Series: Off the Ice, Book 1
Publisher: Diversion Books
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Some games are hotter off the ice…
Sofia Phillips feels cursed. Her father cheated on her mother, her boyfriend cheated on her—she’s done with dating. A summer work-exchange program in Finland is the perfect escape. But instead of gaining experience as an athletic trainer, she’s cleaning toilets. Awesome. The trip is a disaster, and even better, she meets Kyle Bennett. In the sauna. Naked.
Sexy hockey player Kyle was the star right wing for an NHL team. But after an accident killed his wife and left him injured, Kyle has appreciated the “therapeutic” benefits of booze and puck bunnies. Now in Finland for the summer, he’s coaching in an elite hockey-training camp for teens. When Sofia's grandmother decides to set her up with a nice Finnish man, Sofia recruits Kyle as her make-believe boyfriend. Neither expects their first kiss to sizzle. And neither expects, while stranded on an island during a storm, to have a scorching night of passion.
But as their charade, and then their attraction, develops into something deeper, the past comes back, threatening to destroy them. They must decide if their feelings for each other are strong enough to survive—or it will be game over.
Heat it Up is a story I wanted to like a lot more than I did. This first installment of Stina Lindenblatt’s Off the Ice series had a lot of potential, but ultimately ranged from cute (if forgettable) to frustrating.
I’m a sucker for a hockey player hero, and even though Kyle is ex-NHL and there wasn’t a lot of ice action, he was the strongest part of the story for me. He’s a widower who married young then lost his wife in a car accident that also ended his career. In the beginning, Kyle is in a downward spiral, drinking and sleeping his way through Finland. Meeting Sofia changes him for the better, and I liked when party boy Kyle went away and the nerdy, physics-loving Kyle came out. He can be incredibly sweet, and my favorite moments of the book were watching him teach children. Sofia, in turn, is a rather lackluster heroine. She possesses a bunch of vague qualities that would have made her a more appealing character if she’d been better fleshed out. However, at best she’s a bland sort of likeable in the beginning of the story, then devolves into the oh-so-annoying “too stupid to live” type of heroine about halfway through the book.
Sofia has trust issues thanks to the men in her life, and she doesn’t want her grandmother to keep trying to set her up with her friend’s son, Joni. Meeting Kyle offers the perfect solution: he’ll pretend to be her boyfriend and she’ll take him around Finland. The more time they spend together, the less either is able to deny their mutual attraction. Yet while Sofia and Kyle are cute together, they never drew me in. In fact, I got a quarter of the way through the book and then put it down for over two months because I wasn’t invested in the story. When Kyle and Sofia do get together, the pace picks up, but unfortunately this is also the point where Heat it Up falters. The burgeoning romance between Sofia and Kyle takes a back seat to a poorly executed love triangle involving Joni, the Finnish boy Sofia’s grandmother wants her to date. It’s clear that Sofia has no romantic interest in Joni, but she has to be the most oblivious person on the planet not to notice Joni’s repeated attempts to win her. Joni’s attempts at sabotaging Kyle and Sofia’s relationship go from mildly annoying to unbelievably irritating, as Sofia continues to be completely clueless – and indeed plays into – Joni’s increasingly ridiculous machinations. Add in a last-minute plot twist that strains credulity and sends Sofia running, and any chance there was of me rooting for her was completely gone.
Heat it Up isn’t altogether a bad read, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. I’d have loved to see a bit more chemistry between Sofia and Kyle and a bit less pointless drama. Though it ultimately missed the mark for me, the book had potential and I liked Ms. Lindenblatt’s writing enough that I would try another story of hers.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.