Friday Night Lights meets high school ice hockey in this romantic winter read—the first in a new series about a small town in Minnesota and the sport that is its heart and soul.
Junior Tate Tanley hasn’t made it off the bench since joining the hockey team as a freshman. But after the Otters’ star goalie leaves during a huge game and Tate subs in, he’s got the attention of the entire town. Including Claire O’Connor, who’s mysteriously back in Juniper Falls and who he hasn’t seen in a year. But Tate hasn’t stopped thinking about Claire or what happened the night before she left.
Claire O’Connor should be enjoying college life in the big city. Instead, she’s serving drinks to handsy fishermen and taking care of her sick father back in Juniper Falls. And when she spots her best friend’s little brother, Tate, playing in a big varsity game, she’s thrown for a loop. Tate has grown up a lot: more muscles, more hotness, more…everything. But Claire’s responsibility is to her family, and she doesn’t have time for boys—especially not hockey players.
As games, parties, and town drama throw Tate and Claire together, they can’t ignore what happened last fall—and they can’t ignore what’s brewing between them now. Through family tragedy and the reality of broken dreams, it may finally be time for them to unravel the secrets of their past and face the future together.
About the Author
Julie Cross is the internationally bestselling author of the Tempest series. She is also the author of Letters to Nowhere and Whatever Life Throws at You, and she is the coauthor of Halfway Perfect. Julie is a former gymnast/swimmer/soccer player/dancer and she peaked during her teen years—which is why she writes teen love stories, many of which feature sports. Julie lives in Champaign, Illinois, with her husband and three children. Visit her online at JulieCrossBooks.com.
Read an Excerpt
Off the Ice
A Juniper Falls novel
By Julie Cross, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Julie Cross
All rights reserved.
ONE YEAR LATER
I keep trying to sit down, but every time Northfield takes a shot, I'm up, twisting myself into position like I can actually stop a puck from here. It's impossible to watch a game from the bench where my glove and stick are completely useless. Especially after Mike Steller, our starting goalie, just let the Northfield Badgers score their second goal. In our first home game of the season.
Practically the entire town is packed into the arena right now. And after losing game one last week, the boosters and alumni have gone from smiling ass-kissers to using the stiff we'll give you one loss but that's it look. The place is so tense it's like the walls are closing in on us with every minute the opposition dominates.
The buzzer goes off, signaling the end of the second period. With a score of 2–0. Them.
I hold my breath and wait for Coach Bakowski's reaction. He flings his clipboard down the bench, and several of the guys on the team jump back.
"Goddammit, Steller!" Bakowski shouts. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
Mike's skating up to the bench, his helmet tucked under his arm. If it were me, my gaze would be glued to the ice. But Steller's staring right back at Coach.
A silent argument seems to flow between them, and then Coach turns to the rest of us. "Get in the locker room, boys. Now!"
I stand up, start to follow my teammate Red, but catch Bakowski say to Mike, "You either get your head in this game or get out of my rink. I'm done with you and all your personal bullshit."
Red catches me eavesdropping and grabs the front of my jersey, pulling me away. We file into the locker room and, given the heavy silence, I can tell I'm not the only one who heard Bakowski's ultimatum.
Mike Steller's spot on the bench in front of his locker stays empty. I sit there rotating the stick in my hand, testing out my left arm — a habit more than a necessity; the bone is fully healed and has been since about a month into last season. But I have to keep myself busy, waiting for the door to swing open.
"This is bad," Jake Hammond, a junior, too, mumbles beside me.
Our senior captain, Leo, speaks up. "Steller may have let a couple of goals slip by, but that doesn't mean we can't score some of our own. Offense wins the game, right?"
Right. And the goalie loses the game.
Some grunts of encouragement follow Leo's pep talk, but they're cut off when the locker room door swings open. Coach Bakowski and his shiny black dress shoes, but no Mike Steller.
I glance beside me at Red.
Coach stops in the center of the locker room, folds his arms across his chest, and turns slowly in a circle. The dude is freakin' intimidating.
"You listen up, boys," he says. "We have one period left to play, and I swear to God if any of you even so much as thinks the name Mike Steller when our asses are on the line like this, don't even bother showing up at practice tomorrow. Got it?"
Wait ... if we aren't mentioning Mike, does that mean ...?
Red taps his stick against my skate and says, "Dude. You're in."
My heart pounds so loudly I'm sure everyone in the locker room can hear it. This is what I get for wishing earlier that I could play. I mean, I want to play, it's just ... fucking varsity.
"Tanley!" Coach swivels around quickly, stopping in front of me. "Number ten has a mean backhand, so watch out for that. Twenty-two likes to go high glove side."
Everyone in the arena will flip when they see me in goal instead of Mike. I can't be Mike Steller. Not yet. It isn't my turn.
Except it is.
Breathe, Tate. Just. Fucking. Breathe.
Coach goes over plays, tosses around insults and errors until everyone is wound so tight the guys practically explode off the benches and out of the locker room.
Me, on the other hand, I'm hoping for a minute alone so I can go barf up the thirty-two-ounce Gatorade I downed in the first period. I try to stall, but Coach grabs my helmet from the bench and shoves it into my chest.
"Let's go, Tanley, get warmed up. You ready?"
Fuck no. "Yeah, Coach. I'm ready!"
The whole walk out onto the ice is a blur, with a few moments of sharpened focus breaking through. Like passing by the Otters's Wall of Fame. I've seen these names a thousand times, but tonight they take on new meaning. Those guys walked down this same hall, suited up in JFH green and silver, then went on to play in the NHL, the Olympics, or for top NCAA teams.
My stomach twists into a tighter ball of knots. The cheering of the crowd, the familiar Otter chants, turns my attention far from the wall back to the ice.
I'm not sure I can do this. I mean, I knew I'd play in a varsity game eventually, but Steller's the senior. He's the one with college and NHL scouts watching. He's the one in the spotlight this season. Not me.
