Desert Isle Keeper Review

See Jane Score

Rachel Gibson
2003, Contemporary Romance
Avon, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0060009241
Part of a series

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Warm

Despite living in Minnesota for nearly seven years, I never really got into hockey. I mean what's the thrill of watching a bunch of big sweaty guys pounding on each other with hockey sticks? Then I moved to Denver and got caught up in the spirit of watching the Avalanche as they chased and eventually won the Stanley Cup. I finally realized the joy of hockey: watching big sweaty guys pound on each other with hockey sticks when they aren't chasing the puck around at lightening speed. There's something primitive and fascinating watching it, not to mention the fact some of the players are really hot. Definite hero material - and Gibson takes full advantage of it in this hilarious and sweet romance.

Jane Alcott is known for writing a column called Single Girl in the City in the Seattle Times, so she isn't the obvious choice to cover for their regular sports writer when he takes a leave of absence. But Virgil Duffy, who owns the Seattle Chinooks, wants her, and so she becomes the newest reporter to follow the team. Only one problem: Jane knows absolutely nothing about hockey. Desperate for extra cash, she takes the job and buys some books on the game.

The Chinooks aren't thrilled to find out there'll be a woman in the locker room or following them on the road, and goalie, Luc "Lucky" Martineau is definitely not pleased. After a near career ending injury and a stint in rehab for an addiction to pain killers, Luc is finally back in the zone and playing better than ever - he can't risk anything, like a female reporter, screwing it up. It's not so much that Jane's a female that turns Luc off, it's that she's a reporter. As one of hockey's bad boys he's been tabloid fodder and has reason to distrust journalists. But something about Jane intrigues him.

Jane doesn't like Luc anymore than he likes her, and not just because getting involved with a player could put her job and her credibility at risk. She knows she doesn't look like his usual Barbie doll girlfriends and doesn't want to be attracted to him. She tries to ignore his gorgeous body, the horseshoe tattoo that frames his belly button, but she's a goner the minute he says “aboot” instead of “about” - Jane always was a sucker for a man with an accent. Unfortunately, Luc, like the rest of the team, is doing his best to get rid of Jane until she brings the team good luck one night, and she’s forced to become part of a hilarious pre-game ritual that requires her to insult him before every game.

It doesn’t take long for that pre-game insult to take on the form of teasing from a friend and then lover. The only thing that could screw things up quicker than a losing streak is Jane’s alter ego. To make ends meet she writes a porn column for a men’s magazine called The Life of Honey Pie. What will Luc think of her other persona, more importantly, what will he do when he finds out he has a lead roll in an upcoming column?

Jane lost her mother when she was very small and it has affected her deeply. Raised like a boy by her single father, Jane puts on a tough exterior with quick short quips, and uptight attitude, but inside she’s soft and vulnerable. It takes time, but Luc slowly peels away the layers to see the passionate woman beneath the all black wardrobe and “lesbian glasses.” The best part of the book is seeing the team through Jane’s eyes - whether it be a night out at a sports bar or walking through the locker room just as the guys drop their cups, she always has a witty comment.

Just as Jane hides her vulnerability behind droll remarks, Luc hides his with an ego the size of Mt. Rainier. All Luc has ever known is hockey. His father left his mother when he was a kid and hockey coaches became his father figures. When that life was threatened by injury and addiction it was a serious wakeup call. Now he’s rebuilding his career and trying to build a relationship with his orphaned teenage sister, Marie, who's come to live with him. He doesn’t think he’s in a place in his life where he can let someone else in, but Jane proves him wrong so he can learn that there's more to life than what happens between the goal posts.

See Jane Score starts as a good book but becomes a great one as it progresses. The more I read, the more I liked Jane and Luc, and it was all the little things that added up. The gifts Luc brings Jane and how he handles her PMS made him a hero to remember. Then too, Gibson weaves the game throughout; hockey is more than a mere backdrop, it moves the story forward and adds a layer to the plot.

Fans of Simply Irresistible will be happy to know those characters make a cameo here, but it's not necessary to have read it to enjoy this one. See Jane Score is my first book by Rachel Gibson, but it won't be my last. She has a voice that balances humor with deeper emotions to perfection and knows how to tell a story that'll both move a reader and make them laugh out loud. I give it an enthusiastic recommendation and found it a great read to start the new year.

-- Jennifer Schendel

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