This is the second in the Kelly Brothers series. I believe there are seven brothers total, and they are all named alphabetically, so brother number two is Ben.
I have to state upfront that I am not a fan of reunited lovers or of secret babies. I know some people totally love reunion stories, but I just feel like I missed out on the romance the first time around, so I’m not really satisfied.
But this story is about people who had a one night stand once upon a time, so they don’t quite fit into the reunited lovers category. Even better: Ben is a hockey player and he’s suffered from multiple concussions, so he doesn’t even recognize Hailey when he sees her again. Her hair is a different color, and she doesn’t exactly walk up to him and say, “Hey, remember that one time in that hotel room?”, but still. I like that Ben wasn’t carrying a torch for her his whole life.
Ben is hiding out in a small ski town in British Columbia after a knee injury that might end his NHL career. He’s mopey and afraid to go back on the ice. Hailey is a waitress at the local bar, and she’s also an excellent hockey player. She’s preparing to try out for the Olympic team. She recognizes Ben at once, both as a famous hockey player and as that guy she slept with that one time. And she does not have time for that, because, Olympic dreams.
The blurb on the back of the book explains that Hailey got pregnant from a one-night stand, and her son died, so it’s not a spoiler to say that she has some emotional baggage. Hailey knows Ben was the father. She tried to contact him but was rebuffed by the publicity department, although she believes that Ben was told about their son. So she is not happy with him.
Ben, meanwhile, is just a good guy trying to make a connection with a girl he really likes. He shows up at the ice rink, he shows up at her work, he even dares to get back on the ice to get a date out of her. I enjoyed his pursuit of Hailey, because he took it slow and he picked up on all of her emotional cues that told him to back off.
I did not enjoy Hailey keeping her big secret for so long. First, she blamed Ben (internally) for never meeting their son. Then, she thought that maybe Ben never knew about their son after all, so she decides that she shouldn’t tell him right away because it might mess him up, or mess her up, or mess the universe up, or something. I’ve got too many daytime TV hosts and advice columnists in my head, screaming, “You don’t get to decide when to break the news, it’s not just your secret anymore.”
When Ben finally learns about his dead son, he’s angry with Hailey, as well he should have been. But somehow through lots of crying and discussions with other people, it gets turned around that Ben did something wrong and he has to beg forgiveness from Hailey. And I did not get that. I was too angry at Hailey anyway, for missing a zillion opportunities to say, “Hey, guess what?” I did not think Ben needed a big gesture to win her back. But he did anyway, so good for him. Let’s blame me: I failed to sympathize with the heroine for the last third of the book.
Click to purchase: Amazon
by Christa McHugh
Release Date: January 28, 2014