I close my eyes and draw in a deep breath. He'll be back. Mike will be back.
Except I don't actually know that for sure. He's been missing practices lately, and we lost last week. And there's his girlfriend and their —
Come on, Tate. Focus.
I can't hear the Otters radio broadcast from inside the arena — especially with all the loud chanting — but I hear the announcement inside my head, dictating the play-by-play for the rare few locals not here: Otters substitution, number forty-two Tate Tanley in for number ten Mike Steller. I'm not sure what Coach Bakowski is thinking bringing in a cold goalie when we're down by two goals. Let's hope he's got some magic planned.
In warm-ups, Hammond gets three shots past me, and even Red, who plays defense, sinks the puck low on my glove side. I can feel the crowd growing restless.
"Come on, Tanley, move!" Leo says after I miss his shot, too.
Jesus Christ, what the hell is wrong with me?
I stop to adjust my gloves and glance up into the stands — my mom's still in her nurse's scrubs. Roger is beside her with his five-year-old daughter, Olivia, on his lap. Roger, my new stepfather, whose boxed-up possessions are currently scattered all over my house.
And a couple of rows down from Mom and Roger, my ex-girlfriend is all cozy with a sophomore from JV.
I shift my gaze to the section where all the former Otters in town gather. At least my dad didn't show up today. Last week he popped in on our away game, and I had to put up with all the guys on the bench going on and on about how great Keith Tanley is.
Okay, enough looking up in the stands. Hockey. Ice. Puck. Glove.
But before I even have a chance to get my head on straight, the ref is blowing the whistle. Leo and Northfield's player face off and then a few passes later, the puck is sailing toward me. I manage to stop it, but my stick gets knocked out of my hand by my own defender and I can't clear the puck out. Luckily, Jake Hammond is ready and sends the puck flying past the blue line.
I let out a sigh of relief and hold my position while the guys make the other goalie work a little. After a killer pass from Hammond, Leo blows the doors off the opposing goalie with a wicked slap shot from the point. And the Juniper Falls Otters are officially on the scoreboard!
Over the next ten minutes, my teammates help me out, clearing the puck when I'm in the wrong place. Even after we've managed to tie up the score, I can't seem to find my rhythm. I'm hesitating too much. I'm not calculating shots like I should be. I'm thinking too hard instead of just doing.
With one minute left, Northfield calls a time-out. The crowd boos in response and then more chants erupt, feet stomping. The ice is practically vibrating. Leo skates right over to me and wraps his finger around the cage of my helmet. "Look at me, Tanley!"
I look him in the eyes, trying to calm my erratic breathing and slow my sprinting heart.
"I'm gonna go down there and score a goal, and you're going to keep that puck out of our net, got it?"
I nod, and Leo gives me a shove and taps my leg pad with his stick. "That's right. You fucking got this. We got this."
True to his word, Leo takes twenty seconds to score, and then my heart is sprinting again. Number ten skates toward me, sliding and shifting the puck all the way. I talk myself through his possible shots and then I shut off all the chatter inside my head, my glove raising on its own.CHAPTER 2
It's, like, post-Rapture vacant in the bar right now. Which would be awesome if it weren't for the flood of green-and-silver-covered Otters fans on their way over any minute. I wipe down table twelve for a fourth time. Aunt Kay gives me a funny look from her spot behind the bar. I just got back last night. My dad finally got released from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester where I've been camped out all summer and fall. I don't exactly know how to be here. Again. And like this. Working.
My year away at Northwestern University somehow made me forget what the bar is like on game nights. Before the crowds race over here. I'd never been one to watch every single home game, either. I went to enough; I'm not that much of an anti-joiner. Most people assumed if I wasn't at the game, I was here helping my dad, and that was mostly true. He didn't give me much work to do, but we talked a lot. Often about things I wanted to do outside this town. Things that took me far away from here at the most crucial moments.
The game commentary hums across the bar via 107.5: Otters Hockey LiveOnAir playing from the ancient radio behind the bar, but I can't make out specific details, like which period we're in or what the score is. I don't have anyone at the game I can text, either. My desire to get out of town last fall was so strong that I didn't exactly do the best job of staying in touch with anyone.
With a heavy sigh, I toss the overused rag into the bucket of soapy water. Any more table washing and I might break out the choreography and do a rendition of "It's the Hard Knock Life." I grab my coat and put it on over my personalized O'Connor's Tavern apron.
"I'm gonna check on the game," I yell to Kay.
I move briskly through the cold night air, my breath coming out in white puffs, my ugly kitchen-safe shoes pinching my toes as I cross the parking lot that sits between O'Connor's and the ice rink.
The arena is packed — no surprise there. Betty, the old lady who owns the Spark Plug, a coffee shop and bakery down at the end of the block, is leaned against the boards, watching the game.
"Is it me or is this game taking extra long tonight?" I ask.
She shushes me with a raise of her hand and swings her big old-lady purse higher on her shoulder. "Tie game, one minute left ..."
One minute left. There's my answer. I'm about to turn around and head back to the bar, but my gaze zooms in on the goalie right in front of me and, more importantly, the name on the back of the jersey: Tanley.
Tate is playing goalie tonight?
"Where's Mike Steller?" I ask Betty.
She shakes her head, her wrinkled face tensing. "I don't know. Just got here. Someone said he walked out of the building still in full gear — skates and all."
Maybe he's hurt and went to the hospital. But I know Mike Steller, and I don't see him agreeing to a trip to the hospital if he could still walk.
The ref blows the whistle and then proceeds to argue with Northfield's coach over sticking or tripping or something. I turn my attention back to our goalie. Maybe it's all the pads, but I can't see any sign of the lanky, skinny arms he used to have. He looks close to six feet now. A flash of the younger, shorter Tate from last fall hits me.
I told him not to change. He promised me.
"Promise me something, Tate?"
"Don't change, okay?"
"Yeah, I know. You wrote that in my yearbook."
"But I mean it now. Promise me you won't become another varsity hockey player."
