Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1) by Julie Cross
All is fair in love and hockey…
Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business―a hockey bar beside the ice rink―afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.
Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.
It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.
For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.
One year ago eighteen-year-old Claire O'Connor left her small Minnesota town to study music at Northwestern University. The night before she left two events forged the path that would set the course of her return to town. After a near hook up with Luke Pratt, the guy she's had a crush on for a long time ends in disaster she flees the apartment over the bar her family owns just in time to see her best friend Jody's father verbally then physically attack Jody's younger brother, Tate. Claire inserts herself into the argument and realizes that in his drunken rage Tate's father has broken Tate's arm. Claire takes him to the hospital and later makes him promise to never stop being the sweet guy he is, to never turn into a hockey player player.
A year later, after her father was diagnosed and treated for a supposedly inoperable brain tumor, Claire is back in town to help keep the family business afloat. Nothing about Juniper Falls, Minnesota has changed. Hockey is still the only thing that matters, the players are treated like gods, and no matter the outcome of the game, come Friday night after the hockey game O'Connor's bar is full of patrons. Claire's family needs the money badly - for medical bills and other expenses - so she's not complaining. All she needs to do is survive in the town that never understood her for one semester then she can go back to school.
Meanwhile, Tate Tanley's life is changing. He hasn't forgotten the night that Claire took him to the hospital, nor the crush on her he's kept hidden for years - and now she's back in town. Right at the time that his focus needs to be on the game. The starting Varsity goalie quit the team and chose his responsibilities over hockey and the team, the town, and his overbearing father is all depending on him to make sure they make it to State. After all, the offense may win the game, but the goalie loses it for the team. He shouldn't be spending so much time thinking about Claire, but he can't help himself.
When Claire sees Tate again he's no longer the small, scrawny kid with braces she left behind and the feelings seeing him again sparks in her are anything but what she should be feeling for her friend's younger brother. But like moths to a flame, they become unable to stay away from each other.
But with responsibilities and other people's hopes and dreams bearing down on them, do Claire and Tate really stand a chance of being together? Or will their circumstances tear them apart?
Off the Ice is easily one of my favorite reads so far this year. For Contemporary YA Fiction it's a light enjoyable read filled with enough plot to satisfy a reader. I found both Claire and Tate's individual stories, as well as the development of their relationship, to be realistic and believable. I loved watching them fall in love and wondering what was going to happen next or whether someone or something was going to tear them apart.
As someone who's had family members with cancer, Claire's story especially spoke to me and I could relate to the struggles she and her family had. At the same time, my heart broke for Tate with the situation with his father.
For the first book in a series, I enjoyed the groundwork the author set up while also telling Claire and Tate's story. I loved all of Tate's teammate and I'm sure they'll pop up in the books to come; I'm interested to see what their stories will be and learn more about them.
The only thing that didn't make sense to me was why all the financial stress was placed on Claire's shoulders. If her father was a single parent it would have made sense, but Claire has a mother, an aunt, and at least one uncle so why was it her job to handle phone calls regarding the payment of medical and household bills?
Overall, I loved reading Off the Ice. The story grabbed me right away and I became wrapped up, unable to stop reading. I felt satisfied with the ending and I can't wait to see what's going to happen in the next book!
5 of 5 Stars
Off the Ice is available today, Tuesday, February 28, 2017, from Entangled Teen. Pick up your copy today: