Icebreaker - Deirdre Martin They say ice hockey is the Canadian pastime and as a living breathing Canuck whose earliest memories are Saturday nights parked in front of the tube with "The Game" tuned in and a Chinese Food dinner in front of her I would say "they" are probably right. I helped my dad run a pool for a group of friends and family who would estimate the winning goal spread. Closest guess won all. Then came the years shivering in cold arenas while our eldest son played rep hockey, and man I'm not going to detail that experience. My dad is long gone but my kids, particularly our eldest, continue to be rabid fans. I'm relating all this because I've not read a romance involving a hockey player before mainly because as you can tell I've pretty much had my fill of hockey over the years. And, to be perfectly honest, I find the violence that seems to permeate and has escalated in "The Game", and become synonymous with what was at one time a great sport appalling.

So, when I picked up ICEBREAKER and saw the hero Adam Perry is a tough defenseman on the New York Blades hockey team, there was some eye rolling that ensued. However, thankfully I was pleasantly surprised.

Adam is a well respected veteran hockey defenseman who is known for his strong physical presence on the ice. He has been brought to the New York Blades as their new captain with hopes that he will inspire the team to improve following a lackluster showing in the previous season. Adam is known as a defensive defenseman, his specialty (considered a dying art) is the open-ice body check. He delivers this hit with such force and ferocity that more than one player has suffered a concussion. The play is perfectly legal within the rules of the game. Adam has one goal, to take the Blades to the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup. He is 35 years old and knows his years as a player are numbered. Adam is described as “taciturn”, and he certainly is that. He is a man of few words and doesn’t openly socialize with team mates until he gets to know them better. He is careful about choosing those he confides in, is a thoughtful man, driven and focused with respect to his career, he is however inwardly vulnerable for a very good reason.

Adam delivers a legal body check on an opposing team member which results in a concussion during an early season game. He is penalized, but as well wakes up to find he has been charged with assault causing bodily harm. There is some political wrangling at the heart of this charge which you will learn about if you read ICEBREAKER. Adam needs a good lawyer hopefully keep the case from going to trail, but more importantly to build a solid defense if he does end up in front of a jury. His team, the general manager, and coach are behind him and the team owners hire Sinead O’Brien, a lawyer who has earned her way to become one of the top female litigators in the city. Sinead is known for her ruthlessness.

“Sinead nodded thoughtfully. Six pairs of eyes were assessing her reaction to the information, especially Adam Perry’s. She looked at him. His expression betrayed nothing, which was curious. Usually defendants exhibited some level of anxiety. But there he sat, as unreadable as the sphinx. Sinead found it slightly unnerving.

“There’s footage of the hit?” she asked.

Welsh nodded. “Of course.”

Sinead put her pen down and looked around the table. “I would be happy to defend Adam,” she said, her eyes again drawn to him. No reaction to her statement, just that intense, inscrutable gaze. What was he feeling? Was he upset about the charges? In shock? Pissed? Brainless? She couldn’t tell.”

Icebreaker © Deirdre Martin

I thought Ms. Martin crafted a fascinating heroine in Sinead, on one hand she is a hardworking (workaholic), driven professional, who thrives on the challenge of building and winning the tough cases she is assigned. She has had to work twice as hard to prove herself and survive in the man’s arena of law and is, in fact, the only female lawyer at her firm. On the other hand her personal life is a train wreck, she has survived a miserable divorce, has probably one friend in the world, suffers insomnia and a has a litany of personal insecurities that cause her anxiety. I felt for Sinead, she is actually quite vulnerable and lonely. She does however, come from a tight knit Irish family whose warmth and generosity radiate from the pages.

In accepting Adam’s case, Sinead gradually learns that the man who she initially assessed as some meathead jock, is actually an intelligent multi-layered individual. She has to work to get to know him basically peeling away the layers to reveal the man beneath. When his lawyer begins to inquire about his personal background and history Adam is less then cooperative. Gradually they reach a common ground as Sinead, who is as private as Adam, starts to share tidbits of personal information with him. The sexual attraction and tension escalates over the course of the novel until they become lovers, which presents a whole new list of concerns for Sinead. The love scenes in this story are tastefully written and light with respect to eroticism. I will say, Adam is a passionate man and Sinead responds in kind. ;)

Ms. Martin developed strong secondary characters who all play integral roles in the story. Certainly, a stand out is Oliver Casey, Sinead’s colleague and best friend. Oliver, is a brilliant litigator, a WEAPON with a sharp sarcastic wit, a charming womanizer, who does have his own set of issues. If Ms. Martin writes Oliver's story I would love to read it.

I enjoyed Ms. Martin’s intelligent, crisp prose, which is laced with witty dialogue. My only niggle was that I would like to have read more scenes showing Sinead in action as a litigator. There is one scene near the end of the novel where she shines through in this role and I enjoyed it very much. This story isn’t overburdened with hockey jargon or on ice plays, I found it to be very character driven. I also liked the conclusion of ICEBREAKER, Sinead and Adam’s HEA, while not conventional, is a very happy one.

If you enjoy an intelligent contemporary romance about two career driven people who meet under very unusual circumstances and find love and happiness you may like to give ICEBREAKER a try. This is the first Deirdre Martin novel I’ve read, and I had no problem following along even though it is the 10th story in her New York Blades series.