The crowd erupts in a fit of desperate cheers. They're already panicking at the tie game, and I can feel a rush of nerves.
Leo comes over and gives Tate a loud pep talk, and then the clock starts again. My eyes are glued to the goalie. Tate stays moving and alert while his teammates are at the opposite end of the ice. And then Leo scores a goal. The crowd jumps to their feet and Northfield's five players charge at us. Well, they're charging at Tate, but they look huge and fierce and it feels like they're coming at Betty and me. She reaches over and grasps my hand, her grip tight.
Two of Northfield's players are screening Tate, blocking his view of number nine, who is about to shoot. I suck in a breath and lift my free hand, half covering my face. There's a space near Tate's left skate, but he quickly spreads his legs apart, covering the area, and then his glove rises, meeting the puck right on time.
The buzzer goes off, and the volume from where we're standing magnifies to an almost intolerable level. The Otters pile on top of one another, tossing their sticks onto the ice while the fans in the bleachers cheer and dance to the school's game-winning anthem the pep band is playing.
Betty releases my hand and then pats it once more before turning to face me. "Well, that's a relief. Nothing worse than Saturday morning customers after a loss at home."
I groan. "Nothing worse than Friday night drunks after a win at home." It's all coming back to me now. Of course I know that we need the business. The off-season is always hell for my parents' finances, but add a huge stack of medical bills all during the slow summer months, and yeah, things are bad.
"Okay, you got me beat there, dear." Betty smiles, and then it quickly fades. "How's your father doing? Did he get the pastries I sent?"
He got the pastries. Not that he ate them. Or much of anything. When I left the house this morning, the entire island in our kitchen was covered in casseroles, baked goods, and freezer meals. Haley Stevenson, along with her mom, was walking over from their house two doors down, each carrying a large dish. When I get home later, all of it will probably still be there, untouched.
I plaster on my grateful for life's miracles face. "He's doing better, and he said thanks for the treats."
While the guys celebrate the victory, I notice Tate still staring at the puck in his glove. Leo and Red skate over to him, ripping off his helmet and attempting to lift him off the ice. He allows his helmet to fall on top of the net but shakes out of their grip. Then he turns around to grab it, and suddenly his gaze meets mine.
I take a couple of steps backward. My heart picks up speed.
That's definitely Tate. But it's not Jody's scrawny little brother with a mouth full of braces. That kid couldn't have stood under these bright arena lights carrying the weight of all six thousand people in town like this new Tate did.
With his eyes on me, his mouth falls open, either in shock or because he's about to say something to me through the Plexiglas wall. But then three of his teammates pounce on him, and before he can even anticipate what's happening, he's on the bottom of an Otters pileup. I guess his arm healed. I wonder if he ever told anyone about —
I shake my head and quickly exit the arena.
My dad is recovering from a supposed-to-be-inoperable brain tumor, enduring radiation and chemotherapy treatments, "just in case they didn't get it all" during the surgery. My school friends are all knee-deep into the fall quarter without me. Northwestern fall musical auditions have come and passed already — no Claire O'Connor on the cast list. The only place I'm singing now is in the shower.
I can't get caught up worrying about Tate Tanley and something that happened a year ago.CHAPTER 3
Jamie Isaacs, one of our senior defenders, takes a foot off the frozen pond and steps in my direction. "Tanley, where's the fucking chainsaw?"
I've got my cell in one hand, a can of beer in the other. I glance over my shoulder at Jake's truck and then back at my phone, quickly reading a text from earlier.
HALEY: need to talk about NYE asap! call me back or I'll find u after thegame
I stuff the phone in my pocket and head over to the red truck backed up just feet from the edge of Juniper Falls Pond. I'm not responding to Haley. Even though I'm not willing to say it out loud, I'm still too hurt and confused to be around her. She's the one who said two months ago that we needed a break, so why do I need to discuss New Year's Eve with her? This is Haley's thing. She doesn't know when to give in. But tonight, it's not working. I've got a different girl on my mind.
I'd heard she was coming home, but I haven't seen her since last fall. Since that awkward moment in the car after my broken arm had been straightened out, when she called me cute and innocent and made me promise to stay that way.
Excerpted from Off the Ice by Julie Cross, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2017 Julie Cross. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Claire O’Connor’s back in Juniper Falls because of an all hands on deck family emergency. Helping get her family’s restaurant and sports bar back on solid footing after her father’s stroke is more important than being at school. Tate Tanley was her best friend’s little brother and when she catches sight of him she wonders where that little boy that she shared a secret with the night before she went to school went. Now he’s the goalie of their high school hockey team and all grown up and that secret brings them back together. I recently read the third book in this series, On Thin Ice, when I got an ARC through NetGalley and was rewarded by reading a really good story! I immediately went to my local library to take a look at the other books in the series. Off the Ice is the first and it also didn’t disappoint. These characters are dealing with so much more than a high school romance. The stories are packed with emotional plots and Off the Ice’s is another doozy. There were so many things I liked about Clair and Tate. Even though Claire always dreamed of a life outside of her small town of Juniper Falls, her family was the most important thing in her life and she dropped following her dreams to come home and help out when her father grew ill. I did struggle a little bit with her waffling over whether she should give Tate a chance but then we’d have lost a little bit of the tension that kept the story moving forward. Tate was a fabulous character. He was dealing with a dud of a father, pressure as the new goalie on the team, and a recent break up with his long time girlfriend. He was singleminded in his pursuit of both Claire and his game that you couldn’t help but admire how he was dealing with all of this pressure. I really liked how he helped Claire see her future both at school but also with him. They were well matched. I love contemporary novels with a hint of romance that revolve around sports. Especially if they are actually playing the game! This novel had quite a bit of hockey being played which made it even more enjoyable to me. If that’s not your thing, I think you’ll really appreciate how these characters grow and become each others anchor through some of the crappy things that are happening in their lives. Either way, it’s a book to enjoy and I’ll be reaching for the second in the series next. