Breakaway by Catherine Gayle
Series: Portland Storm #1
Publisher: Night Shift Publishing on December 11, 2013
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (NA)
She’s reaching for a breakaway pass.
Dana Campbell has spent the past seven years in self-imposed isolation for a crime she didn’t commit. The danger is well in the past, but her panic attacks make it impossible to have a normal, healthy relationship with a man. Even her counselor has given up on her. She has to find someone she trusts to help her fight through the panic, or her seven-year ordeal will become a lifetime sentence. There’s only one man she feels safe enough to ask.
He got caught with his head down.
As the captain of the NHL’s once elite but now fading Portland Storm, Eric Zellinger knows a thing or two about keeping his focus on the job. Questions are flying about his ability to lead the team back to the playoffs. If they don’t make it, he might be shipped out of town. It’s the worst time possible for his best friend’s kid sister to divide his focus. How can he give her what she needs without jeopardizing both the Storm’s playoff hopes and his future with the team?
It’s her only chance, but it’s his last shot.
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
For seven years, something as simple as human touch, specifically that of a man, has been impossible for Dana. After a particularly traumatic attack during her freshman year of college, she’s a shell of the person she once was. And while she dreams of resuming a normal life, of being able to handle even the idea of a relationship, no amount of therapy seems to help. So when her therapist suggests a sex surrogate, Dana knows a stranger, no matter how professional and understanding isn’t an option. But maybe her brother’s best friend, a man she trusts implicitly, could be the key to reclaiming her life.
Cute cover, but I’m not sure it accurately reflects the seriousness of the subject matter that’s at the heart of this plot. Then again, something dark and shadowed probably wouldn’t introduce the series very well. I don’t know…
It’s pretty rare for me to pick up a book that speaks of rape, not only because it’s so often a badly used plot device but also simply because I’m not a fan of all that angst. But this one was free on Amazon, and after I checked out some other readers’ reviews, I figured I’d give it a shot. Contrary to what I sort of expected, I just couldn’t put it down.
While Dana’s rape is practically its own character in the story, it’s a past-tense deal, never fully described in detail, which made it much more palatable than I usually find. And while she’s so traumatized from it that she can barely function, she refuses to give up on the dream of spending her life with someone, and she’s determined to overcome the seemingly impossible obstacles its created. Somehow Catherine Gayle has created a believable, damaged, and hopeful character without overdoing or glossing over things the way I expected. Where many authors would have left their characters drowning in angst, waiting to be rescued by some ridiculously understanding stranger who magically scales the figurative walls, Dana refuses to fall into a spiral of despair, even when her heartbreaking struggle is nothing short of overwhelming. It’s the right respect for the seriousness of the event coupled with a heroine you can’t help but root for. But on to the story…
Eric crushed on Dana for longer than was probably appropriate, but she was always his best friend’s kid sister, and he tried to do the noble thing by resisting the attraction. However, her whole life fell apart before he could finally give in to his heart, and ever since then, he’s felt his chance has passed. The awkwardly sad, hilarious scene in which Dana asks for his help has him at odds — he feels like the brand of help she’s asking him for is a betrayal of his best friend and constitutes taking advantage of Dana. But he’ll be damned if he’s going to let anyone else do the job.
Eric’s understanding and considerate nature when it came to Dana’s issues is — on the surface — almost too perfect. Then again, he’s known her forever, truly cares about her, and witnessed her drastic change in personality himself. As strong as his feelings are for her, there’s no way he could really treat her any differently than he does. It’s his past with her, even just as a family friend, that makes his constant concern for her more believable than one might think.
Their journey is filled with panic attacks, Dana’s desperation to be “normal,” and Eric’s overwhelming guilt, but somehow it’s not the giant angst-fest the scenario hints at. Instead, it’s actually a very sweet romance, though the physical side of things is understandably slower to develop than the emotional side. Eric is head over heels for Dana, extremely protective of her, and more than willing to deal with the fallout that will inevitably occur when her brother finds out what their up to.
The only thing I didn’t really like or feel was appropriate was that Eric’s entire team was told up front about Dana’s issues. While there was no doctor-patient confidentiality, in that Dana bucked her therapist’s suggestions of a professional and enlisted Eric to help her get past her trauma and be able to have a physical relationship, it just seemed like a terrible invasion of privacy and rather inappropriate. Sure, the other guys on the team needed to know that Dana was going to have serious problems being around them and would more than likely go into complete freak-out mode at one point or another, but I would have been more accepting of a less personal explanation to them. Say she had an extremely traumatic experience and is suffering from PTSD, severe anxiety, and a load of other issues, and then let them draw their own conclusions.
In any case,Breakaway was a great read, and while I may have had that one issue with the story, it in no way diminished my enjoyment of it. The characters’ emotions, challenges, and strong chemistry were all perfectly balanced, and I’ll definitely be hunting down the other books in the series.