Book Review: Breakaway by Catherine Gayle

We’re trying a new thing on the blog: book reviews of hockey themed books! This one’s a romance novel but we’re planning on reading a little bit of everything, have no fear.


From the back of the book:

She’s reaching for a breakaway pass.

Dana Campbell has spent the past seven years in self-imposed isolation for a crime she didn’t commit. The danger is well in the past, but her panic attacks make it impossible to have a normal, healthy relationship with a man. Even her counselor has given up on her. She has to find someone she trusts to help her fight through the panic, or her seven-year ordeal will become a lifetime sentence. There’s only one man she feels safe enough to ask.

He got caught with his head down.

As the captain of the NHL’s once elite but now fading Portland Storm, Eric Zellinger knows a thing or two about keeping his focus on the job. Questions are flying about his ability to lead the team back to the playoffs. If they don’t make it, he might be shipped out of town. It’s the worst time possible for his best friend’s kid sister to divide his focus. How can he give her what she needs without jeopardizing both the Storm’s playoff hopes and his future with the team?

It’s her only chance, but it’s his last shot.

Things I liked:

Catherine Gayle has clearly watched a game. I’m not sure how many games she’s watched, because while some details were spot on, others not so much (see: things I couldn’t get behind). However! The details that were spot on were the ones that were most fleshed out and the ones she dwelt on the longest, so that works out. Probably. Anyway, the in game descriptions were well done and things you could actually say about hockey plays.

She also wrote the team well. The interactions between the players were well done, a couple of the background characters were well fleshed out. (I’m assuming because they’ll have books later in the series.) (Because yes, this is the beginning of a series.)

Plus, and this is only true right now, you can’t argue with the free price for the e-book on Amazon.



I can’t tell if this is a meh or a thing I couldn’t get behind, but the book is told from first person point of view. And not just one character. POV switches back and forth between the two main characters, and are separated by the character’s name, to assist you in keeping things straight. While I appreciate the assist, I kinda hate first person POV, honestly. I pushed past it to get through the book, but it remains not my favorite.

The wives were fun to read about, though none of the interactions pass the Bechdel test. They were mostly entirely about either one of the younger girl’s crushes on the rookie or the heroine’s relationship (fictional or otherwise, at that point) with the hero.


Things I couldn’t get behind:

First of all, the description on the back of the book: “Dana Campbell has spent the past seven years in self-imposed isolation for a crime she didn’t commit” does absolutely NOTHING to warn you about the gang rape described inside. “A crime she didn’t commit” because yes there was a crime but it was inflicted upon her, not just something she happened to witness and didn’t tell anyone about. Maybe I’m just being unreasonable, but things that could potentially trigger panic attacks in your reader should probably be warned for.

For the hockey things she got right, she also got things wrong. Simple things, like spelling Henrik Lundqvist’s name wrong, and slightly more complicated things, like St. Louis and San Jose battling for the same first seed spot for home ice advantage in the playoffs. She also seems to have a funny concept of “the bubble” in the playoff picture. The Portland Storm (made up NHL team for the book) were battling the Dallas Stars (sure), the Edmonton Oilers (seriously don’t make me laugh) and a couple of other teams for the final playoff spot, but the Storm did literally nothing but lose the entire book long. They won maybe three games that were described? She tried to hand wave this by saying that the Flames were falling apart more than the Storm were, but even on the bubble (especially in the West) a team needs to win more than three games in the final weeks of the series to even have a prayer. Most certainly to have it come down to the last game that you need to win.

The heroine of this novel knows hockey, having played it herself in college, so the timing of this novel was very unusual. She decides to bring her problems to her brother’s best friend from home (who happens to be the captain of the Portland Storm) in the last six weeks of the season. When he’s vying for a playoff position.

See, she has panic attacks when she looks at dudes. It’s understandable, and I’m not going to comment on the recovery process, because honestly I have no idea about it. But what she’s asking him to do is basically step into her life as a sex surrogate. To hold her hand through panic attacks. To force his touch on her because mentally she trusts him, she just can’t get her body to agree with her brain. So he agrees to this. He holds her hand while she shakes apart next to him on the sofa, when she actually needs medical attention after passing out on the team plane, etc. In order for him to help her, he talks to the coach of the team, who allows her to fly with them on the road? And the team pays for a hotel room next to his? So this guy can love her back into feeling normal? Like, pretty sure the off season would have been a better time for all of this, but maybe I just have unrealistic expectations of other people.

Final thoughts:

I cannot in good conscience wholeheartedly recommend this book without a lot of qualifiers. It’s worth the free price, and I don’t begrudge the afternoon I spent reading it. With some more forethought regarding plotting and timing and someone to nitpick her hockey errors, it could have been a lot better.


Beard 2


6 thoughts on “Book Review: Breakaway by Catherine Gayle

  1. Wait, “crime she didn’t commit” was BEING GANG RAPED?!!
    Thank you for warning me about that, because I might have picked this up (free is free, after all) but now I can safely mount my Nopetopus and ride off into the sun.
    The playoff thing might just be a holdover from before they changed the playoff format? Pre-2012 lockout playoff seeding was just top two teams from all six division made it plus the next two best teams in each conference, and seeding was determined by who had the most points–so SJS and STL would both be making it in, but one would be 1st seed and the other would be 2nd seed–they wouldn’t, of course, be competing for home ice advantage *against each other*, which it sounds like maybe she wrote happening. This book sounds like a train wreck :/


    • I mean, re: the playoff thing, sure it could have been. But this book was written a year after the new CBA was in place, so it was still easily googleable if you’re researching? I give her no passes.


  2. How’s the writing quality in this book? I usually enjoy hockey romances but I’m a tad worried about reading a book that can’t articulate the difference between ‘committing a crime’ and ‘having a crime committed against you’. 😕


    • If you can get past everything else described in the review, the writing isn’t actually bad. The only big issue she has is transitional timing. It’s a six week time frame we’re talking about here, to take her from not wanting someone to touch her ever to actually having sex with this dude, and at some point in the middle of the book they skip 10 days. Like, I don’t need those days laboriously gone over, but at least some “and then these days happened but nothing significant happened on them” would have been fine. Idk, I think it’s readable. I’m not sure who’s responsible for the back of the book in this situation (usually the publisher) but there’s no confusion of the two in the book.


  3. It wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, but yeah, the time setting was just weird. I couldn’t help but think the team would be more likely to take out a restraining order than pay for her hotel room, especially during the playoff push.


    • Oh yeah, definitely not the worst at all, but lacked any semblance of realism. Not something I generally look for in romance novels, but still appreciated.


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