Football Romance FTW: Skin in the Game by Jackie Barbosa

BarbosaSkinAs an NFL fan, I am a sucker for a good football romance. But as they say about good science fiction (it must be good science AND good fiction), I need it to be good football AND good romance. I’ve read some where the football was wrong (or completely unbelievable), and others where the romance didn’t work for me. I’m happy to say that this book has good football, good romance and a huge bonus: a woman football coach.

Angie Peterson is a math teacher and the assistant coach of the high school football team in her hometown in Minnesota. She’s a whiz at spatial visualization, so she understands and crafts football plays really well. She has loved the sport all her life, and the chance to coach (and to replace the current head coach when he retires) means a lot to her. But the head coach has a heart attack and develops pneumonia, and Angie doesn’t get along well with the other assistant coach, who’s sexist ass-hat. Worried that this friction will end up costing Angie the chance to replace him, the head coach goes looking for an interim replacement for himself, someone who can be a sort of figurehead coach, and who couldn’t possible be considered a long-term replacement.

His choice is an old protégé, Cade Reynolds, the star quarterback of the team in the year they won the state championship, a college and then an NFL star, who is currently not on a team because of a long rehab for a shoulder/arm injury. Coach figures that Cade can come take his place and make everyone happy. However, before anything can be done about the coaching position, Cade and Angie meet in a coffee house and hook up for a night of passion — Cade because she’s hot and available, Angie because she’s had a crush on him since high school, and she wants to get one night with him before he figures out who she is.

I liked so much about this book. I liked that Angie, and eventually Cade, really cared about the high school students — the one time Angie feels that she has put her own interests ahead of her students, she reacts exactly as I’d expect of an ethical teacher. I enjoyed the way their relationship developed from insta-lust and sexual compatibility to respect, shared humor, and real admiration for each other’s abilities. They made a good team, and they brought out the best in each other — that was refreshing.

In addition to helping with the high school team, Cade is pursuing a return to the NFL. That subplot was developed believably, I thought, and with a good appreciation of the choices involved. The resolution surprised me a little, but it worked, and I was impressed that the ending included a “public proposal” that worked for me, since usually I hate those.

Probably the only things that bothered my about this book were the times Angie and Cade got caught in compromising positions at the high school. While I like a good strong sexual attraction, I also like to think that intelligent adults can restrain themselves at clearly inappropriate times and places, especially when they are responsible for supervising minors. But I realize how much of that is my own background talking!

All in all, I’m really glad that I read this book, and I hope it’s not too long before we see a sequel — the book is billed as the first in a series, and there’s a pretty broad hint at the end about which couple might figure in the next book. I’m eager for more!

Context note: I know this author through interactions on Twitter. The timing of this review is deliberate; Jackie lost her teenage son in a car accident recently, and many of us in the romance community want to help by supporting her work while she’s not in a position to do much promotion or online interaction. I have also contributed to the Julian Fraire Memorial Fund.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. QuilterPhyl
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 12:45:45

    I purchased several of Jackie’s books this week, including this one. I’m glad you liked it and I’m looking forward to reading it!


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