I saw the third book in this series on NetGalley and it peaked my interest. The couple of reviews I read stated emphatically that this series was NOT a romance series, it’s straight fiction with a ton of hockey. A couple reviewers said too much hockey, but since I’m a fan of the sport I wanted to read it. However, I didn’t want to start with book three, so I purchased the first in the Sophie Fournier series, Breaking the Ice.
Breaking the Ice sets up the story of Sophie Fournier, the first woman to be drafted in the NAHL, this books fictional professional hockey league. As Sophie gets to know her new team she faces a lot of adversity which is expected in a league that has always been exclusively male. In addition to those difficulties, she gets drafted on the same team with a player who had always been her rival and even though they play nice, they’re still adversaries, up for the same position on the team.
Sophie was a really interesting character. Her one goal in life was to get drafted into the NAHL, and at nineteen she has achieved that goal. However, despite her work ethic and the fact that she is one of the best players on her team, if not in the league, she still doubts herself and tries to prove herself to her coach and her team over and over. I really liked some of the characters in this story. Merlin, who’s on the same line and grows quite close to Sophie, is the comic relief, and Matty, the captain of the team steps up as a mentor.
Breaking the Ice was everything I’d hoped. The play by play action was amazing. Even though I’m a hockey fan, I’ve never played the game and have always been mystified by a few things about the game. This books behind the scenes view into the game really opened my eyes to how the game is played. I was also pleasantly surprised by how she was treated by her team and within the league. Granted this novel was written by a woman and I sensed a bit of hope in the story, there was a lot less sexism than I’d thought. Is that true to life? I, like the author, hope men would treat women entering what has always been their domain with the respect their talent deserves, but I kind of doubt it would play out like that.
The second book in the series, Sophomore Surge, is the story of Sophie’s second year playing for Concord. After winning the Maddow Award, but not taking her team to the playoffs, Sophie is determined that this will be the year. Still insecure about her position on the team, she again sets the goal of winning the Cup and proving herself to all of her critics and to her team. This year, two other women get drafted, one of whom is drafted onto her team and she’s totally excited to have a female teammate. When Elsa bails on coming to the U.S. for her first season with Concord, Sophie is again faced with being alone, and that driving need to win and prove herself.
Sophomore Surge is a pretty typical second novel. We know the cast of characters and the insecurities and strengths of our heroine, but despite the excitement of all of the hockey, the story doesn’t move Sophie’s character forward, which is mildly disappointing. Knowing this has been categorized as an LGBTQ and Demisexual (I had to look this one up too) novel, I still don’t see any signs of Sophie leaning one way or another. She is hyper-focused on her game, which truthfully I would be too. She’s just not interested in anything else. BTW- when I looked up demisexual, it is when someone needs an emotional connection in order to have a physical attraction. I found that kind of nice, right? That attraction can be towards anyone. We are teased with her friendship to Ivanov, a player from another friend who becomes one of her best friends in the league, but nothing happens sexually with him and then also with her excitement of Elsa joining the league. That’s all though, just a tease. I love all of the hockey scenes and find it hard to be too disappointed because they are written so well and I do really like Sophie’s character. I figure it will happen in that final novel.
As the final novel in the Sophie Fournier series I’m expecting a couple of things. More great hockey, because that’s been very consistent in this series, and then the culmination of that sexuality “tease” we were given by classifying this series as LGBTQ and demisexual.
In Lighting the Lamp we are given a ton of great hockey. Elsa comes to the U.S. for her first season playing for Concord and Sophie is rewarded by having a best friend (who is also female) and the excitement of connecting with someone on the ice. Their line is one of the best in the league and it’s fun to watch a couple of women kick some men’s butt’s on the ice. Elsa has a lot more sass and fire than Sophie. Not having the expectations that Sophie did for the last two years, making sure she didn’t do anything to affect other women getting drafted, Elsa is opinionated and makes Sophie have some fun. It’s a breathe of fresh air to see have a little life off the ice. Sophie keeps Elsa securely in the “friend” category because she’s a hockey playing machine, and has set the goal of winning the cup again for this season.
I’ll admit, Sophie is kind of a confusing character. If I were trying to be her friend I think I wouldn’t be able to tell what she’s truly feeling. Reading from her point of view certainly helps, but poor Elsa, she can’t get a finger on why Sophie’s holding herself back from their friendship. This adds a little extra conflict to an already energetic novel and helps raise it up over the kind of steady pace Sophomore Surge set. Thank goodness! I love hockey and there’s more great play by plays in this story, but I really want something more. Do I get it in Lighting the Lamp? The answer is yes, just not in the way you’d expect. I don’t want to say any more because I don’t want to spoil the ending!
To recap the series I will say again, that if you are a fan of hockey then you must read this book. The hockey games are written superbly, we are given great characters to invest our feelings into, and a couple of great villains to really get our hate on! Concord is an underdog team, and I LOVE rooting for the underdog. Overcoming adversity is the general theme and K.R. Collins does a great job of making the series about more than women entering a man’s game, although that a big part of it. It’s also about trusting yourself, believing in your talents, and living your life the way you want despite society’s norms and expectations. All themes I can definitely get behind.
Breaking the Ice: Breaking the Ice (Sophie Fournier Book 1)
Sophomore Surge: Sophomore Surge (Sophie Fournier Book 2)
Lighting the Lamp: Lighting the Lamp (Sophie Fournier Book 3)
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