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Off the Ice is Tate and Claire. Tate is the backup hockey goalie. He is in his junior year at high school. His dad is famous in the ice hockey world and he lives with his mum and stepdad. He's dating one of the most beautiful girls in school and is doing pretty well academically. To the outside world he has everything, but if you take a closer look he is juggling more than most can handle. He can't be the guy his girlfriend wants him to be. He can't be the hockey player his dad wants. Tate is given the chance to get off the bench and be in the net, but he needs to control his nerves. He needs to fight for what he wants and stop trying to please everyone else. He and Hayley break-up. It's tough, but he knows it's the right thing to do. No one ever said getting what you want is easy. Life's complicated and we all have to find the right path for us. Claire is Tate's long-term crush. She's a couple of years older and one of his sister's close friends. She has returned to town because her dad is ill. She is also juggling more than any one person can manage. She's helping the family business, trying to hold it together and find a way to make more money. Her dreams were left behind at university. She wants to be a star but her family means more to her. Little Tate Tanley is all grown up and Claire finds herself looking at him in a different light. They have been through a lot together. They became each other's rock, their constant and trusted friend. They both have a lot going on around them but their bond is strong. This is a love everlasting story, which is more than insta-love. It grows. Loves hard, but with the right person, it's worth it. I really enjoyed this book. It had a realistic storyline with a lot of backgrounds. Both characters are perfect for each other but struggle with the rest of life. This book contains adult content 16+ (u.k). 4.5 stars out of 5. *I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review*
"Off the Ice" is a great romance that fits into the New Adult category more than the Young Adult. We follow Claire and Tate in alternating point-of-view chapters. Claire is Tate's older sister Jody's BFF (although only about a year older), so they have known each other practically all of their lives. Tate has had a crush on Claire since he started noticing girls. The book begins with emotionally charged interactions, which end up being two of the main themes throughout the book as they deal with the aftermath of these events- one is abuse by a parent and the other is sexual assault. I'm putting these as trigger warnings in my review as they are pretty intense. Anyway, the majority of the book takes place when Claire is back in town from Northwestern, where she is studying theatre. She has left college for a quarter because her dad had an inoperable brain tumor- which was eventually removed and from which he is slowly recovering. Tate is on the varsity hockey team in a town that only cares about hockey- and due to the star goalie leaving, he is now in the hot seat, and struggling not only with the pressure from his terrible coach but also with the relationship with his hockey star (and now assistant coach at SMU) father. He is also still dealing with the aftermath of a serious relationship with Haley, a cheerleader who is a bit intense (and featured in the second book). This is not a light read/romance. Tate and Claire are dealing with some really huge issues that keep cropping up throughout, and it makes their relationship difficult. However, they are a really great/sweet couple and are overall incredibly mature for their ages. The content makes this really fall into the New Adult category rather than the Young Adult, in my opinion (brain tumor/recovery, physical/emotional abuse, sexual assault) plus there is very descriptive sexual content (not the assault). I'd recommend for older readers. That being said, it's a pretty powerful story and addresses not only all of this content but also shows some ways to handle it (although they are minor points, I appreciate that they are there). I would recommend this book for mature readers who love plot-driven romance. Please note that I received this from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
(I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to Entangled Publishing, LLC and NetGalley.) This was a YA contemporary romance featuring a high-school hockey player. The characters in this were okay, but I found it a bit hard to relate to them. I did feel a bit sorry for Claire with her having to deal with her dad’s cancer, and for Tate having to deal with an abusive father, but I just found it hard to connect with them. The storyline in this was about Claire dealing with her father’s cancer and working in his bar, and about Tate being scouted for college hockey teams. We did get some romance between the two, but it was really slow and got a bit lost for me, and I didn’t feel sucked into the story the way I expected to. The ending to this was okay, but I was disappointed with the book overall. 6 out of 10
Well, well! This was actually my first time reading a book from Julie Cross, and it was probably the perfect one for me to start with! I feel like I've had Julie's books on my TBR for forever at this point, so I was extremely excited to finally read one! And now that I have, I'll definitely need to pick up her other books even sooner now because I really enjoyed OFF THE ICE, and I absolutely loved both Tate and Claire! I'm a sucker for sports romances, and you don't see very many that aren't adult romances, so any time that I see a new one pop up, I get extremely excited, and I NEED to read it! OFF THE ICE was one of those contemporary romances that is kind of right on the cusp of young adult and new adult, and I really enjoyed that combination! Julie Cross is definitely right up there with Miranda Kenneally for some of my favourite non-adult sports romance books after this! OFF THE ICE was the PERFECT introduction to me for Julie's books. I can't wait to read more of her work, and I'm particularly excited to get to read more Juniper Falls books! Can't wait for those Tate and Claire cameos! ;) Now onto the story itself! I loved the characters, and I really enjoyed how Julie Cross established the town of Juniper Falls throughout the story. There was a clear sense of community and the dynamics of how everything worked. Their town is all about hockey, and it was interesting to see how that framed their community. OFF THE ICE has a lot going on. Both Claire and Tate are struggling with issues at home that add some pretty serious overtones to the story, and it kind of slowed down my reading experience a little, but I really loved that they learned to communicate better and work through all of their issues together. It was amazing to see, especially in a romance that's aimed at a young adult audience. I thought that Claire and Tate's relationship was the strongest part of the story, and I think they definitely had the kind of relationship that teens (and even adults) need to see more of...it was the kind of relationship that seriously fits the "Relationship Goals" hashtag (#relationshipgoals) in the healthiest and best possible way! They definitely disagreed, and didn't always handle their disagreements in the best way, but it was absolutely amazing to see them work through everything in a mature and honest way! Overall, I thought that OFF THE ICE was fantastic! The main characters, Tate and Claire, were phenomenal and I loved reading from both of their perspectives! Their romance and relationship was also extremely well done, and I thought that it was the strongest part of the story. Now, I'm definitely looking forward to more of the JUNIPER FALLS series because I also definitely loved the secondary characters! I'd recommend this one to fans of any young adult or new adult contemporary, and I'd also recommend it to other sports romance fans, even if you typically only read adult! * I received a copy of OFF THE ICE from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
