Out on the Ice – Kelly Farmer

When I started reading, I was worried Amy was going to exhaust me. She’s very sweet and fun but she’s also an hyperactive extrovert. As I kept reading, I realised the author had done a wonderful job creating the characters’ voices. If I worry about Amy exhausting me, it means she’s plausible.

Amy Schwarzbach, an out and proud bisexual pro hockey player, is hired as a coach for the summer by Caro Cassidy, a former Olympics medalist (and more). Professionally, the two women hit it off immediately. They also do on a more personal level, and that’s where things get tricky. First, Caro is Amy’s boss. Second, Caro isn’t exactly closeted but she’s not really out either. She keeps her private life private and, above all, as far away as possible from the rink and the safe place she’s created in Chicago for young girls who dream of playing hockey. Moreover, with Amy’s appaling track record with relationships, her best friends are worried she might be more interested in the idea of Caro Cassidy than in Caro Cassidy herself. And Caro is struggling with abandonment issues: her parents got divorced, her mother shunned her after she was outed and her girlfriend left her when she decided to retire after an injury. Now she’s content with her job, her dog Doug and her therapy sessions.

The odds are not in favour of a real love affair, and when you add to all of this the fact that Amy has to go back to Boston at the end of the summer, anything serious between them seems doomed.

While I was quietly enjoying watching the relationship unfold, something interesting happened: I never really noticed how or when, but I suddenly found myself much more emotionally invested in Caro and Amy’s well-being. I read distractedly at first then got really focused once they got together and the real work began.

Ignore the Megan Rapinoe lookalike on the cover, I didn’t picture either woman as they are in this image. It does reflect the spirit of the book, however. Out on the Ice is a debut novel, and it’s really promising. You don’t have to care about sports to enjoy it. I really liked how Kelly Farmer dealt with Caro’s homophobic family and Amy’s attempts to fight bisexual erasure. It never felt didactic and was very coherent with the character. Another interesting aspect was how mental health plays into it all. How both women are more broken and vulnerable than they seem, the way they open up to each other, the strength the relationship brings them.

If you’re looking for a quick sweet yet not shallow read, give this one a try.

4-stars

Out on the Ice @ Harlequin/Carina Press

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