The latest Advanced Reader Copy this pedometer geek read is one of two novels received through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Both of them were written by Shannon Stacey for her Boys of Fall contemporary romance series. Having never read this author before, this reader was drawn to the idea of football as the background setting, particularly former championship team members returning years later to their hometown. This is the extended review of Under the Lights.
Under the Lights
by Shannon Stacey
Published by Jove Books, 2015
an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC
In this day and age of issues with decreasing school funding and pay-to-play for those school districts who fail to pass bond issues comes a romance that takes on these issues directly. In this case, a committee of three women (Gretchen, Kelly, and Jen) are hoping to save the football team with a special fund-raising festival, and thus save the youth and the town and its people, all of which are undergoing financial hardships.
Under the Lights is the first in a series of three contemporary romances. This novel features a second chance love story. Kelly McDonnell, the daughter of the football coach and now a local police officer of Stewart Mills, New Hampshire, is recruiting former championship team members to return to the small city to help raise funds to save the team. Times have been tough for Stewart Mills’ families, and these “golden boys of fall” may just be the ticket to put the needed funds in the coffer.
One of the young men she convinces to return is Chase Saunders, star running back and her secret crush from high school. Although she assumes he never noticed her back then, Kelly knows she has to keep her guard up (and her heart safe) when he returns to help out.
For his part, Chase’s life has begun to spiral out of control so that taking a few weeks away from his business is no crazier than helping out Coach (and mentor) save the team from being dissolved. The only thing that is even crazier is his growing attraction to Coach’s daughter Kelly, the one person he shouldn’t be lusting after (or so he believes).
From the moment Chase returns until he leaves for his home and business in New Jersey, he and Kelly fall into an easy relationship that she calls a casual fling. But can they really keep their feelings for the other hidden? Will hearts be broken, or will they realize that they love each other? And will the team be saved for another generation of high school football players?
While a bit slow to start, this romance features contemporary themes as well as the Kelly-Chase relationship. Public perceptions and private moments of their relationship are at war with each other. Unlike many contemporary romances, it is not highly graphic, yet there are some spicy scenes. Humor and lighthearted moments are infused throughout, too, as well as some old-fashioned values. Surprisingly, there weren’t any obvious What-the-tuck trends. Perhaps one or two hair tucking moments, but that was about it. How refreshing (and a fantastic reason for reading more)!
This reader is looking forward to reading (and reviewing) Defending Hearts, the next book in the Boys of Fall series. Characters from Under the Lights also appear in Defending Hearts as the story of Stewart Mills’ woes, their citizens, and their football teams continue; however, each romance can be read without having read the others as they can stand on their own merit.
As a side note: having gone to a small high school that had a championship football team during the time I attended, I could relate to this story. Moreover, I know that many of those former players would return (and have) for fund-raisers to help out their alma mater so the story is plausible.