by Colleen Charles
“Iced” is a hockey romance by Colleen Charles, and it’s the seventh book in the ’Minnesota Caribou’ series but it can easily be read as a standalone story. I knew I’d enjoyed the work of this author before, but I was still surprised at how easily I was pulled into the story.
Kane is a 27-year-old player for the Caribou who’s been with the team for just about a decade; he was drafted into the NHL straight out of high school. He’s a good guy, but he’s immature and doesn’t believe himself capable of maintaining a relationship. He ends up in a position where his next contract with the team may not happen because they expect more from him than just his excellent hockey skills – they want him to finally start acting like an adult. Gemma is the single mother of a nine-year-old daughter. The father of her child is her immature ex-boyfriend who’s never shown any real interest in being a partner or a parent. He’s never paid a nickel and child support, and has never come through for her or their child. Money is always tight, so when her friend who’s married to a pro hockey player tells her that one of her husband’s teammates needs a new housekeeper, Gemma jumps at the chance to make some additional income. From their momentous introduction things move quickly into fake relationship territory. He needs a steady girlfriend so he looks more mature and stable, and she needs the extra money he’s willing to pay for her to play that role. Of course, the line between fake and real is quickly blurred.
I enjoyed the interactions and banter between Kane and Gemma, and between both of them and her daughter. The daughter is an excellent secondary character, as is his hilariously cranky cat. There’s more depth to both of them than you might expect. When Kane screws up and causes a lot of misery for Gemma and her daughter, he hurts himself as well. The grand gesture he pulls off in an effort to make amends will melt your heart. His teammates, their grandmothers, and all the assorted other secondary characters round this out with enough lightness to balance the seriousness of the story. I read this straight through the end and enjoyed it all.