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Blue Lines

Blue Lines - Toni Aleo A five puck salute for Toni Aleo's Blue Lines, book 4 in her The Assassins series

It's always fun to read and learn about new places, professions, worlds of wonder. That's one of the reasons I know I'm drawn to certain stories. As a former very young teen figure skater, I'll admit that my exposure to hockey was limited to grumbling about how much the ice would be chewed up after a practice - even with a Zamboni run to help smooth it out. I admit it, I quit too soon, just before teen hormones kicked in and those annoying players might have registered as HOT to my eyes. Just my luck.

So, I was really pleased that Toni Aleo's The Assassins Series could help fill in my knowledge gaps of this ever popular (and, to my eyes, seemingly rather violent sport). The Assassins are an ice hockey team based in Nashville and their players seem to be falling - one by one - for some non-puck bunny women. (Yes, that's what ice hockey groupies are called apparently, puck bunnies!)

Aleo's fourth book in the series, Blue Lines: A Loveswept Contemporary Romance, has just been released and I was delighted that the publisher shared a copy with me for review. While Blue Lines could be read as a stand-alone novel, I'd highly advise you to start from the first book in the series, as otherwise you'll miss quite a bit. Aleo does a masterful job at interweaving characters and story lines from story to story. So suggestion, before you read Blue Lines, read the rest of the series first: Taking Shots (book 1), Trying to Score (book 2), Empty Net (book 3), the novella Falling for the Backup (book 3.5), and Blue Lines (book 4).

Oh, one other thing to mention, I do have a real dislike for characters hooking up and then having the hero and/or heroine go out and be quite "busy" all over the place - and then find themselves back together with original guy or girl. (My friend calls this my anti-cheating OCD.) However, in the case of Erik, I'm going to give him a pass, as Aleo clearly explains why he is so afraid to commit. Though I'm still not crazy about the player aspect he seemed to rejoice in, but he is redeemable, I hope.

So, on to the story. Piper falls fast and furiously in love/lust with Erik her new brother-in-law (Piper's sister Harper is married Erik's brother Jakob, a fellow hockey player). But Erik doesn't seem to notice Piper at all, not at family dinners, not at parties, not at weddings (although he seems to flirt with her twin sister Reese). Well, not until one crazy night - then he leaves and she doesn't hear from him again for months. He's too busy hooking up with all those puck bunnies, while she's too busy trying to figure out how to be a single mom for their baby-to-be. When push comes to shove, Erik winds up offering Piper marriage - and that's actually the beginning of this story.

I truly admire the fact that Aleo makes sure that Piper is not a victim, but a strong, self-willed, and intelligent heroine. While the rest of the world might think she's a flake, it's apparent that the's actually really well grounded - even if she doesn't think so. Piper's able to stand up to Erik and remain true to herself again and again. Erik goes from a seeming frat-boy on ice in his bachelor pad with his best bud Phillip, to a more rural homelife with Piper as they try to convince everyone that their marriage is real. There's a lot of humor in these scenes as well as some tears. And yes, there are a few HOT love scenes too, though I'd say this book is actually more about romance then sex.

I absolutely recommend Tori Aleo's The Assassins series to be added to your must-read to-be-read shelf. The series as a whole offers characters that speak to your heart. Most of them have some very strong personal issues that effect their relationships and it's in resolving these issues that Aleo shines. She's offers a highly intelligent, fun, sexy, and HOT romance series that I just don't want to put down. And amazingly enough, Aleo made hockey fun for me, so that I'm now planning on not only watching some televised games, but am trying to figure out where best to see it live. And if you know me, that's quite an accomplishment on her part.

A five puck salute for Toni Aleo's Blue Lines, book 4 in her The Assassins series.

Fab Fantasy Fiction

I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley for use in this review.