Wednesday, March 13, 2019

#9 [2019/CBR11] "Pipe Dreams" by Sarina Bowen

Needing a break from serious literature, I picked up Pipe Dreams (2017) by Sarina Bowen. I'd already read the first three books in Bowen's Brooklyn Bruiser's series, so I was eager for a little escapism. The series focuses on the Brooklyn Bruisers, an NHL Franchise, recently bought by the techie billionaire, Nate.

Nate's assistant, Lauren Conrad, used to eat and breathe hockey, when her father was in charge of the team. However, a failed romance with the team's goalie, Mike Beacon, two years before, has her hating and avoiding anything to do with hockey. Lauren had worked with her father's team and been friends with Mike Beacon for years. They had good chemistry, but he was married with a daughter, so neither one attempted to turn it into anything else--until Mike's wife cheated on him and he left her. It wasn't long before Lauren and Mike were inseparable and planning on moving in together. Their relationship was almost perfect.

But out of the blue, Mike called Lauren and broke things off, telling her that his wife was sick and he was going back to her. He didn't talk to Lauren again. Nate transferred Lauren to the Manhattan office, partly to give her a break from her heartache. It turned out that Mike's wife was dying of cancer, and she needed his help. In addition, with her mother sick, his daughter was desperate for him to be around. Mike's wife died a year later, and he is now dealing with a gifted and grieving tween.

Lauren was trying to move on with her life, but had never really gotten over Mike. That's why she is so unhappy when Becca gets a concussion and Lauren has to fill in working for the team through the playoffs. Suddenly, she's running into Mike Beacon daily. She has to face the hurt he caused her and decide if she wants to give him another chance. It doesn't help that Mike's daughter, as well as a bunch of the other hockey wives, view Lauren as a homewrecker--not knowing the circumstances of their original relationship. And to add another little wrinkle, Lauren has given up entirely on relationships and is planning on using donor sperm to start her own family.

I'm afraid this was probably my least favorite of the series for a number of reasons. First, I had a hard time pinning Lauren down as a character. She is so unlikable in the other books, but sometimes likable and sometimes not in this one. She's also very driven and focused on her career. For that reason, I did not buy the baby plot. I guess Bowen was trying to add some kind of tension and deadline to their relationship, but it felt completely out of the blue. Lauren has plenty of time to settle into a career, have kids, and/or maybe find a partner. Of course she's not going to get pregnant with a strange man's baby while she's reconnecting with her ex. Or as she's graduating from college and in the middle of the playoffs. Bowen did not lay the groundwork for Lauren desperately wanting a baby right at that time, which would have made that decision reasonable.

Secondly, I had a hard time understanding Mike Beacon's actions. Yes, he wanted to take care of his ex-wife and protect his daughter from a very traumatic time. But Lauren was apparently the love of his life, would he really just ditch her like that with no explanation? And sure, he thought she would move on and he was doing what's best for her, but that wasn't his only option. He could have moved in with his ex to help with their daughter and care for her without pretending that they were a couple again. He could have told Lauren the truth and let her decide. It might have been easier on his daughter if Lauren had been a consistent presence in her life throughout her mother's sickness. And what's different now? His daughter is still a traumatized kid who doesn't want Lauren around and is forced to go through even more change. Yet as soon as Mike sees Lauren, he starts flirting with her outrageously. This is an example of an entire plot that would have unraveled if the main characters had had one honest conversation in the beginning.

Finally, although it was sometimes interesting to see the same events from past books from a different viewpoint, it also took away some of the excitement. I already knew what happened at the party and I already knew who won the Stanley Cup. The playoff run became just a formality rather than vicariously experiencing the excitement of the sport.

There were still some fun parts to this novel, and I'm glad I read it for the sake of completion. However, Brooklynaire is still my favorite.

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