It has been a busy month, and I see I haven’t reviewed any books since my last TBR Challenge review. I am trying to write a book of my own and I haven’t had as much spare time to do other things, like reviewing my “fun” reading. In fact, the book I have chosen for this month’s challenge (theme this month: Contemporary) is a book I was assigned to read as part of a plotting course I am taking to improve my writing. The book is Breakaway by Catherine Gayle. This is not a book I probably would have chosen on my own, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.
Breakaway is the first book in the (so far) 13 book Portland Storm series. The Portland Storm are a fictional NHL hockey team, and the hero is their captain, Eric Zellinger. The heroine is Dana Campbell, a former female hockey player from a hockey playing family, who has known Eric most of her life because he is friends and has in the past been a teammate of her older brother. Dana is a rape survivor, and seven years later she is still struggling to live a normal life. She still cannot stand to be touched by anyone, including her family members, and has a history of severe anxiety attacks. She wants to live a normal life, with normal relationships. and her therapist has recommended that she might consider working with a sex surrogate to get over her issues with touching others. Dana doesn’t feel comfortable doing that, but she does decide to ask one of the only non-family members that she trusts, Eric, to help her with this instead.
Once you get over that rather over-the-top premise, the book is pretty sweet. Eric tries to stay no to Dana, but he has in fact had secret feelings for her for a long time. He felt he couldn’t address them with her until she was older, but never got the chance. After the rape, it was obvious that Dana wanted nothing to do with men, so he has been admiring her from afar. Dana’s anxiety and PTSD from her attack seem very real. She has medication and breathing exercises to try to deal with her anxiety when things become overwhelming, and the fact that there are no easy cures seems very realistic.
The secondary characters in this book are also fun. Eric has a young rookie living with him to help him as he adjusts to the league and being away from home (as Mario Lemieux did with Sidney Crosby when he joined the Pittsburgh Penguins as a teenager), and that adds to the realistic portrayal of the world of hockey to me. The team as a whole is a delight, and the care they all take with Dana when they know a part of her story is very endearing and sweet. There are a number of characters (hey, with 12 more books following, it helps to have some guys set up for future books) and they all seem like real people who are different from each other. Sometimes in books like this, with a vast cast of teammates, it is hard to tell them apart. In this book they seem like unique individuals, with their own stories to tell. Dana even makes friends with a couple of the player’s wives, which I also appreciated. In real life, we all have friends and acquaintances, and I appreciate the author who takes the time to make the world of the book seem real.
The hockey displayed in this book is very good. I have read a few other hockey romances, and it sometimes seems the author hasn’t even watched a game before they decided to write the book. In this one, there are descriptions of game action that seem very real, and there are actual hockey people who are mentioned and discussed, not just big names, but names that hockey fans will recognize. It added to my enjoyment of the book. I am a Canadian who has lived in the US for the past 20 odd years, and it was a nice surprise to see someone writing about hockey knowledgeably. I am in no way a hockey expert, and pretty much only watch during the playoffs when I get homesick (go Leafs!), but I do know enough to see the real hockey world reflected in this book.
All in all, this was an unexpectedly enjoyable read. As of this writing it is still free on Amazon, so I encourage you to download and read it.