Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Comeback" by Catherine Gayle

Nicklas Ericsson is an addict. He’s also a star goaltender with the NHL’s Portland Storm, or he was until his addiction changed everything. Now he’s throwing himself into doing all the necessary things to pave his path to a comeback, both in his personal life and on the ice. Nicky’s run out of options, and now his sister and her children are in Portland. They need help he has no clue how to provide, though, and figuring it out might derail all the progress he’s made.

For a few years now, Jessica Lynch has been running the Portland office for the Light the Lamp Foundation. Between her work and several people from her past, she knows more than she’d like about addicts. One lesson she’s learned is that even when addicts try to turn their lives around, more often than not, they fail. That’s why she takes a hands off approach, keeping her heart well away from the addicts she works with, like Nicky Ericsson.

Nicky’s recovery efforts put him directly in Jessica’s path, and she can’t ignore his very real need for help. Where Nicky is concerned, she can’t separate her emotions. His niece and nephews further complicate her efforts to guard her heart. The attraction between Nicky and Jessica is instant and mutual, but she’s misplaced her trust too many times before. Can he prove that he won't fall back into old habits in time to complete the perfect comeback?

My review:
This review of "Comeback" is best described as a "4 Kleenex review"!  All of the previous books in the Portland Storm series have had intense emotions woven into the story, and several of them have dealt with some serious emotional issues (rape, child sex abuse, etc) but nothing could have prepared me for the emotions of this book.  I found myself actually having to put it down and stop reading for a time when the tears made it difficult for me to continue!
They say "you can't go home again", but that's not true for Nicky.  After finally kicking the addiction he had, and spending a year proving himself with the Seattle farm club, Nicky finally get his chance to reprove himself - to himself, to his teammates, to everyone.  The fortitude of his character is continuously demonstrated throughout this story. He doesn't deny his history as an addict. He is aware every day of the struggles he faces, and we quickly come to realize he is a very introspective personality - perhaps that is WHY he was such a candidate for addiction.  He is a man of few words and deep thoughts which he usually keeps to himself and honestly, it was a bit of a struggle for me to connect with him at the beginning of the book because even his thoughts were as quiet as he was. This fortitude is tested over and over throughout the book and so was his commitment to sobriety, but the author demonstrated the continued "family feeling" of the Portland Storm, who rallied in support of Nicky when he needed it most.
Jessica is a strong woman who has spent most of her life dealing with the affects of living with or knowing an addict.  Her work with "Light the Lamp" is her way to help others when she felt she couldn't help the addicts in her own life, and a constant reminder of where she never wanted to find herself again. But Nicky's commitment to staying clean and Jessica's commitment to remaining free of relationships with addicts were at opposing purposes and both quickly realized that their friends was becoming so much more. But Jessica's long-held, and not wholly unwarranted, belief that Nicky would behave as all other former addicts in her life because a stumbling block for me as the story progressed.  For a long time, nothing that Nicky did mattered, Jessica always treated him as though he was bearing the burden of all the previous addicts in her life. And the ONE time he had a major challenge to his sobriety, she blamed him for not telling her (yet telling his teammates) and used that as an excuse to push him away. Rather than celebrating his strength in staying sober, she punished him for not telling her his struggles and that bothered me about Jessica.
The introduction of Nicky's sister, Emma, and her family was an emotional firestorm I didn't expect.  It only took a few paragraphs to realize the implications of her introduction to the story, right as Nicky realized why she'd come.  Her arrival pushed Nicky into a deeper relationship with Jessica.  I wish the author has spent a bit more time delving into the specifics of their relationship development during the time Emma was struggling.  The author indicated that they spoke every day but without an inclusion of the aspects of their interactions, I had a hard time feeling as though their relationship was a deep as it apparently was.  This was also felt when Nicky took an accident as a means of treating Jessica like less than she supposedly was based on the relationship progression in the story. I felt that the author almost "manufactured" this new struggle for the couple to face before they could have their "happily ever ever"  These dynamics of the development of their relationship was probably the only reason this book received 4 instead of 5 stars. I still recommend this installment in the Portland Storm series - just have your tissues handy!
Disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.

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