her terms. She was going to be the one doing the choosing, and it was going to be on her timeline. When she was ready.

She wasn’t going to jump in the sack with the first guy on the first night.

Even if said guy was hot and sexy and had eyes that made her melt.

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

In the new Play-by-Play novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Final Score, opposites attract when a figure skater and hockey player lace up their skates–and go for the gold…
Will “Mad Dog” Madigan is making his second trip to the Winter Games, and he couldn’t be happier. Hockey is his life and playing for the U.S. team is a privilege. Then he meets U.S. figure skater Amber Sloane. She’s beautiful, ambitious and driven–everything Will desires in a woman. He would love to show Amber how hot life off the ice can be.
Amber has skated her entire life, sacrificing everything in the hopes of one day winning gold. Now she’s competing for the third and final time. She intends to win, and nothing’s going to get in her way–until she meets Will. He’s an irresistible charmer, and before long Amber is wondering if this sexy hockey player is the perfect guy to show her some moves outside the rink.
But after all the medals have been awarded, Will and Amber will have to decide if what they have together is just a fling or a real shot at true love.