Double Review: Shut Out and Cross Check (Books #1 and #2: Bayard Hockey Series) by Kelly Jamieson

Shut Out

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The Bayard College hockey team isn’t where Jacob Flass thought he’d be a season ago. He was a rising star in the Canadian major junior league, cruising toward a spot on an NHL roster—until a single disastrous night on the town brought it all crashing down. Now he’s out of options, except for playing well, studying hard, and staying away from girls. He’s not supposed to be flirting with the hottest, sweetest chick he’s ever met. But how could he possibly stay away?

Skylar Lynwood knows that Jacob is out of her league. She’s just trying to go with the flow, which isn’t easy when six feet and four inches of total hockey hunkiness is making a play for her one moment, then giving her the cold shoulder the next. Skylar’s head tells her that this rugged athlete isn’t worth her time, but her body says something altogether different. Risking her heart for Jacob may be the craziest thing she’s ever done . . . but she won’t let him shut her out.

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Source: Purchase          My Rating: 3½/5 stars

After an extremely rough year, Skylar Lynwood has resolved to do and be better.  Her grades are going to come up, her relationship with her best friend is going to be righted, her volunteer work is going to increase, and there will be no boys to distract from any of her resolutions.  Absolutely no boys! 

And then Fate giggled . . . .

Jacob Flass had one tremendously bad night which has landed him in the one place be never thought he’d be, college.  From the time he could skate, Jacob has been on the ice and has developed a deep and abiding love for hockey.  His talent has taken him to the brink of the NHL draft and if it weren’t for that one seriously awful night, he’d be well on his way to forging his future in the NHL.  To make matters far, far worse, Jacob’s stint in college has come with conditions and if he doesn’t meet those conditions and keep his nose clean, his chance at a hockey career will be permanently erased.  That means good grades, no partying, hard work on the ice, and absolutely no girls.

And then Fate giggled . . . .

To keep one another on track, Jacob and Skylar hatch a plan to fake date.  Once word gets out, the puck bunnies will leave Jacob alone and Skylar gets the benefit of a new friend.  On the surface, fake dating is super easy.  All you must do is convince others you’re a couple and that’s simple when you’re already incredibly attracted to one another.  Fake dating behind the scenes is far harder and keeping your feelings at bay is a tremendous effort.  For Jacob, he finds comfort in just being near Skylar and for Skylar, Jacob offers not only friendship, but the reawakening of feelings she thought gone after a horrifying event at the hands of her now dead friend.  It only takes a hot minute for all the lines to become blurred, the clothes to come off, and all the resolutions to be thrown out the window. 

It’s when the clothes come off and the lines become blurred that things go from good to great to ridiculously awful!  Friends with benefits/fake dating doesn’t really suit either Jacob or Skylar, but both are too afraid to share their true feelings and reveal all the secrets of their respective pasts.  Throw in an angry and vengeful best friend (Skylar’s!) and there is nothing to do, but wait for the inevitable train wreck to happen.  What no one counts on is both Skylar and Jacob’s resilience and their intense desire to overcome their obstacles and be together. 

The Bottom Line: Overall, I enjoyed most of this read, but found it to be a bit soap-boxy in some areas.  Skylar and Jacob are both solid characters I had no trouble getting behind and rooting for, but where I fell a bit off the Skylar-loving band wagon is any time beyond the first one or two times she preaches about the instances of rape and sexual abuse on college campuses.  Do NOT misunderstand me, this is a critical and timely topic, but the reader is a bit hit over the head with it too many times in this read.  Skylar’s position is made clear early on and reiterated with her volunteer work and activities.  She doesn’t need to talk about it at every turn and when coupled with Jacob’s own past, it just becomes a bit too much.  The point could have very much been made with a few less beatings of the dead horse.  With that being said, I liked nearly every other aspect of this read from the fake dating to real dating trope, the team of hot, sexy, funny, and intelligent hockey players, and the troubled roommates.  I can’t say I would recommend moving this book to the top of your TBR, but I wouldn’t ignore it either.  After all, there’s a whole team of hockey players . . . . .

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Cross Check

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Ella Verran has three goals this semester: get off academic probation, repair her relationship with her friend Skylar, and take some responsibility for her life. All of which are hard enough without hot, snobby hockey player Ben Buckingham around to distract her. Ella can’t stand Ben, and she knows the feeling is mutual. But he’s best friends with Skylar’s boyfriend, so he’s always around—taunting and tempting Ella in ways she never thought possible.

As the star forward of the Bayard College hockey team, Ben has goals too, like playing well enough to land a spot on an NHL roster. Ben is perfectly poised on the ice, so why can’t he keep his cool around Ella? Her wild behavior rubs him in all the wrong ways—and a few of the right ones. But as they skate around each other, Ben learns that there’s more to Ella than her bad reputation. And when the line between love and hate starts to blur, he can’t resist crossing over and sweeping her off her feet.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 3/5 stars

Round two of the Bayard Hockey series opens with Ella Verran, roommate to Skylar, current campus slut (or so the rumors say), enemy to the stunningly sexy Ben Buckingham, and a girl in desperate need of counseling.  Since the loss of her two best-friends, Ella has gone a bit off the rails and if she doesn’t right the ship soon, it’s going to be too late to come back from the mess she’s made of her life.

Ben Buckingham is a big man on campus, known for his snappy dressing (or not if you ask Jacob!), his mad hockey skills, and his love of the ladies.  Though he’s never hurting for attention, Ben isn’t an indiscriminate lover, just honest and up front and somewhat selective.  Though he finds Ella attractive, he knows her reputation, and has yet to have a civil encounter with her.  When they’re in close proximity to one another, it takes a whole millisecond before the sniping begins which makes the attraction Ben feels toward Ella all the more uncomfortable.  It becomes downright painful when he takes more than a millisecond to actually talk to Ella and discovers he quite likes her.

With the start of a new semester, Ella has resolved to get her sh*t together.  Her grades will come up, her days and nights of hard partying and going home with virtual strangers is done, and come hell or high water, she’s going to repair her relationship with her best-friend, Skylar.  While even one of these goals would be daunting to most, Ella is determined to call on her discipline and will power to overcome every obstacle in her path.  The grades and friendship repair are solo missions but, Ella misses sex which makes being around the totally and undeniably sexy Ben Buckingham on a regular basis, a particular breed of awful. 

What starts as a clandestine affair, quickly becomes something more for both Ben and Ella.  The feelings between them are real and neither knows what to do with them.  For so long, Ben has hidden his past and his fears in an effort to keep people (mostly girls) at arm’s length.  If he doesn’t get too close, he won’t have to reveal his shameful secrets, but Ella makes him want to open up, to be closer.  For Ella, the tragedy of the last year has unloaded consequence after consequence and she isn’t entirely sure she’s even capable of truly feeling for someone.  Ben tests that theory at every turn and just as things seem to be going well, it all falls apart (again!) and all the secrets and fears come tumbling out and tear apart what could be a solid relationship.

The Bottom Line:  Like the first book in this series, I wanted to like this book more than I did.  I very much liked Ella and Ben and wanted them to succeed as a couple, but once again, there is a soap box quality to this read that was off putting.  Because there is so much repetition from book one, the theme of rape and sexual abuse and misconduct are prevalent in this book as well.  I found myself skipping over the soap-box passages which allowed me to enjoy the other parts of the read.  Again, I reiterate the importance of this topic, but not to the extent it’s dealt with here, again!  With all that being said, I’m still not done with this series as I really, really liked the ending to this one and want to see what’s next for the Bayard boys.

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