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The Trouble With Valentine's Day

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Truly Madly Yours

Nothing But Trouble
by Rachel Gibson
(Avon, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-06-157909-7
For some inexplicable reason, this one time avid reader of historical romance has found herself increasingly turning to contemporary stories in recent years.  I really can’t explain my changing tastes but the fact is that a historical is much more likely to languish on my to-be-read mountain, unless it is a book by a favorite like Balogh, Putney or Hunter.  And one contemporary author whose books I usually read as soon as I get them home from the bookstore is Rachel Gibson.  I can generally count on her for an entertaining and fun read.  Nothing But Trouble is vintage Gibson and gave me several hours of enjoyment.

Like a number of her novels, Nothing But Trouble is set in Seattle and features the fictitious National Hockey League team, the Chinooks.  Gibson must be an enthusiastic hockey fan because she has a real gift for portraying the larger than life characters who thrive on playing this sometimes brutal sport.  Yet she also succeeds in humanizing her characters and describing both the highs and the lows, the perks and the problems of being a sports hero.

The hero of Nothing But Trouble is unexpectedly facing the crisis that every pro athlete must someday confront: the end of his career.  But Mark Bressler’s day of reckoning came suddenly, on a dark road and a patch of black ice.  A few months before the story opens, Mark’s Hummer slid out of control and turned over several times.  He survived but spent a month in a coma.  His injuries mean he will never play hockey again and he has to watch the team he captained and helped shape win the Stanley Cup without him.  His recovery has been slow and painful and his mood is not sunny.  The Chinooks management has sent several aides to try to help him and he has driven them all away.  But his newest assistant is not easily scared off.  Chelsea Ross means to stick it out and earn the bonus she has been promised.

Chelsea is the twin sister of the Chinooks’  public relations person.  She has lots of experience as a personal assistant to demanding employers. Her goal has always been to be an actress but during the all too frequent times when she couldn’t find work in her chosen career, she played assistant to various Hollywood personalities.  Her latest run-in with a lecherous boss sent her to seek refuge with her sister.  Chelsea is convinced that her greatest barrier to success in her chosen career is her double-D cleavage. 

Note that while such endowments might well aid a tall woman in Hollywood, on five foot one inch Chelsea, they were really overwhelming.  Casting directors could never get past her boobs and thus she was relegated to “screamer” roles – the slut who gets killed first in slasher movies.  The $10,000 the Chinooks have promised her if she lasts for three months with Mark will allow her to get the breast reduction surgery she so desires.

Mark does his best to get rid of Chelsea, but she is adamant.  She will not be moved and she gives as good as she gets.  Mark can ignore her and make her life difficult, but he can’t get her out of his mind.  And the very presence of this smart, determined woman forces him to start to come to terms with his future.  She won’t let him wallow in self pity and she makes him feel alive. For her part, Chelsea understands that beneath Mark’s gruff surface is a man who has experienced loss, who is a good person.  And he does have a great body.

I very much enjoyed watching the relationship between Mark and Chelsea develop into romance and love.  In fact, until the very end, when Gibson introduced what I thought was a gratuitous conflict between them, I was completely satisfied with the story.  Yet, overall, the good points of Nothing But Trouble outweigh the bad.  Gibson will remain on my auto-buy list of contemporary romance authors.  I may go looking for a couple of her books that I have missed, especially if they are about the Chinooks who, next to the Penguins, are my favorite hockey team.

--Jean Mason

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