I read Chasing Truth by Julie Cross a few months back and absolutely adored it so I was super excited to get my hands on this book, especially because I love me some hockey romance. While I did enjoy this book, and I'm definitely invested in this series, I have to admit to being a bit disappointed with certain aspects of it. Tate's sister is besties with Claire O'Connor - the local publican's daughter. They live in a small town where everyone knows everyone's business. Claire is a talented musician and actress and she has moved away to college when we first meet her. Fast forward and she's back in town to help mind her very sick dad and to help run the family business. Tate has broken up with his girlfriend, has just landed a coveted place on the hockey team and he appears to be going places, but he's hiding some pretty shocking secrets and almost buckling under the pressure. Both Tate and Claire were complex characters who were wonderfully developed. I felt every emotion as if I was living and breathing it myself. It was gritty and raw and downright painful at times. Julie deals with some difficult subject matter in this book but she deals with it extremely well. It isn't dramatized or glossed over and it's handled realistically and sensitively. We have a horrid example of a parent in Tate's dad but that scenario is beautifully contrasted with Tate's stepfather Roger and Claire's parents, who were both fantastic and it was clear they loved their daughter so much and only wanted the best for her. I adored the hockey aspect and it was the perfect balance for me - enough detail without pulling me out of the story. All the side characters were very well developed and I love Jamie and Leo in particular and I sincerely hope they are getting their own books as I really want to read them. The romance is angsty and there is lots of toing and froing but I have to say, it got way too frustrating, and it takes a lot for me to say that because usually, I love that type of romance but I felt it was taken to extremes here. All they did was constantly shut each other out (especially Claire) and I wanted to throttle both of them. However, the main reason this is a lower-star rating is because it was so slow in the first half - the plot was not moving forward and I was struggling to maintain interest. My personal view is you could cut about twenty-five per cent out of the first half ('cause it's a decent length as it stands) and not lose anything. I felt like giving up on several occasions but I hate doing that so I persevered. I'm really glad I did because the second half was superb and everything I was expecting and hadn't seen in the first half of the book. The writing is excellent and I certainly can't fault the characterization. My issues were with plot development and pacing, in the main. By the end though, I was definitely hooked and I totally want to continue with this series. I'll be anxiously awaiting Leo, Jamie, and Jake's books. 1st half rating - 2.5 stars. 2nd half rating - 5 stars. Overall actual rating = 3.75 stars. Thanks to Entangled Teen for providing an ARC of this book which I have voluntarily reviewed. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.
I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review from Entangled Publishing, so I'd like to say a huge thank you to the team there! This is honestly one of the first sports romance books I have ever read. Sports aren't really my thing (I never played any besides 3rd grade soccer), so I decided to take a chance on this book! First of all, the cover nudged me in the right direction. I love the couple on the cover, as well as all of the fonts and effects - letting my graphic design nerd run wild! :) This story revolves around high school hockey star Tate Tanley, and college theater student Claire O'Connor. They have known each other for years, as Claire is best friends with Tate's older sister. But Tate and Claire have had an underlying connection and attraction that finally comes to fruition during this story. The love story itself is everything I wanted it to be. It is a great coming-of-age story for both characters, in a way, and they overcome so many obstacles to get where they are by the end of the book. However, I did have a slight issue with the ages of Claire and Tate. Claire is a college freshman, while Tate is a junior in high school. While I'm not trying to say that this sort of thing doesn't happen in real life, for some reason I kept thinking "this would never work out" in the back of my mind. I can't pinpoint why I wasn't into it, but it was a very minor thought for me. The love story and attraction between the characters greatly won me over in spite of that issue. There were a lot of storylines weaving in and out of this narrative. Tate is battling issues with his father - and abusive former hockey star in the same small town that Tate is playing in now. And Claire has daddy issues of her own - her father is battling the recovery of a brain tumor. Claire and Tate have their ups and downs both with each other and dealing with their complicated lives. Overall, I loved this book! For my taste, I think there probably could have been even a little more of a focus on hockey. There was an ample amount of hockey games, practices, etc. but even a little more would have made this a stronger sports romance. The love story was definitely swoon-worthy, and the drama was just enough to keep me hooked!
Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1) by Julie Cross is a YA contemporary sports romance that its completely heart-felt and emotional. Reading Ms. Cross' novel for me was like watching a mixed episode of One Tree Hill and Dawson's Creek. Tate Tanley and Claire O'Connor, have known each other through childhood. On the eve before Claire leaves for college on a music scholarship they share a moment together. A year passes when Claire returns home to Juniper Falls to take care of her father and to help out in running her family's bar. Upon her return, she realizes the boy she left behind is no longer the same. Attraction flares between them as a romance and love begins to bloom amidst family dramas, small-town drama, and of course, hockey. I really enjoyed Off the Ice. It was a little slow to start when Tate and Claire are reunited after a year, and I didn’t really like the drama with Haley too much at first (Tate’s ex-girlfriend), but neither lessened my overall enjoyment, especially once the story began to pick up. Tate and Claire were strong main characters with endearing personalities. They both had their dreams, their own struggles to deal with and I loved when they each supported the other and both didn't hold back from going for their dreams in the end. I also liked the supporting characters like Tate's stepfather, Roger, and Claire's parents, as well as, Tate's friends like Leo, Jamie, and Mike. All brought life to the story and helped add a little bit more emotion or humor. Overall, Off the Ice by Julie Cross was an enjoyable novel that kept me interested from start to finish. I very much recommend and can’t wait to read the next book in the series. (I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book I received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my open and honest review.)
