When Sparks Fly – Annie McDonald

Rating: 4 out of 5.
3.75 stars. Had I not read others reviews I would not have been expecting this story to be rooted in hockey in the way that it is. No complaints from me though as I love hockey and the setting works really well with these characters.

Luca is an iron sculptor. She used to play hockey until an incident on the ice left her career heading in other directions. She’s had to put a lot of her own dreams aside to support others, but has found a niche for herself coaching and working on her art.

Daniella is returning to her hometown to work as the team doctor for the local hockey team after working as a doctor in Guyana. She’s not well and is keeping everyone at a safe distance until she can resolve her feelings about her time in Guyana.

I love the diversity in the book, I learnt a lot through reading this and it has definitely piqued my interest in certain aspects of Canadian history. I enjoyed how the history was told through the secondary characters.

The relationship between the two leads is complicated. They have a history but it’s not the one you would expect. They’re attracted to each other but have their reasons to stay away. It makes for an interesting slow burn between two passionate characters.

McDonald has a way with words that mean the descriptive passages about skating and sculpture are almost moving to read. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more McDonald in the future.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Because You Can – Leigh Landry

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
A solid 3.5 star book with an interesting premise I hadn’t personally encountered before.

Molly has discovered her boyfriend is cheating on her and wants to dump him but then she discovers who he is also seeing – Jo – the lead singer of a country band and finds herself unable to do so. Instead she ends up striking up a revenge pact with Jo.

I liked that both characters could instantly see that the situation was neither of their faults – there was no blaming the other woman, which had been how I was expecting it to happen. The pact to get revenge gives them a reason to get to know each other even though they’re from different worlds and it works, so I applaud Landry for this. It was good that this pact brought them together, but didn’t take up more space than necessary in the narrative itself.

I liked both Jo and Molly as characters. Molly is comfortable in her bisexuality and Jo is coming to an understanding as to her sexuality. The reluctance on Jo’s part to be with Molly was frustrating at first, but somewhat understandable due to her profession. The tension this created in the will they won’t they back and forth provided lots of good opportunities for getting to know both characters. I liked that her friends and bandmates supported her with her journey. Both Jo and Molly’s best friends are good characters who help move the story along and I liked that there was a little bit of a sub storyline there too.

Spending time at the animal rescue was fun and the introduction of Bananas the cat was enjoyable too.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

Finding a Keeper (Sports Series #4) – Nicole Pyland

Rating: 5 out of 5.
It’s probably fair to say that soccer was my first love, so it’s perfectly possible that my five star rating partially relates to the fact that this a book full of all the feelings I experienced about sport and life at a certain period of my life. The club team I support gets a lot of mentions and I was also crazy enough to be a goalkeeper, so the way Pyland explained goalkeeping also made me very happy. However, it’s also because Pyland has again created a wonderful book, full of interesting characters in a different environment to any she has written before.

Marley is a junior. She’s the starting goalkeeper coming into the season where she’ll start to get noticed by scouts from the NWSL. Sloan joins the team as a striker, she’s lived in England for the past six years, playing in an English developmental league and is trying to settle in as a freshman after having experienced a more adult life in England. Marley’s gay – Sloan isn’t. They become fast friends. Marley suffers an injury and finds herself out for the season. As Sloan is a new face to the squad she’s drafted in to support in Marley’s absence and turns out to be good.

When I read other reviews that mentioned the age of the main characters I was slightly worried how I would feel about this book – but these feelings and emotions discussed fit so perfectly with college aged characters that any reluctance I had dissipated very quickly. I also really enjoyed the fact that Pyland didn’t rush this narrative. The book mainly takes place over the period of two years (barring the epilogue of course) so it could technically be described as a slow burn – but the friendship the two share and the move into a relationship for the two of them just works so well that I was never frustrated with them like I often am with slow burn romances.

The narrative covers difficult topics especially grief and loss in different ways. Religion and parental acceptance also plays a big part and I liked how Pyland introduced a slightly different narrative than one I often read and the parents in this storyline ended up surprising me. I also loved Emily and Alison – their roommates/friends and their secondary relationship in the storyline. I enjoyed how their relationship and characters brought out things in Marley and Sloan.

This is another book from Pyland with great characters, emotional depth and an interesting narrative. I’m sad this is the last of the sports series – but am happy to have spent time with some really great characters along the way.

Love in the Shadows – Maggie Doolin

Rating: 3 out of 5.
3.5 stars

A solid novella set in Ireland following Meg from her final year of high school through to the vote on the marriage equality act in 2015. I often find that when I’m reading a novella I wish it was longer – but this one is done well in that it covers the subject manner in just the right amount of detail, but provides a clear narrative so there’s nothing else to wish for.

We open with Meg at high school, where she’s undertaking her Leaving year. She realises that she has a crush on her high school English teacher – leading her to explore how she feels about girls in general. Whilst enjoy isn’t the right word because there’s a lot of introspection on the topic of boys and feelings, I thought this section was done really well.

As the book centres on Meg we follow her through leaving school, to her first job as an English teacher herself. She’s had the opportunity to explore her sexuality at college, but running into someone from her past causes her to look at the realities of being a lesbian in Ireland, working at a Catholic school. Again the feelings side of this is explored really well.

The parts of the book I liked the most were the interactions. I felt they gave a realistic depiction of how it must have felt living in Ireland during this time period (I hope anyway).

It does have a happy ending and I’d recommend to anyone looking for an interesting narrative spanning a large number of years and how a couple grows, whether together or not.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

First Comes Love – Frankie Duncan

Rating: 4 out of 5.
3.75 stars.

Disclaimer – I did some beta reading on this book before release.

I found this to be an enjoyable read and a great way to pass a couple of hours. It’s not very long and it acted as a great break for other books I was reading at the time.

Brogan is strong in her professional life, moving to Scotland to be the Headteacher at a school. Her family situation means she spends a lot of time by herself but she likes keeping people at a distance since her latest breakup.

Unexpectedly she finds she has feelings for Libby after a chance encounter with her landlords dog. Libby isn’t looking for casual – she’s looking for the one.

I enjoyed the exploration of their opposite characters and their back and forth as to their compatibility and long-term goals. As expected in this genre Brogan’s ex makes an appearance but there is a scene in a coffee shop that just made me love Libby’s best friend!

All in all it’s a nice easy read and I’d recommend to any wlw romance fans.

I received an e-ARC directly from the author in exchange for an honest review.