TW/CW: mentions of child abuse, emotional abuse, and addiction.
Ice Hot by Tracy Goodwin is a contemporary sports romance featuring a hockey-player hero and a plus-sized designer heroine. I loved the hero’s emotional fluency, but while I acknowledge the topic of the heroine’s weight was handled in a way that I was fine with, I also realize that not all readers may feel the same as me.
Christian Chase is the team captain for the New York Nighthawks, a job that requires a lot of leadership in order to keep the team cohesive. Chris grew up poor, raised by a single father who struggled with addiction, and Chris’ professional success has been a way to prove to himself that he has worth. As a result he takes his job very seriously and prioritizes it over relationships.
Serena Ellis is an up-and-coming fashion designer who focuses on creating clothes for plus-sized women like herself. Serena had a terrible experience with a past boyfriend:
Click for spoiler
she found out he was dating her on a dare.
She generally doesn’t trust men enough to entertain the idea of a one-night-stand. When she and Chris run into each other for a second time, she agrees to go back to his place to hang out for awhile.
Even though both Chris and Serena are people who usually avoid commitment, they find themselves really clicking and they start dating. Unfortunately their respective “families” start to get in the way. For Chris this means his hockey team, especially one player who lashes out at Serena through the paparazzi because he’s jealous of Chris’s success and is generally a real asshole. For Serena this means her wealthy, aloof parents who have treated her like shit her entire life.
Serena was inspired to design clothes for plus-sized women because as a child her mother would dress her in hideous clothing to “incentivize” her to lose weight. That’s some fucking child abuse right there. Remember Serena’s asshole ex boyfriend? Yeah, he’s now working her as dad’s right hand man.
Seriously, these are garbage people.
Plus now that she’s dating a celebrity, Serena is starting to get abuse through social media because it can be a goddamn cesspool.
When you combine all that external conflict with two people who are afraid to commit to each other but very much in love? It’s a lot to overcome. The book resolves everything successfully, though, and I wasn’t left feeling like there were loose ends.
I really loved Chris’s character. Despite needing to work through his own substantial father issues, he’s really emotionally fluent. He’s kind and thoughtful. He balances the different personalities on his team and steps in when hard decisions (like firing someone) need to take place to preserve their dynamic. He is immediately attracted to Serena, but he’s not a boner-led hero by any means. Making her feel safe is a priority for him, and he does things like giving his contact information to her best friend when they go back to his place. In fact he gives her a bunch of orgasms without asking for anything in return (they don’t have intercourse until later) after she tells him about her shitty ex. He doesn’t want her to feel like he’s using her the way her ex might have. He loves his rescue dog, Puck, and he stands up to Serena’s parents without being an overbearing asshole or trying to fix her life for her.
During their not-one-night-stand Serena explains to Chris why she needs trust before she can have intercourse with someone (it goes back to that shitty ex boyfriend), and I loved his response so much:
That’s the truth. I don’t know if we’re playing that game anymore, but I can’t lie. That’s the reason I don’t trust easily. That’s the reason I bury myself in work. No matter how hard I convinced myself that it was in the past or didn’t matter, I still need to trust someone to be intimate with him. I won’t let myself be used ever again. It has to be on my terms. And the guys I find never seem to be the right fit. Certainly, none of them has ever made me feel what Christian has.
Holding my breath, I wait for him to say something. I just confided a secret not many know. I’m a former prep school loser with trust issues who has been used, body shamed, and who allowed one incident to control me until I put barriers in place and denied myself sex. He’s a big-time hockey star who can have whoever he wants whenever he wants. We couldn’t be less alike. I’m sure I’ve scared him off. I think I’m scaring myself off… Maybe I should go.
I tug the fabric of my dress to cover myself, but he clamps my wrists to keep me in place.
“You predicted we’d court trouble if you came home with me,” he mutters, his voice raspy, as his lips hover over mine.
Speechless, my ache for him intensifies, waiting for what he will say next. Fearing that it won’t be what I want to hear, while at the same time fearing that it will.
“We’re in trouble, Serena.” His chest rises against mine, and I feel his heart pounding hard as his words begin to register. He laces his fingers through mine. “This isn’t a one-night stand, so I’m gonna have to work to earn your trust.”
“You don’t have to…”
He kisses my neck, sending shivers through my body. “Yes, I do. I want all of you.” Another nip with his teeth, this time on my earlobe. “I want to know all about you.”
I’ve read so may romance novels where the hero’s default response would be to either want to, or try to, beat up Serena’s ex, or insist his own magical wang could fix her issues regarding trust and sex.
The fact that Chris wants to earn her trust while respecting the boundaries she’s setting is significant. And the words “I want to know all about you” are sexy as hell.
The only criticism I have of him as a character is that he and Serena have unlubricated anal sex (her first time) and OMG dude. Buy some Astroglide.
I wasn’t bothered by how the subject of Serena’s weight was handled in this book, but I do think it could potentially upset other readers. My experience with this book, and with issues of body image, won’t be everyone else’s, so I’ve tried to summarize how this subject is handled in a way that will allow readers to make an informed decision. I think some readers will see Serena as having a body type they’d like to see more in romance while others may be quite upset by how her family has treated her regarding her weight.
Serena doesn’t dislike her body or spend much time worrying about how she looks. Chris is instan