Tate has had a crush on his sister’s friend, Claire, ever since he was eleven years old. But now she is graduating and leaving for college and he is stuck in high school. Just before she leaves, she witnesses one of his most traumatic moments which takes him off the hockey team for months. Flash forward a year. Tate is back on the team and has been promoted to goalie. And Claire has come back to town because of her father’s illness. Perhaps they have a second chance? Off the Ice by Julie Cross is the book version of a high school chick flick. It’s an adorable romance between Tate and Claire as they try to field everything life throws at them. And in this situation, life throws a lot. Claire has to learn to let herself live now that her father is recovering…mostly. And Tate is so caught up in his family drama that he can’t seem to focus on what matters most to him. Both of them are crippled by fear they must learn to overcome. It was satisfying to watch them do so even as they grew closer together as a couple. Off the Ice may be a fast read, but the characters’ struggles are real and remind me of some of my own situations and struggles. Content warnings: An explicit sex scene or two, swearing, underage drinking, and a small amount of violence. Tough situations dealing with abuse and near-molestation occur. A gay character and unveiled speech about sex. These topics were present in the book but the story was still relatively light-hearted comparted to the other novels I have read with these circumstances. I recommend Off the Ice to fans of high school chick flicks, cute romances, and ice hockey. I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley as a part of a blog tour. All opinions are expressly my own.
I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time! Ever since I first learned of Julie writing it and reading a very early first couple chapters…I just knew it was going to be something special. Having read it now, I was right. Off the Ice, the first book in Julie Cross’ Juniper Falls series, is a spectacular book with a gripping story line and captivating characters. This book could easily be described as having a Friday Night Lights feel, so if you’re a fan of the show, I think it would be safe to say that you would enjoy this book. The start of the book starts off with a bit of drama, but is the foundation for the rest of the story. In a town where high school hockey is the sole focus and the main event each week, Tate Tanley finds himself in the shadow of his dad, whom the town loves and adores. Little do they know who he really is – the side that Tate sees. However, there is one other person who knows just how Tate’s dad treats him and that’s Claire O’Connor, the girl whom Tate has had a crush on for a long time. Certain circumstances bring them together unexpectedly, but just for one night. Fast forward a year, and things have changed for both of them, but not for the better – or is it? I guess it all depends on how you look at it. In a book filled with hardships, discovering who you are outside of the spotlight and perhaps even finding your spotlight once again, Tate and Claire are two characters who find shelter in each other. But it isn’t without its trials and tribulations. It may be safe for me to say that aside from the unique storyline, the characters are my favorite part of Off the Ice. I find them individually inspiring and developed in a way that makes them work perfectly together on the page. The hardships that they each go through, don’t overshadow one another, which I thought was important. Everything about the story seemed well thought out and strategically pieced together. Of course, the aspect of it having a sports background didn’t hurt! I love a good book that has sports as a focus and hockey isn’t one that I feel is overdone. In fact, I haven’t really seen any other YA/NA books that have hockey in it. But maybe that’s just me! If you’re looking for an author to get hooked on, then check out Julie Cross. She has yet to write a book that I haven’t been able to put down and at this point…having read many (if not all) of her books, I doubt she ever will.
This book was a pretty quick read. I’ve read a few hockey books before, but none in the YA genre. And good gravy, it may be more intense than the Adult hockey books I’ve read. I really liked both Tate and Claire. They tiptoe the line of attraction. Claire has only ever seen Tate as her best friend’s little brother, and Tate has had a crush on Claire since he was a preteen. But when Claire comes back home she doesn’t see him as the little brother she did before. He’s grown up, and isn’t the same as he used to be. Tate and Claire are dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. I won’t mention what because it something that needs to be felt and processed while you read, but I couldn’t imagine dealing with the situations they are. Claire struggles with being back home when she wants to be back at school working on her theater program, and Tate is trying to keep afloat when he becomes the star goalie for his hockey team. The hockey team practices, and how the town lives and breathes hockey, completely blew me away. It was insane how much the town felt based on how the hockey season was going. I also want to know what other secrets the team is keeping. The romance isn’t insta-love. They both had a pretty memorable night, maybe not in the best way, before Claire left for school. But that night spurred the feelings they both have a year later. I really enjoyed this book, and I can’t wait for the next one in the series.
Rating: 3.75 stars Claire decided to take a semester off from college and return home to help with the family business during her father's illness. Her world was put in a state of flux, as she struggled with the bills, her father's health issues, and her prolonged absence from university. Right when she thought she was hitting rock bottom, her best friend's little brother, Tate, came back into her life, and unexpectedly gave her a lifeline and more. "When and how did you become..." I wave a hand dramatically in front of him. "This?" "What?" He glances down and tugs not he front of his hunter-green thermal beneath his unzipped jacket. "Someone who wears earth tones?" "No! Th-that," I sputter, blowing hair off my face, "tall and ...not skinny..And the voice.." I am always up for a good sports romance, and I liked this small town setting, as small towns bring a certain element to the story on their own. As expected, Juniper Falls gave me what I expected from the setting: the gossip, the backlash, the familiarity, the neighborliness, the history, and family ties to the town. I especially liked the hockey family dynasty aspects and how far back the characters went with each other. These guys don't have the right to suddenly take notice of Claire when I've seen her, admired her for years. Both Claire and Tate were dealing with a lot of personal issues. Claire had the responsibility of her family's entire existence and her uncertain future weighing her down, while Tate was grappling with his new position as starting goalie and the damaging secrets he was trying to keep hidden. These two sort of broken people were able to lift each other up. They supported each other, they gave of themselves to each other, and I was pretty sold on this romance. This was a healthy romance. These two were honest with each other, they had open conversations, they knew when to push and when to back off, and they never asked the other one to sacrifice something they loved for the sake of the other. And the history! I love when there is history between characters, and these went a loooooong ways back. What is this thing that Claire and I are doing? It's painful and messy but also exhilarating, like seeing colors for the first time. But do you know what I loved even more than Tate and Clair together? Tate, Jamie, and Leo together. The relationship between them was pretty brotastic, and I really enjoyed seeing male characters sharing their feelings. There are definitely more stories to tell in this town, and I care enough about these auxiliary characters to want them. This bridge between Tate and me somehow emerged in the midst of everything falling apart. Overall: a heartwarming sports romance, which has left me wanting more Juniper Falls stories.
