Breakaway (Portland Storm #1) by Catherine Gayle
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: December 11, 2013
Publisher: Night Shift Publishing
Pages: 322 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Dana Campbell was gang raped as a virgin by three men at age 19, and the past seven years she has been unable to be around men, especially big men, without having severe panic attacks. She has been treated by a rape counselor for the whole of the past seven years, but she has not made any progress in regaining normal sexuality. Mainly because the recommended treatment for panic attacks, desensitization to the trigger for the attacks, is not possible without using a professional sex surrogate, something she just can't face doing. Then suddenly it occurs to her that maybe she can in fact utilize a sex surrogate, if she can rely on the one person in the world she would trust for such an intimate task: a long-time family friend, Eric Zellinger.
Eric is several years older than Dana and has known her since childhood as her older brother's best friend. Unknown to Dana, Eric has been in love with her for over a decade, but tragically, just when he at last believed her to be grown up enough and was about to approach her romantically, she was raped, and all chance of a normal romantic relationship with her was at an end. Even though he has tried to forget her as a potential mate over the years, he has never been able to, and he is shocked to his core when out of the blue she presents him with her surrogate plan for personal salvation.
Eric is very afraid to go through with the plan, for fear he will, out of well-meaning ignorance, inadvertently make her situation worse. But he cares for her so deeply, he would do anything for her, and he ultimately says, yes, when she begs him to help her and tearfully assures him he is her only hope to regain a normal life.
Unfortunately, Eric is also going through a personal crisis in his professional life at the same time as Dana has come to him, which greatly complicates matters between him and Dana that are already very complex. He is captain of the National Hockey League team, Portland Storm, formerly an elite team which is currently desperate to regain its former glory. Eric is struggling, as team captain, to lead his team to the playoffs. If he fails, beyond the potential pain of defeat is the very real threat that he may be traded away from his beloved team as a failed captain.
As if all that weren't stressful enough, Dana's highly protective brother discovers that Dana has moved in with Eric and pushes her to a confession of her unorthodox plan. He is rabidly against it, and frequently and loudly protests directly to Eric when he is suddenly transferred to Eric's team as a replacement hockey player.
Can Eric simultaneously help Dana, help his team and avoid having his best friend's angry protectiveness sabotage everything he and Dana might accomplish to free her from her emotional prison? Read this terrific book and find out.
This is a very well written, tender romance. One of my favorite romance plots is "friends become lovers," and this is one of the better ones I've ever read.
Eric is a marvelous hero. Unlike the vast majority of romance heroes, he is not a womanizer! He is very loving and gentle with Dana, and due to the nature of Dana's emotional problems, the sex scenes are of necessity very sensitive and slow moving, which is an excellent change of pace among the current crop of raunchy hockey romances.
Dana is an excellent heroine, and I especially liked that prior to the rape, she was an outstanding hockey star herself. It gives her a great many meaningful common bases with Eric besides hot sex. Not that I'm discounting the palpable sexual chemistry between them, a crucial component of a romance novel, of course. But it is great to have something more than that which convinces me as a reader that this couple could truly achieve real and lasting love.
Finally, I liked this romance so much, I've purchased and read several other novels in this series by this author and they are all excellent.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Hockey Plot: 4