Sure Shot by Sarina Bowen
Contemporary romance released by Tuxbury Publishing LLC on May 12, 2020.
On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, sports agent Bess Beringer is ready to make some changes. Armed with a five-year plan—indexed and color coded—she’ll tackle her personal life with the same zeal that she brings to her successful agency.
A big, tall, ripped hunk of hockey player who’s just been traded to the Brooklyn Bruisers is not a part of that plan. Mark “Tank” Tankiewicz has a lot of baggage. He’s a ride-or-die loner with a bad reputation. He’s on the rebound. He’s also the sexiest thing on two legs, and for some crazy reason it’s Bess that he wants.
She knows better. But then she falls stupid in love with him anyway. And for a while it seems like maybe he’ll do the same.
Until she asks him for the one thing he can never give her…
You guys! This book is darling! I’m so glad I got my hands on an ARC of Sure Shot as it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a while. Times as we all know, are … crazy. Unfortunate. Stressful. It’s a fucking goddamn pandemic. So along those lines it was a bit of a mind trip reading a contemporary romance where life is normal. Obviously I understand this was written well before global lockdown happened. (Before there even was an outbreak anywhere in the world …) But you know. I was pretty engaged with the book – but it took a bit. I think it was mostly me/the everything, and not the book – but up until about chapter 17 I kept putting the book down every chapter or so. Nevertheless once things started rolling I couldn’t put it down, I laughed out loud in places, teared up, and basically wanted to hug the book upon finishing it.
Bess Beringer is definitely introduced in Moonlighter
(which *small voice* I still need to review… >.>) – I can’t remember if she appears in the earlier books, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Anyway, she’s turning 30. (Because of course she is. Nothing against this
book – it’s just one of my romance pet peeves that it seems heroines cannot possibly be older than 30 because once that happens they’re just dried up husks of course… 🙄) – which is slightly
an issue here because Bess is all “omg I’m so old” and “my clock is ticking” and literally says she’s going through a midlife crisis so … there is that. (These things were part of why I had some trouble getting into the book.)
That being said, Bess is awesome. She is a sports agent, owns her own company, hired her first employee, and has her five year plan. She’d like to be in a romantic relationship, cultivate more [female] friendships, and wants to have a baby. She’s moved slightly closer to her brother – basically her only family, and is ready to take a step back from work. Life seems perfect – yet it’s not coming together. I liked that Bess was so awesome, but also unsure. She’s totally in love with Tank – has been basically for a decade (only not really!), but that’s almost a side issue, because based on her interaction with him she realizes that’s a no go. I liked that she was rational, but not stuck, by which I mean – she knew what she wanted, but she wasn’t going to bulldoze her way into something or stubbornly cling to it, especially when it’d be overall detrimental. Bess is normal, but next level. She’s someone I think any of us would be happy to be. I will say she has a traumatic past. (Trigger warnings of abuse and neglect. I think my work has normalized/inured me to this because … of course I felt sympathetic for her, and her childhood was awful. I wasn’t that shocked by it though – that sort of thing is tragically commonplace. It’s just most of us don’t see it. But I was kinda like “thousands if not millions of kids go through this too…” – in no way detracting or diminishing what she and her brother endured and overcame. I mean dear god.)
Now. Mark “Tank” Tankiewicz. Normally I like snarly heroines, but here we have a snarly hero. Who kinda is a marshmallow. He’s angry and hurt. His wife [mostly] unexpectedly and harshly divorced him. He’s just been traded. There was … a lot going on with his wife too. I don’t want to say what it is because it kinda feels like a big spoiler – but it explains a lot as to his attitude, and then also his actions with Bess. He’s really trying to settle in with his new life though, and Bess is the one bright spot. Tank’s nickname is actually “Sure Shot” – but the book refers to him as Tank/that’s how Bess mostly refers to him. There’s a lot of friction between him and his new teammates because he comes from their biggest rivals. I liked that he’s so steady. Of course he’s down about his life – not exactly listless or depressed but … verging on it. And I mean, who wouldn’t be? I was impressed with how Mark knew not to (or to try not to) let his teammates initial asshole and cold behavior get to him. He’s 32 – he’s been around the game, he knows what he was brought to the team for, even if his new teammates can’t seem to grasp it yet. Of course he gets annoyed and loses his temper at times – but he does take a lot of shit good naturedly. And he knows that hockey players are big pranksters – understands team dynamics. He’s just … a good guy.
I did have a bit of a twinge that Tank hooked up with Bess before his divorce was finalized. The process for him was really quick and easy. However, his relationship with his wife had basically ended some time ago. I liked that there was that moment where she shows up and they have a talk. That it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t some screaming tabloid mess etc. This never seems to bother Bess, or even be a blip to her, so that helps. In fact the bigger/biggest concern is they don’t use condoms the first few times they have sex – she figures he’s “too used to married sex” and is on the pill, so it’s no big deal to her. For all the emotional veering (which seemed kinda minimal considering the extremes people now are experiencing) both Bess and Mark are quite balanced and secure. They know their own worth – and though they don’t feel it, they have people rooting for them. Mark kind of only has Henry (Bess is a yes and no) – but his teammates step up. Bess has Henry, her brother and sister in law, Georgia and Becca, Eric, Alex, and the guys. It’s a love fest of characters from the previous books.
For the romance itself … it starts out as a hookup but the thing is Tank and Bess have history from nine years ago. I liked that their first time was Bess’s 21st, and then reconnect the eve of her 30th. I like 3s and multiples of it, so 9 years feels like a nice full circle. Also because both of them have matured and are in a totally different place in their lives. They’ve done most of their growing up, and are meeting almost as strangers. Only – obviously not. The chemistry is still there. Their personalities fit. Even though both of them agree it’s a hookup they obviously feel more. It’s actually pretty subtle – Tank realizes quickly how attached he is to Bess, and that he has feelings for her. However, he resists making the relationship more serious. (Again, the spoiler thing.) It did annoy me when I didn’t know the why – but once it’s revealed, I was much more sympathetic. It’s not just immaturity and “I’m never going through that shit again” re: marriage. It’s specific to what Bess has said she’s looking for/has in her 5 year plan.
Lack of communication as a conflict is major pet peeve of mine, but here it’s understandable. They do talk things through – and I get why Bess and Mark weren’t quite willing to just bare their souls due to the heavy content, and the fact that this was just supposed to be almost a friends with benefits thing. What I’m saying over and over is … it’s so realistic but well done in a bright, almost lighthearted contemporary way. The pacing is great. You don’t feel overwhelmed but there’s always something happening and it’s so layered. True to life – but with the HEA guaranteed.
All the characters are so damn likeable too! A major bonus – I’ve been reading (or trying to read) a lot of books lately and just haven’t been connecting with them – but everyone is someone you’d like to have in your life. It’s nice too that a lot of characters you’ve already met in their own books, and they appear organically, but don’t steal the show. I find a lot of authors have trouble balancing the focus – but Sure Shot is clearly Tank and Becca’s book and I never felt they got cheated.
I definitely recommend you read Sure Shot – especially if you like (hockey) sportsball romances, and definitely if you like Sarina Bowen’s books and her Brooklyn Bruisers series. This might actually be my favorite one so far, and I know I’ll be re-reading it in the future. Considering I read it in less than a day, in a time when I have less than no focus – I’ve got to take that into account gradewise. <3
You can read an excerpt here
and buy a copy here