Recently divorced Tina Durham is trying to be self-sufficient, but her personal-training career is floundering, her closest friends are swept up in new relationships, and her washing machine has just flooded her kitchen. It’s enough to make a girl cry.
Instead, she calls a plumbing service, and Joanne “Joe Mama” Delario comes to the rescue. Joe is sweet, funny, and good at fixing things. She also sees something special in Tina and invites her to try out for the roller derby team she coaches.
Derby offers Tina an outlet for her frustrations, a chance to excel, and the female friendships she’s never had before. And as Tina starts to thrive at derby, the tension between her and Joe cranks up. Despite their player/coach relationship, they give in to their mutual attraction. Sex in secret is hot, but Tina can’t help but want more.
With work still on the rocks and her relationship in the closet, Tina is forced to reevaluate her life. Can she be content with a secret lover? Or with being dependent on someone else again? It’s time for Tina to tackle her fears, both on and off the track.
We met Tina in book one, she is one of the wake boarders the guys grew up with and competed against on the circuit. In recent years she underwent sex-re-assignment surgery and got a divorce. She’s re-building her life both socially and professionally. She’s not sure she’s ready to date, but she knows she’s ready to find something that excites her again and she misses competition.
When her washer overflows she calls in a plumber and is grateful that “Joe” is short for Joanna not Joseph. They have an instant spark and when Joe offers her a date, Tina readily accepts.
It is with a bit of disappointment that she finds out the date was mostly to ask her to joint Roller Derby. Though she’s psyched to be involved in something competitive again, especially something women centered, she’s really attracted to Joe and accepts (grudgingly) that Joe doesn’t want to get involved with a team member.
So… despite their attraction, they agree to be friends rather than lovers and Joe begins to introduce Tina to the world of Roller Derby.
Tina is hooked! This is all she wanted and more! It’s cahllenging, exciting, full of friendship and fun. The attraction to Joe simmers and eventually they can’t fight it. But now Tina is a “secret” girlfriend and she doesn’t think that’s much better.
Eventually Joe has to decide between Tina or her “rules” and Tina must decide if Joe was a rebound or the real thing.
One of the down sides of being an amazing writer and having produced books that got great reviews is that every book is compared not only to other books but to the writer’s own previous works. In some cases that can work for you – in others, against.
If I were to compare this only to other books (not to Vanessa’s own) I’d absolutely give it a 5 out of 5 because it’s truly fantastic. It touches on unique themes. Uses (of all things!) Roller Derby to showcase the ability to be open and diverse and as a way to empower women of all types. The author is able to bring in the previous MCs and show them from a new perspective but still give us readers tingles at seeing our boys so in love. She tastefully and without being overly didactic explains a bit about sex reassignment in a way that was informative without being clinical.
BUT… I’ve loved her other stories so I hold them up for comparison as well and there is one part of this story that didn’t quite compare – in the series or elsewhere – and that is the romance. Yes – Joe is awesome and the friendship is real and the hot smexy times were scorching. But – the relationship building felt rushed, the ending even more rushed, and I didn’t connect with them as a couple so much as I felt like they could BE a couple. Most of this felt like Tina’s book and only a little felt like it was Tina and Joe’s book.
So… from the standpoint of writing perfection – which is what I’ve seen from Vanessa North – this one little niggle drops it a tiny bit for me in terms of romance. As for all the rest – I’d give it a total seal of approval and then some!
4.5 of 5 stars