>> Tuesday, February 01, 2011
TITLE: Body Check
AUTHOR: Deirdre Martin
SETTING: Contemporary New York
SERIES: First in the New York Blades series
REASON FOR READING: A few years ago I read and absolutely loved Fair Play, and meant to go back and read the first book. Jane reviewed it at Dear Author recently and reminded me that I meant to read it.
This game's going into overtime.The New York Blades are flying high. They recently won the Stanley Cup (ice hockey, for those of you who, like me, know nothing about the sport), and are gearing up to win it for the second time running in the upcoming season. Problem is, some of the players were a bit overenthusiastic in their celebrations, and their corporate owners, the fanatically family-friendly Kidco, weren't particularly happy to see photographs of strippers having fun with the Cup in the papers.
Janna MacNeil is a publicist on a mission to change the image of the bad boys of hockey: the Stanley Cup Champion New York Blades.
Ty Gallagher is a captain on a mission— to get his team to win the Cup again... at any cost. His determination is legendary, as well as his unwillingness to toe the corporate line.
When the persistent publicist and the sttubborn captain butt heads, it's hard enough to crack the ice. But they may end up melting it instead...
Janna MacNeil is an up-and-coming publicist who's hired by Kidco's PR company to help make over the team's image. Her big idea is to make the players sign up for charity gig after charity gig. That should generate warm fuzzies with the public. For things to work, though, she's going to need to convince the team's captain, Ty Gallagher, to cooperate. Ty's very much the leader of the team, so Janna knows that if he agrees, the rest of the team will definitely follow.
Unfortunately for her, Ty isn't at all interested in helping Kidco eke out even more profits out of the team. He's got nothing against charity projects, and is happy to help out in his own time, but damned if he'll make a show of it for the sake of people who don't give a shit about his team. But Janna is not one to take no for an answer...
This is a fun, very modern-feeling romance, with lots of banter and chemistry between the characters. However, things were not light and fluffy. There was also quite a lot of things that made me think and debate with myself, even a few where I couldn't really make up my mind where I stood.
The original conflict between Janna and Ty was really interesting, because while I got the feeling I was meant to back Janna, at least at the beginning, I was very much on Ty's side from the very start. Fuck Kidco and their demands. It really annoys me the way we demand athletes to behave as role models outside the pitch. I do draw some lines, and I wouldn't want a guy playing for my team who's done stuff that's against the law, but being rowdy off the pitch, womanising, that sort of thing? As long as it doesn't affect their game, I don't particularly care. I won't like the players involved, but hey, I don't need to like them. I can't decide if the fact that Kidco's demands arose from pure profit calculation, rather than a moralistic motivation, makes it better or worse. I just thank heavens that my beloved Nacional isn't owned by anyone in particular, whether a corporation or an individual. It's owned by the fans, and that's the way it should be in sports, I say!
So that one was a pretty easy one for me, but others were not. The main one was an episode in which Janna's roommate, Theresa (heroine of book 2 in the series), has a very bad experience with one of the guys on Ty's team. She goes out on a date with him, and he attempts to rape her. Theresa is a very strong woman, and, with Janna's full support, decides to go to the police with it, even though she knows that sort of thing will be very hard for her to prove and that the team's publicists will do all they can to smear her in the media.
Neither Janna nor Ty came out of that situation smelling like roses, let me tell you, but it was clearly a difficult position for for each of them to be in. Should Janna have quit a job where it's clearly acceptable to work to smear the reputation of a woman whose only crime is to have accused a spoilt athlete of attempted rape? Should she be trying to convince Theresa to settle her claim out of court and get lots and lots of money off her attempted rapist, since it's clear she'd just be slaughtered in court? Should Ty have backed his teammate when the accusation came up? Janna assures him that Theresa isn't lying, but it's not the first time someone's made up a rape accusation against an athlete. Should his first priority be his team (which needs that player's contribution)? Once it becomes clear the accusation is true, is the punishment meted out by the team enough? Or is it self-serving and more about the potential impact on the team than about the guy's crime against a pesky woman? Some of these questions I had very clear answers to (and I think from the way I posed the questions you might guess what they were), some weren't so clear-cut. I liked that about Body Check, I always appreciate being made to think and question my assumptions.
Ok, but this is a romance, so how did it do on that end? Well, my feelings about that were a bit mixed. There's a lot of chemistry between Ty and Jenna, and as I said above, I loved the banter. I also liked how Janna didn't get Ty get away with not treating her well. If she was annoyed with him, she let him know. No pandering to the great athlete's ego from Janna! When it came to love, though, I wasn't that convinced, especially on Ty's part. It seems a bit contradictory of me to complain of this, since I did say earlier that with my teams' players I care only what they do on the pitch, but for the romance to work completely, I would have wanted Ty to care much more about Janna than about hockey, but I got the feeling it was an even thing, with the hockey actually edging Janna slightly.
MY GRADE: A strong B.