A hardworking single mom comes face to face with the gorgeous star athlete who got away in the second installment of a football romance series by a fresh-voiced newcomer to the genre.
Poppy Patterson doesn’t love her job as a scantily clad server at a nightclub in downtown Denver, but she loves the way it supports her as a single mother to 9-year-old Ace. Ten years have passed since Poppy, pregnant and abandoned by her family, fled Indiana to raise her son and try, unsuccessfully, to forget his father. TK, the famously fun-loving starting wide receiver for the Denver Mustangs, never understood why Poppy left him back in high school, since she never told him she was pregnant. When they run into each other at the club, their sizzling attraction is just as strong as ever: “TK unravels me in ways I thought impossible. I’ve lived such a guarded, half-life for so many years, he’s a shock to my system.” Poppy questions her past decisions as she and TK try to work their relationship out. Martin (Intercepted, 2018) expertly parlays her experience as the spouse of a former NFL player into compelling scenes not just of big games, but of lesser-explored preseason matchups, training camp, and the social dynamics Poppy must face as the new girlfriend of the star player. Poppy leaps off the page as a contemporary biracial woman navigating dating, motherhood, and career with seriousness and a fantastic sense of humor. TK’s character is less distinct, partly due to the novel’s deep first-person point of view. Martin sets up some big-stakes tropes—reunited lovers, secret baby—but they lack the emotional payoff readers expect because she rushes through them to set up even more. By the time Poppy throws up yet another barrier in Chapter 37, readers might be tempted to give up as well.
A strong female lead, laugh-out-loud scenes, and an authentic pro-football setting are offset by an overstuffed romance plot that makes this more of a field goal than a touchdown.