Body Check

Chasing Stanley

Fair Play

Just a Taste

The Penalty Box

Straight Up
Total Rush

by Deirdre Martin
(Berkley, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-425-23979-7
Icebreaker, Deirdre Martinís latest story featuring the New York Blades hockey team, pairs hotshot attorney Sinead OíBrien with new team captain Adam Perry when she is called upon to defend him in an assault case. Adam has made a name for himself as one of the NHLís top defensemen and is known for his hard-hitting style of play. A rough body check one night sends an opposing player to the hospital, and the district attorney sees an opportunity to score publicity points before the upcoming elections and decides to press charges for assault. Despite knowing nothing about hockey, Sinead agrees to take the case.

Adam is a taciturn kind of guy who hates talking about his feelings. Sineadís first interview with him is like pulling teeth, and ends with Adam thinking Sinead is an uptight pain in the butt and Sinead convinced Adam is only one step up the evolutionary ladder from Neanderthal. They are both wrong, of course, and story revolves around their discoveries about each other.

Sineadís family owns an Irish pub where a number of hockey players hang out. Sheís the workaholic of the family, and her mother is always on her back about finding a guy. With one divorce behind her, Sinead is in no hurry. Adam keeps to himself, for the most part. Heís almost at the end of his career, and this might be his last best shot to win a Stanley Cup. Faced with a lawsuit, a struggling team, and a couple of young teammates with attitude problems, he has his hands full. When Sinead enters the picture, he admires her looks, but canít see how theyíd be anything more than bed partners.

Frankly, neither did I, and the predictability of the plot didnít help. Sinead travels to Adamís hometown in western Canada to gather character references, and meets his best friend, who is in a wheelchair. Any guesses as to how he ended up there? Could this be the reason why Adam has a giant chip on his shoulder and is carrying a mountain of guilt? Sinead came across as pretty humorless and uptight, and I couldnít really sense much attraction between them other than the physical. She thinks heís hot. He thinks sheís a knockout. Send Ďem to bed. Friendship? Not so much, and even their time spent together at a cabin in upstate New York didnít convince me. These two just seemed monumentally mis-matched.

The secondary cast seemed to include most of the leads from Martinís recent novels. Thereís a funny subplot involving the Three Stooges, and one of Martinís previous heroes plays a major role as Adamís new buddy. Sineadís law partners all seem to sleep with their clients, and her best friend at the firm is a womanizing alcoholic, which struck me as pretty unlikely. The author is obviously a hockey fan, as her descriptions of the game ring true. Thereís a lot to like in this story, but the romance isnít a standout.

Icebreaker isnít Deirdre Martinís best, but fans who have enjoyed her other stories about the Blades may want to give it a look.

--Cathy Sova

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