April is my favorite month of the year. The Stanley Cup playoffs follow close on the heels of baseball’s Opening Day. It’s wonderful if, like me, hockey and baseball are your favorite sports. I love it. But I’m also a mess of nerves and color coordinated TV schedules until I’m back to only having one sport to watch. One of my favorite ways to de-stress throughout the month (and the rest of the year, let’s be real) is to read romance. Here I’m sharing three of my favorite hockey romances to celebrate the start of the post-season.
This book is the sort of swoony read that I recommend to all of my prose-obsessed friends. Very few writers can turn a phrase quite like Ruby Lang, and the fact that she wrote a book squarely in my wheelhouse was just a bonus. It’s a story about Adam, a hockey player nearing the end of his playing career and facing an uncertain future, and Helen, a neurologist facing the prospect of losing her father to degenerative brain disease caused by his youthful pugilism. The issue of concussion prevention and treatment is a big deal in organized sports, and I loved that Lang addressed the many factors that go into hockey’s attitude towards possible brain injuries. It’s also set in Portland, a very underutilized romance setting, and features an interracial couple, which I’m always glad to see more of.
They’re not for everyone, but I value romances that explore the process of finding emotional connections after going through a tremendous loss. Willoughby’s hero, Tim Hollander, is dealing with bad press after an incident where he threw a water bottle at a verbally abusive fan. Tim’s trying to prove his worth after being traded, both as an asset on the ice and as someone who won’t be a PR liability. He’s also a divorcee still grieving the loss of his young daughter to leukemia. His relationship with Erin, a no-nonsense pediatric nurse, is a joy to watch unfold. It’s a lovely examination of how two people can fall in love while feeling out their rough edges and hesitations.
Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson
The oldest of the bunch (and a handful of things have changed since 1998, so the age does show a bit), this is one of the first contemporary romances I ever read. It’s a second-chance romance where John, a hockey player who emotionally distances himself from his hookups, and Georgie, a runaway bride turned caterer whose life transforms after John helps her flee her wedding, spend years apart before being reunited for a shot at love. It’s great to find love stories where we get an opportunity to see the characters really change and grow, both together and apart, and Rachel Gibson does a wonderful job of that, here.