Isabella Donato just can’t resist those electric blue eyes of Chad Murphy. They are the main reason she fell in love with him. But now, on the eve of their marriage, she’s experiencing twinges of doubt. Why?
Why, indeed? This is the intriguing start to Patricia M. Jackson’s latest novel, and it’s an absorbing, unique tale of romance and conflict, set against the backdrop of professional hockey and small town values.
Isabella takes on the task of tutoring Chad so he can keep his grades up and continue his role as “Manic Murphy” on the Northern Michigan University hockey team. It’s no easy feat. Chad is dyslexic and cannot read. It’s a miracle he’s come this far academically.
But the tutoring sessions turn torrid when Chad and Izzy find they just can’t keep their hands off each other. These scenes are particularly well done, and they are guaranteed to steam up your reading glasses.
They continue to develop their relationship, each one finding a key component missing from their respective lives up until now. For Murphy, it’s a sense of belonging that the boisterous Donato clan fills; for Izzy, it’s the realization of a true love that has proven elusive up until now.
So, it’s particularly devastating when a meddling hockey groupie gossips to Izzy about Chad’s supposed interest in another coed. She leaps to the conclusion that the hapless young hockey star can’t be trusted with her heart, and abruptly breaks off all relations.
Meanwhile, a host of superb subplots add depth and texture to the story. Tom, Izzy’s twin brother, suffers a devastating injury on the ice one night. Sean, Chad’s younger brother, develops a very expensive — and dangerous — drug habit.
And Murphy and Izzy, finally engaged after months of estrangement, run up on rocky shoals when Chad announces he will quit college and turn pro.
Their back-and-forth love affair appears to be at an end. But is there hope nonetheless for these two lost souls who can’t seem to find happiness except in each others’ arms?
There is a pleasant pace and cadence to this work of romantic fiction, skillfully interweaving story elements to keep things lively, and carrying the reader right to the end in suspense about just what might happen with the major players.
There’s also great writing and impeccable editing. One lyrical example:
“The sky had streaks of wispy feather clouds against a steel-gray backdrop. The light of day was failing, leaving an opaque mask on the soft winter world.”
We give Isabella five unqualified stars and can’t wait for more from this talented storyteller.