Fair Play: Berkley
(Paperback), ISBN 0-425-19457-4
In Fair Play, Michael Dante juggles too many tasks at once. A pro hockey player, he spends much of his time in practice or at games. He also co-owns an Italian restaurant, Dante's, with his chef brother, Anthony. Determined to bring Dante's the acclaim it deserves, Michael contracts with FM Public Relations for upgrading suggestions and to get the word out…even if working with the PR firm puts him in very close proximity with Theresa Falconetti, his mild crush for a while now.
Despite similar backgrounds -- both come from big Italian families in Brooklyn -- Theresa pushes Michael away. Her dreams never centered around someone so…Italian. She wants a stylish, trendy, big-city whirlwind romance.
Theresa also multi-tasks. The PR firm sits on shaky financial ground, and a big corporate PR firm wants to buy them out or bury them if they won't sell. She and her partner, Jenna, try to figure out what to do. Meanwhile, the corporate head's nephew, Reece, gives Theresa the stylish romance she wanted. On the personal front, her family pressures her to find a "nice boy" (translation: Italian) before her father dies of cancer. On top of all that, Theresa still deals with the after effects of a near-rape at the hands of another hockey player, which makes it difficult to trust any man enough to get close.
Despite all her reasons against dating Michael, Theresa agrees to do so. She finds herself attracted to his sweet, romantic nature -- in contrast to Reece's aloofness. Reece frequently breaks off engagements for reasons of business. He doesn't even attend Jenna's father's funeral. Michael, however, stands by her and helps her survive the sad ordeal. Theresa slowly comes to her senses about what she needs in a boyfriend, but Michael might be out of her reach now after her constant pushing away.
Gemma Dante, in Total Rush, finds her love life nearly dead. A practicing stregh or witch, she uses her powers and casts a love spell, which promptly works -- the fire department shows up because of smoke (from her incense) pouring from under the door. During her spellcasting meditation, she saw a gorgeous pair of blue eyes on her dream man…and one of the firefighters has the same kind of eyes.
The spell also sends a slightly odd fellow to her witchy shop to learn the tarot from her. Gemma and the firefighter (who also turns out to be a neighbor), Sean Kennealy, hook up, and their passion burns brightly (pun completely intended). But they come from very different worlds, which they can't seem to deal with. She resents that he thinks of her as a bit flaky; she also develops extreme insomnia and panic attacks every time he works. He fears what his family and firefighting buddies will think of her free spirit.
They split up but continue to bump into each other. But Gemma finds herself running herself ragged. On top of managing her store, she helps care for her beloved grandmother, newly diagnosed with Alzheimer's, which forces her to shuttle back and forth from the Manhattan to Brooklyn. But the pull between Gemma and Sean seems too strong to fight.
I'll admit to being slightly biased about these two books, because they combine three of my favorite things ever: hockey, witchcraft and firefighters. But Deirdre Martin does a wonderful job of creating complex characters that stick to their guns about whatever touches them deeply. Seeing some of the characters cross from book to book makes for nice continuity. And Martin does an excellent job with the details in subjects not everyone knows about. Examples of this include her use of hockey terminology to describe the game action as well as details about Gemma's love spell. These books make a fun read, even if I weren't passionate about hockey, witchcraft or firefighting.
[Note: These two books end a trilogy that started with Martin's Body Check.]
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