4.5 for this Sighworthy Story! Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Off the Ice by Julie Cross. She is a new to me author and I can't be more happy that I took a chance on her. I give her a 4.5 stars for this young adult story with the gritty situations that make it feel real! I admit the story didn't hook me right away as I had trouble distinguishing the character's voices' but as I got to know Claire and Tate they became people I cared about along with the people in their lives. I can't wait to see where Ms. Cross goes next with this series.
Off the Ice by Julie Cross......This was an entertaining hockey story, that kept me flipping pages. I enjoyed watching Claire and Tate's story unfold. The characters were very relatable and likeable. This is my first book by this author and she has gained a new reader. I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book from publisher via NetGalley.
you guys, this book gave me so many feels. welcome to juniper falls, mn, where you live and breathe hockey given that there are few opportunities to enjoy anything else. off the ice, is more than a sports romance though. it's an emotional coming-of-age story set in a small town with many secrets. the story opens at claire o'connors goodbye party. she's leaving juniper falls to pursue her dream of singing on the stage, starting at an advance studies musical theater program at northwestern. she's had a crush on luke pratt since forever and for the first time ever he's paying attention to her and she wants this to go somewhere. except it doesn't go anywhere good. in the meantime, tate tanley, claire's best friend's little brother sees what's happening while dealing with problems of his own. his father is a hockey hero, revered in the town, but behind closed doors his behavior is less than honorable. he's a mean drunk, and while tate is trying to keep the keys away from his dad so he doesn't drive things get heated. claire tries to intervene, but the situation escalates so quickly and tate ends up with an arm broken in two places. when they go to the emergency room, they come up with a cover story and swear to never talk about the events of that night again. but a year later claire is back in town. her father is recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor, and claire is trying to help keep the family afloat by working at her parents' bar and restaurant and staying on top of the bills. college seems like an expense that should be cut away, not splurged on. her initial intention is to take a semester off, but as things get even more dire with her family and their finances a year seems like a more realistic option. and that's if she can even continue at northwestern. there are cheaper schools out there. when tate sees that claire is back, he finds himself drawn to her. she was always more that just his big sister's friend. but he never expected her to see him in a different light. but that night in the back alley changed them both. for the first time, they really saw each other. and tate, for one, is so relieved to know that there is someone else who sees him--flaws and all. he's not just the hockey hero's son following in daddy's footsteps. he's someone who has the ability to fix and repair things. he's someone you can count on when you need him. he's honorable. he's holding the weight of the world on his shoulders and claire knows it. other people suspect it, like tate's stepfather and his best friends. but claire is the only one he trusts with all of his truths. and as both tate's and claire's worlds are rocked with tragedy and misunderstandings, the connection they forge and how they help each other rise above the madness is both emotionally draining and utterly satisfying. things come to a head, as they do, and it's totally chaotic and tense and terrifying, but even as things implode around claire and tate you don't doubt the depth of their feelings for each other. they walk through fire for one another, even when they aren't speaking, it's clear that there is so much love there. it wouldn't hurt so bad if they didn't care so deeply. i just loved everything about this novel. the characters, the setting, the romance, the stakes--it all worked for me. and i honestly am so excited to know that there will be more stories set in juniper falls, it seems to me like it's a town worth knowing. **i received an arc from the publisher
When I was offered the chance to read the ARC of this by Entangled Publishing, I jumped at it! I'm all about any book that features hockey at any level of the game. And it is a book that yanked me in from the very first page. There is a lot to love about the story in Off the Ice. The characters are well-developed and feel like real people. Tate is a goalie on his high school team, thrust into the limelight when the star goalie is suddenly ostracized by most of the town. He loves the game, but it comes with baggage for him and he just isn't sure where he fits anymore. Claire is a year older than Tate, taking a break from college to put her family first during a crisis. She has baggage of her own and there are days when she just doesn't know which end is up. These are characters that are thrust into adulthood too soon, dealing with issues that they shouldn't have to. And while my heart bleeds for their characters, I can't help but appreciate that they are characters that act with maturity and strength. Their stories aren't all light and happy, but they are real, with all of the emotions that go along with real life. They were both characters that I understood and related to. And most of all, I loved that their romance wasn't the stuff of fairy tales. It had more than its fair share of angst and issues. In other words, it was real Overall: I didn't want this book to end. I loved it. I loved the story. I loved the romance. I loved the issues and conflicts and that they had the undeniable ring of truth. This was my first book by author Julie Cross, but it won't be my last
Originally Posted on: Taylor Fenner's Bookish World Blog Off the Ice is easily one of my favorite reads so far this year. For Contemporary YA Fiction it's a light enjoyable read filled with enough plot to satisfy a reader. I found both Claire and Tate's individual stories, as well as the development of their relationship, to be realistic and believable. I loved watching them fall in love and wondering what was going to happen next or whether someone or something was going to tear them apart. As someone who's had family members with cancer, Claire's story especially spoke to me and I could relate to the struggles she and her family had. At the same time, my heart broke for Tate with the situation with his father. For the first book in a series, I enjoyed the groundwork the author set up while also telling Claire and Tate's story. I loved all of Tate's teammate and I'm sure they'll pop up in the books to come; I'm interested to see what their stories will be and learn more about them. The only thing that didn't make sense to me was why all the financial stress was placed on Claire's shoulders. If her father was a single parent it would have made sense, but Claire has a mother, an aunt, and at least one uncle so why was it her job to handle phone calls regarding the payment of medical and household bills? Overall, I loved reading Off the Ice. The story grabbed me right away and I became wrapped up, unable to stop reading. I felt satisfied with the ending and I can't wait to see what's going to happen in the next book!
