Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary hockey romance from Brenda Rothert. ANTON is the first book in her Chicago Blaze series, and it’s a great start. Star pro hockey player Anton Petrov has one woman on his mind–the one he’s remained celibate for for over two years. Too bad she’s married to his teammate…
About the book:
He’s known as Father Anton to his teammates—the brooding, sexy captain of the NHL’s Chicago Blaze has a reputation for…not having a reputation. Just like his diet and sleep routines, celibacy is part of Anton Petrov’s on-ice mojo. Or so they say. Anton stays mum on the subject. If the world thinks he chooses to abstain from sex, so be it. Better that than the truth getting out: there is a woman he burns for, but he can never have her. She’s his teammate’s wife, after all.
Mia Marceau is finally on her own. Now that she and her husband are living apart, she’s finding the peace she was desperate for. She spends her days in classes and late nights bartending, making her own way in the world at last. After what she’s been through, as long as her husband leaves her alone, she doesn’t plan to rock the boat. He still has the power to hurt those dearest to her, and she can’t demand a divorce with such a high cost.
A chance encounter with Mia has Anton hoping for a shot he never thought he’d get. And while she’s drawn to the intense, serious hockey center, Mia’s leery about playing with fire. That’s all Anton has ever known for Mia, though—a living, burning desire that won’t be denied—no matter the cost.
**Trigger warning–this book contains scenes of emotional and physical domestic violence.
Anton Petrov has had a challenging life. Born in Russia, he and his twin Alexei were shipped to Michigan for hockey training at the age of five. Anton had to work twice as hard to perform at the same level as Alexei, who has natural talent he barely nurtures. Alexei is on a rival team, but the brothers are very close. Anton is nearly Spartan in his approach to life–no booze, bad food or late nights when he’s in season. It’s been easy to keep away from entanglements, since the only woman who’s caught his eye in the past three years is Mia Marceau–wife of his teammate, Adam. Out one night with Alexei, Anton finds Mia working as a bartender at a dive bar in Chicago’s south side. How could Adam let this happen? Unless, they’ve split up…
Mia’s finally free of Adam’s emotional abuse, but she doesn’t have access to any of their money–he froze her out the second she left, and now he refuses to divorce her and extorts the funds to care for her beloved grandpa–he won’t pay unless she gives him sex. As destitute as she is, she can’t refuse Adam’s demands and risk her grandpa being put on the street. Though mired in Alzheimer’s disease, her gramps raised her when her mother flaked and Mia’s his only family. Even though Adam won’t grant Mia a divorce, she’s moved out and is taking night classes to complete her degree. She won’t be beholden to another man. Ever.
Meeting Anton at the bar is cataclysmic. Mia’s afraid that Anton will reveal her workplace to Adam, but he wants no part of that. All Anton wants is to be close to Mia–as a friend if that’s all she will allow. Not that he wants to break up her marriage–or will make a move on her while she’s still married. He hates that she walks home from the bar late at night, and starts popping by to give her a ride. They chat, and Mia begins to confide in Anton as a friend. Learning the depth of Adam’s abuse makes problems for Anton–he can’t respect Adam and it nearly comes to blows. When Anton needs a sitter for his adopted uncle, a foul-mouthed veteran who’s suffered two strokes, he reaches out to Mia–and she jumps at the chance to help because the salary is way more than she made at the bar. BOnus, she gets to be near Anton, who’s open admiration are a balm to her broken spirit.
This is a bittersweet romance for two lonely souls that are hungering for real love. Anton watches the shenanigans of his teammates and brother, but knows that’s not the life for him. He honors his commitment to be Mia’s friend, and he does this to the letter–even helping her find a pro bono attorney to help with her divorce. Adam’s emotional and financial abuse escalates when it looks as if Mia might escape his control once and for all, and that leads to some really huge conflicts in the book. I liked how this worked out–with Mia’s friends coming to her aid, but with her being a much stronger person and taking back the control Adam tried to steal. For me, there was a bit of repetitiveness in the book that bogged the pace, and it’s a REALLY slow burn due to Anton and Mia needing her divorce to happen and her to become mostly independent in order to feel able to take Anton as a lover. In the meantime there’s hockey and personal tragedy, and a super strong bond that only grows the longer they wait.
There’s just a bit of sexytimes near the end, and they are most satisfying. I love how supportive Anton is, without pushing Mia around with his wealth. I liked Mia a lot, and–as I am a South Side girl as well–I admired her independence and pragmatism. I was disappointed with Mia’s character development, because she’s a described as mixed-race black woman but she could have been any-woman. There is a lack of anything culturally-relevant in her character or mannerisms. That was a short-coming for me. Ultimately, the romance is sweet, the bad guy gets what’s coming to him, and there’s more hockey romance headed our way soon….for two side characters in this story.
About the Author:
Brenda Rothert is an Illinois native who was a print journalist for nine years. She made the jump from fact to fiction in 2013 and never looked back. From new adult to steamy contemporary romance, Brenda creates fresh characters in every story she tells. She’s a lover of Diet Coke, chocolate, lazy weekends and happily ever afters.