On the Fly by Catherine Gayle
Series: Portland Storm #2
Publisher: Night Shift Publishing on February 17, 2014
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (Adult)
Injury after injury has put Brenden Campbell’s NHL career on hold for years. Now he’s playing for the Portland Storm and determined to make it stick. Few things in life drive him more than being told he can’t have something he wants, and what he wants most is to prove he belongs. Brenden also wants Rachel Shaw, the cute, little redhead who just got hired as the general manager’s new assistant. But then she went and made herself off-limits, telling him: “I don’t date.” Those three words pretty much guarantee that he’ll do everything he can to change her mind.
Rachel is changing things up on the fly for her family, moving them somewhere she can be the kind of mom her kids deserve. Allowing anyone else to be in their lives is out of the question, at least until her instincts get back on track. How else can she be sure who to steer the kids clear of? Right now she trusts no one, including herself, and especially not a man like Brenden Campbell. He’s way too handsome and a little bit cocky. Falling for a guy like him is a mistake she can’t afford to make twice.
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
Rachel Shaw is starting over. A young mother of two, she’s packed everything in her old-beat up car and moved her small family to Portland, hoping that’s where she’ll find a job and a new life for all of them. With no degree, little experience, and no support system, she’s not having much luck until she takes a long shot and applies to work in the office of the Portland Storm.
Brenden Campbell is trying to come back from an injury, and right now, his game needs all his focus. But when a pretty redhead with too much baggage won’t give him the time of day, his interest is piqued. She’s not the kind of girl who needs a casual relationship, and he’s not the kind of guy who does serious, but there’s just something about the new girl in the office, the one who happens to move in right across the hall from him, that has him going after something he never knew he wanted.
I have to admit that when I realized why Rachel moved from Texas to Oregon, I started having a few doubts about the series. The first book, Breakaway, focused on Dana trying to get her life back after a brutal gang-rape in college. And this one has Rachel trying to help her daughter heal after discovering that her ex had been molesting her. Obviously these kinds of things happen in real life, so giving characters who’ve been through it a bit of happiness in a fiction story isn’t a bad thing, but I really didn’t want to find myself in a series that was all about victim recovery. Having read several of the books now, I can tell you that’s not the case. There’s a very definite white knight syndrome happening, but it’s not all for women (or children) who’ve been terribly wronged this way. I just figured I should go ahead and mention that, since most of you know I don’t usually go for books that include that sort of theme.
Rachel got pregnant while still in high school, married the guy, and was pretty much disowned by her parents. Two kids and a divorce later, she discovered that her ex was molesting their daughter, and she made sure he saw prison time for it. But a conviction didn’t guarantee healing, and she decided it was time for a new start, somewhere without all the bad memories and where her kids might find some peace. She lucks into an admin job with in the Portland Storm offices and soon finds herself living right across the hall from the same guy she turned down for a date/drink/whatever on the day of her interview. But Brenden doesn’t give up so easily.
It was interesting watching Brenden navigate the new feelings he was experiencing when it came to Rachel. He annoyed me in Dana’s story, simply because his overprotectiveness became an obstacle for her, but it was always clear that he was a good guy. And that good guy came to the forefront in On the Fly. He’s at first challenged by Rachel, in that he doesn’t understand why he’s even attracted to a woman that’s not his usual type, and then by the fact that she won’t give him the time of day. But serendipity steps in and places him front and center in her life, both on the team for which she now works and as her neighbor. He’s quick to help her out when he can, even though his enormous size and gruff manner initially freak her out a bit, and he’s incredibly perceptive when it comes to her kids, even though he doesn’t have a clue what they’ve been through.
Much of what made this book so fun was the kids — and for this story, Jamie is very much one of the kids. Tuck is just delightful and good for lots of laughs, and Maddie, though understandably introverted, is just sweet as can be. Rachel doesn’t trust anyone around her children, and she has a tough time allowing anyone new into their lives. But Brenden and the rest of the team look out for them, and Jamie works his way into the fold without even necessarily trying. Before long, Rachel is spending more and more time with Brenden, even though she’s still adamantly opposed to dating, and while she still has trust issues, they go from neighbors to friends to something a bit more before she even realizes it’s happening.
Their story is one of friendship, opening up, and learning how to trust again. Rachel is a strong, protective mother, and it’s all Brenden can do to establish himself as someone who’s safe for Maddie and Tuck to be around. After what happened to Maddie, Rachel doesn’t trust her own judgement, and she’s eaten up with guilt that it happened in the first place. But Brenden is surprisingly patient and willing to put in the effort it takes to wn the whole family over, making On the Fly one of the sweetest romances I’ve read in a long time.