Lighting the Lamp (Sophie Fournier #3) – K.R. Collins

4.5* – This series is on its way to being the most frustrating while clearly addicting I’ve read in a long time. I’m going to try not to spoil too much, but damn, it’s not gonna be easy. If you’re worried I might fail and don’t want to ruin your own enjoyment of this book, maybe all you need to know is that it could have been a full 5* if the author had taken it just a step further in the relationship department.

K.R. Collins writes hockey beautifully. I don’t think I’ve ever watched an entire ice hockey game (I’m French, hockey is definitely not my sports), yet when reading her books, I’m a Concord Condors fan all the way. The plays she describes are utterly exciting, the suspense is thrilling and breathtaking. We know that, we’ve known it since book 1, Breaking the Ice. The real suspense here pertains to Sophie’s love life. Or rather lack thereof so far. I know romance isn’t everything, and I don’t really need it in every book I read but when a novel is released by an LGBTQA publisher with tags such as “bisexual”, “demisexual”, “lesbian”, “romance” or “slow burn”, you can’t blame readers for believing they mean something. In this instance, I think that something will be the slowest burn ever, but that’s only speculation on my part. Also, Sophie is such an endearing character and her growth over the series is so beautiful that I plain and simple want more, for her and for me.

Sophie Fournier’s third season in the NAHL is bound to be very different from her first two: she’s not the only woman in the League anymore and what’s more, she’s not the only woman in her team anymore. After postponing her arrival last season, Elsa Nyberg is finally here, and the two of them take to each other like ducks to water, both off and on the ice. There’s a connection between the two young women (it’s sometimes difficult to remember, but Sophie is still too young to drink alcohol at the beginning of this book) that Sophie, whose life has always been focused on hockey, fails to identify for what it is, or at least for all that it is. The athletic crush, the very needed friendship with another female player, the novelty of having a roommate are all she sees. Once again, as I wrote above, this is only speculation, but all the signs are there of something more. The matter of the moment, however, is to win the Maple Cup. While things may get better and better, Sophie still has to prove herself day in, day out, but this season, she’s got more backup and more opportunities than ever.

As the first and only woman in the league until now, Sophie has had her way of dealing with the pressure, the demands of both management and the media, the love and the hate of fans. Now that other women have also been drafted, different personalities come into play, and if we get a fourth book (I might be frustrated, I still want a fourth book), I hope we’ll get to see more of that, more of how these other female players capitalise on the path Sophie has opened.

This instalment brings back the energy and exhilaration of the first one. Every scene about hockey is fantastic, whether it’s the games, Sophie’s efforts at motivating her team, everything. I’m still very annoyed at her father’s attitude but she seems to have made her peace with it and to only take the good, in a very mature way. In this book, the third in the series, we get to see more of the adult she’s becoming, the human being, the woman, not just the player anymore. She’s more open with her badassery, her snark, her sense of humour. She’s more comfortable with the other players on her team and it shows in the best way. She was a bit boring in the first two books, she’s becoming quite captivating, as others are also coming to find out. In book 2, Sophomore Surge, most of the off the ice scenes centred on Sophie’s friendship with Dima, the Russian star of the Boston team and her official “rival”. Dima’s still in the picture, and I really enjoy their relationship, but Elsa is now centre stage, and that’s a big part of what makes this third book so exciting. The relationship dynamics are very different, more layered, more complex. Collins writes these scenes very well too and I can’t wait to see where she’ll take the story next.

5-stars

Lighting the Lamp @ NineStar Press

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