Title: Heat It Up
Author: Stina Lindenblatt
Publisher: Diversion Books
Release Date: June 2016
Length: 276 pages
Series?: Off the Ice #1
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult, Sports
Some games are hotter off the ice.
Sofia Phillips feels cursed. Her father cheated on her mother, her boyfriend cheated on her she’s done with dating. A summer work-exchange program in Finland is the perfect escape. But instead of gaining experience as an athletic trainer, she’s cleaning toilets. Awesome. The trip is a disaster, and even better, she meets Kyle Bennett. In the sauna. Naked.
Sexy hockey player Kyle was the star right wing for an NHL team. But after an accident killed his wife and left him injured, Kyle has appreciated the therapeutic benefits of booze and puck bunnies. Now in Finland for the summer, he’s coaching in an elite hockey-training camp for teens. When Sofia’s grandmother decides to set her up with a nice Finnish man, Sofia recruits Kyle as her make-believe boyfriend. Neither expects their first kiss to sizzle. And neither expects, while stranded on an island during a storm, to have a scorching night of passion.
But as their charade, and then their attraction, develops into something deeper, the past comes back, threatening to destroy them. They must decide if their feelings for each other are strong enough to survive or it will be game over.
I think this is my first New Adult book??? I don’t even know. What technically is the distinction between contemporary and new adult? I don’t know, but this book is both! 🙂
The perspective of the story is told in a dual narrative, with Sofia and Kyle each narrating alternating chapters. The book opens with Sofia’s narration and ends with Kyle’s narration. I loved both of their inner voices. Sofia’s was at times strong and confident, like in the beginning, and wavered and was doubting during times of turmoil. Kyle was very laid back and quite characteristic of a typical bachelor. A few hundred years earlier he would be called a rake.
Sofia is working hard toward her dream of working with sports teams by beefing up her resumé while also running from her own haunting memories, so she takes up the ad offer for an overseas work-swap program from her university in Minnesota. She just didn’t think she would wind up scrubbing toilets in Finland.
Most of the book is set in Hilinski, Finland. Sofia’s maternal grandmother resides there, and Sofia hasn’t visited in a few years, so it winds up being a great opportunity for them to spend some time together again. Many times Sofia makes it clear she cannot speak the language and is Finnish illiterate. I didn’t quite understand how that could be the case if she had visited every year as a child until she was in her late teens. She should at least know some basic phrases. That struck me as odd, but it was a plot-driven movement. While summering in Finland, Sofia’s grandmother hatches a plan with the woman upstairs in her building. They plan to set up Sofia with her grandmother’s friend’s grandson, Joni.
Joni looks exactly like a Finnish actor and is handsome. He buys into the grandmothers’ scheming while Sofia does not. She has sworn off any relationships after her first and only. One heartbreak and she claims she is cursed. Puh-lease. *insert eyeroll*
However, the guy from the sauna she nearly sprays in the junk keeps coming back to her mind. His body and his geekiness. Kyle is quite the physics nerd and a former NHL player. One of his former teammates is coaching a hockey program in Finland, so Kyle takes up an open position. Coaching is as close as he is ever going to get to his former hockey life after his injury that took his career and his wife. Since he has found a fleeting solace in alcohol and puck bunnies, although he suddenly skeptical of puck bunnies.
Kyle was clearly searching for his next everything from personal growth to job security to personal relationships. When his and Sofia’s worlds collide – again, unbeknownst to either of them – Sofia convinces Kyle to play her fake boyfriend so she doesn’t have to “date” Joni. Although she still goes places with Joni alone that he believes are dates, as do both their grandmothers…
Eventually, Sofia and Kyle elevate their relationship, but not entirely. Kyle purposefully keeps his identity a secret from unsuspecting Sofia, which I thought was deceitful and was made into a big deal that when it does come to light, Sofia just glosses over it.
Joni isn’t ready to be thrown out of the ring for the boyfriend crown, so he plays his own masterfully manipulated role and wreaks havoc with Sofia. Even as friends, I thought this was so underhanded and I did not understand why Sofia continued to hang out with him and allow him into her life. She let him be all sweet and then sour on her. But on the flip side, he was nice to Sofia. The slippery slope of sneaky snakes.
I feel like the only reason Joni was kept around was to act as a translator. The plot could have continued almost entirely without him…except for the ill-fated wedding that is masterminded. Joni doesn’t stop after the first incident. He artfully crafts this wedding guest trip that ends with more than Kyle freaking out in the sauna.
Remember how I said their worlds had collided before? The entire end of the book revolves around this revelation that was mind-blowing. It sets Sofia’s world spinning on its axis and leaves Kyle wondering why her non-part in the past matters. I could not wrap my head around why the revelation and Sofia’s non-part in it – she was just connected to the person who did it – had her literally running across Finland to get away from Kyle and ignoring him.
Overall, both characters need some therapy. They are still not done dealing with their ex’s. For Kyle, I totally understand. For Sofia, though…I don’t get it. I don’t get her motivations. Maybe it’s because I’m at a more mature stage in my life?
The best part of the book was each character’s inner dialogue and their growth. Kyle came to Finland looking to work a hockey camp when in reality he was looking for a way to heal. Sofia finds the footing she needs to move forward with her dream and her shuttered heart is given a stutter.
Stina Lindenblatt lives in Western Canada, where she loves to dream up New Adult and Young Adult stories, especially those with romance. She loves to travel, and has lived in England, the US, Canada, and Finland. She has a Master’s of Science degree in exercise physiology and has worked with elite athletes. In her free time, Stina enjoys photography, especially the close-up variety.