Off Limits is a holiday novella in the Aces Hockey series. Goodreads lists it as #1.5 in the series. I haven’t read book #1 and had no trouble following the storyline, so it’s safe to say that this can be read as a standalone. The couple from the first book makes just a brief appearance in this story.
When the book opens, it’s the holidays and Jenna is bringing her boyfriend home to meet her parents and two brothers. I was a little puzzled by Jenna’s relationship with her boyfriend. Neither of them seemed terribly committed to each other. And even though she’s excited to see her family, Jenna is most excited to see Andrew again.
Andrew’s a hockey player with the NHL now, but life hasn’t always been great for him. He had a rough life with his biological parents, so Jenna’s parents took him in when Andrew was a teenager. So, he’s technically not Jenna’s brother, but he’s best friends with her actual brothers, so growing up he was kind of like a brother, but not, because Jenna’s always had a crush on Andrew. And there was that one weekend in college that Jenna and Andrew spent together, some years ago…
Needless to say, there’s sexual tension galore between Jenna and Andrew. I liked their easy camaraderie. What I didn’t fully understand is why they both think that they can’t pursue a relationship because it would be forbidden somehow. As I said, they knew each other growing up, but they’re not related and it wasn’t clear to me whether Jenna’s parents officially adopted Andrew, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t. Also, the blurb says that Jenna’s dad and brothers wouldn’t approve of the relationship, but I beg to differ. Everyone in Jenna’s family, especially her parents, has a really close relationship with Andrew. Someone even mentioned that he was “Saint Andrew” growing up because he never wanted to disappoint them.
There’s low angst in this story. Jenna’s boyfriend isn’t in the picture for very long, which enables Jenna and Andrew to pursue the thing they’ve been running from for years.
For a book that has a hockey player hero, there’s very little actual hockey in the story, which was fine with me. I read sports romances, but my eyes always glaze over when there’s literal play-by-play descriptions of the sports action.
While the book is fine, I kept feeling that something was missing. I loved the interactions between Jenna, her parents, and her brothers. I think there could have been more banter and lighthearted moments. Also, while I understand the need to introduce additional characters in order to set up the next book in the series, this type of epilogue took something away from the resolution of Jenna and Andrew’s story.
In summary, I didn’t hate the book, but I didn’t enjoy it enough to want to read the rest of the series.
Note: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review. I’m slowly working through my NetGalley backlog and this book has since been published. My review is for the published version of the book, specifically the audio edition.