Off the Ice is a sweet young adult, sports romance about Claire, who has always been associated with the weird drama kids because she wants to sing, and Tate, who is the hockey playing brother of Claire’s best friend. When Claire’s father is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that they choose to operate on, she leaves university to help out with her family and an almost all-consuming guilt makes her decide to stay to help with the tavern while her father convalesces. Tate loves hockey. His abusive father is Juniper Falls’ hockey darling so while Tate loves the sport, he also feels conflicted because people, especially his teammates, don’t know who is father really is. For years Tate has crushed on Claire, but because she was a little older she was crushing on someone else. When they come together, it’s very sweet and they have a genuine rapport, which leads me to add that this is probably a young adult novel for the more adult part of the young adult crowd as there is a tastefully executed sex scene (tasteful, but passionate). While there is considerable drama (cancer and abuse will do that for you), I never felt like it went to melodrama or real “angsty” moments. The drama felt legitimate with teenage confusion not being over just “romance” but more important issues like trust and responsibility and friendship and basically doing what’s right. And, for the second time lately I’ve read a hockey novel (the other one was here Playing the Game (I forgot to put it under book reviews so it’s a chance you could have missed it and it too was really good)). I may be hooked on hockey books. The writing was really good; it grabbed my interest and held on so that I wasn’t thinking about the mechanics of writing, which doesn’t happen as often as you might think. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Actually, 4.5 stars! Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review. Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Off the Ice by Julie Cross. This first book in her Juniper Falls series is told by Tate and Claire through alternating points of view beginning in the prologue. The story picks up one year later in Chapter One. Claire is two years older than Tate and she has taken a semester off of college because her dad has an inoperable brain tumor and she wants to be with him and help him and her mother. Tate is a high school junior and a varsity hockey player. The two have known each other since they were children and now their friendship is growing into something more. Tate feels like he has to live with his father overshadowing everything he does and it's suffocating him. Tate and Claire each have their own problems to deal with while trying to figure out their relationship and their future plans. A mature and realistic story line shows that being a young adult isn't always easy and the people around you are either helpful or harmful. 4.5 stars for a young adult story with the gritty situations that make it feel real!
I really enjoyed this one! A great YA read dealing with life in a small town and the pressures teens face when family life has issues. He has an abusive father but has never let anyone know how bad it is. She has a loving family but her father's sudden illness throws her life off kilter. Together Claire and Tate help each other through the tough stuff and grow close as their hearts become involved. Loved the story and of course the writing was great. Definitely a book I would recommend to everyone.
3.5 stars I had really enjoyed the other sports book that Julie had written, so I was pretty excited about this. I liked Claire and Tate well enough. They're both good people in difficult situations and they both handle it as well as they can. When they finally get to supporting each other, it was fantastic. There was a lot of background story and a lot of characters. It was a bit more drama filled than I was expecting and I wish we would have gotten a bit more of an epilogue, but I'm just being greedy. Overall, it was an enjoyable read and I'm intrigued to see who the next book will be about. **Huge thanks to Entangled Teen for providing the arc free of charge**
Claire has returned home from college to help the family business while her father recuperates from a life-threatening illness. Assuming staggering responsibilities, helping run the business and dealing with financial debt, Claire is dealing with a lot. But spending time with Tate, the guy she had previously only thought of as her best friend's younger brother, helps her step away from the responsibilities and have something just for herself. Tate is dealing with school, an ex-girlfriend, a fractured relationship with his father, and he's just been named the starting goalie for his team. The pressure is intense and he is floundering. He's had feelings for Claire for years and with her back at home he finds himself seeking her out again and again. When little else in his life is making sense, Claire seems to be the one thing that does. Off the Ice started a bit rocky for me. I felt like some things weren't explained well and I was a little murky on details (and readers like me with zero hockey knowledge are at a bit of a disadvantage). Even so, I was quickly invested in the story which was made easy with such genuinely likable main characters. Both Claire and Tate were mature young adults with a lot on their shoulders. They had great chemistry (those kissing scenes - whoa, baby!) and I loved their honesty and openness with each other. (There is one sex scene that is handled perfectly, with tenderness and humor and just felt so genuine.) These were characters that truly had each other's best interest at heart and were incredibly supportive of one another. There were a lot of themes touched on within the novel (some could argue perhaps too many) and covered the extreme pressure in competitive sports, illness of a parent, abuse, friendship, and the transition into young adulthood. Even with so much going on I never felt anything was glossed over or treated as a cliché. Instead, Cross managed to create complex main characters that were anything but cookie cutter. Not only were Claire and (the oh-so-swoony) Tate well developed but there was also a full cast of secondary characters that made for a richer story. (Is it too early to hope that the next Juniper Falls book focuses on Tate's best friend, Leo?) Off the Ice is a solid mature YA contemporary romance filled with emotional topics and tempered with all the romance of first love. I recommend this one to fans of YA contemporary and sports romance and I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series.
4.5 of 5 Stars Julie Cross is victorious with OFF THE ICE, the first book in the Juniper Falls series. Claire O’Connor comes home to help run the family business while her father is recovering. The last thing she needs to do is get involved with her best friend’s younger brother, hockey goalie, Tate Tanley. This contemporary sports romance is suitable for new adult audiences. It takes pace in Juniper Falls, Minnesota. Claire is a noble heroine. She worked hard to go away to college, but comes home when her father becomes ill to help the family business. She witnessed a dark secret about Tate that she keeps private. I enjoyed her reaction to Tate maturing. I like Tate. He has had a crush on Claire for a long time. They were good friends always hanging out with one another. He does not have a pleasurable relationship with his father. He has secrets and a lot of stress in his life. Tate and Claire make a cute couple with great chemistry. I enjoyed the lot. Julie Cross does a nice job depicting life in a small town and the different pressures it has, especially for its athletes. I enjoyed the hockey scenes. It was engaging hearing Tate’s perspective on going from a backup to starting goalie. There were many engaging twists and drama. The story held me captivated from start to finish. This is the first book that I have read by Julie Cross. I will continue to follow this series. I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.