Unadulterated Something by MJ Duncan is her first true sports romance and it makes me so happy to review it. Here Duncan pulls the curtain back on one of the biggest aspects of women’s hockey; the rivalry that drives certain athletes in sports. This time, however, we don’t see much of the on-the-ice rivalry. What Duncan gives us is the essence of it and how it can burn so long it’ll transform from feelings of animosity into feelings of desire towards one another.
Emma Beauchamp and Campbell Jordan had a rivalry that was legendary in women’s hockey. As the faces of the United States (Emma) and Canada (Campbell) they were always front page news with the shenanigans they got into while doing their best to represent their country in the sport they loved.
After years of fighting on the ice, retirement should have closed that chapter of their lives, but when Campbell joins the faculty at Stonebridge—the prestigious Berkshires boarding school where Emma now teaches—their infamous rivalry takes on a brand new life as they must now work together to coach the school’s women’s hockey team.
Circumstances force them to find a way to coexist, and Emma and Campbell find that being on the same team isn’t as awful as they’d feared. They find that the sparks of competition have now evolved into sparks of passion. Both Emma and Campbell will always support their native teams, but it doesn’t mean they can’t find romance with each other.
Will their years spent battling it out for team and country be too much to overcome? Or will they acknowledge that their electrical connection goes beyond the game of hockey?
What I love about Emma and Campbell is that we get to see who they are as people more than who they were as athletes.
Emma is freshly retired after capping off her career with a gold medal win at the Olympics. Unlike some athletes who see retirement as a negative, Emma is looking forward to it. She understands that the years of traveling and playing have taken a toll on her body and her mind. She embraces this new stage of her life, and why shouldn’t she? She’s able to return to a place that makes her happy, have a fulfilling job, see her friends and family on a regular basis, and keep her ties with the sport she loves. She even has a shot at a real relationship if she chooses. Of course, Emma would never have expected to lose her heart to the one person who made her life miserable on the ice.
Campbell’s journey to retirement isn’t as clean as Emma’s. An injury pulled her out of hockey sooner than she would’ve liked, but she’s the kind of person to make lemons out of lemonade. She’s a woman who loves her life, loves her country, and has become a respected school guidance counselor. With the move to Stonebridge, she’ll be able to reconnect with hockey as well as the one woman who made her so famous as well as infamous.
The animosity between Emma and Campbell has cooled exponentially since they last met face to face. Now something else is heating up between them. Something that could last longer than the game of hockey itself.
The Writing Style
I was impressed with how Duncan was able to intertwine the sport of hockey and its importance to these women without making it feel overbearing. She allows us to understand Emma and Campbell’s love for the sport through flirty banter about their playing days, and key moments that arise while coaching the school’s hockey team. By using this approach, Duncan is able to give us sweet moments with minimal angst and have you waiting with bated breath until the first kiss happens.
I love the Easter eggs in this story. It truly is an art form that I don’t think gets recognized as such to be able to connect characters and have them in the same universe, while having it all feel cohesive. Duncan shows us just how difficult, yet fun, it can be by putting in a reference to every single novel she has written thus far. Even one from Heist is in there! Some are easy to spot, some are a little trickier, but all of them fit into this story flawlessly.
This is me being nick-picky. I did have some minor difficulty keeping Campbell Jordan’s name in the right order. My brain kept wanting her to be Jordan Campbell, but once I reached the ending I understood why Duncan had it the way she did. Once you read the ending, it all makes perfect sense.
Duncan’s stories always bring a giddiness that has me jumping for joy whenever I see one about to be released. Here she is able to give us humor, angst, and some of the best kissing scenes I’ve read in a long time. If you love Duncan, you know you’re going to pick this up. If you haven’t found her yet, then you definitely should grab this and see what you’ve been missing.
Excerpt from Unadulterated Something by MJ Duncan
“Do you want to take the elevator?”
Campbell shook her head. “I’m fine. Stairs are faster.”
The stairs would be faster, but not by much, and there was a tenseness to Campbell’s jaw that suggested she was in more pain that she was going to admit. “We can take the elevator, Jordan,” Emma said as she turned towards the gleaming steel doors on the right side of the foyer.
“I don’t need your pity. I can keep up.”
Emma sighed. They’d been doing so well, and somehow this was what ruined it? “Yeah. I know.” She shook her head. “Forget it. Do what you want. I’m taking the damn elevator.”
“I said I’m –”
“I heard you,” Emma interrupted. “I’m trying to help,” she pointed out as she jammed her finger into the elevator call button. “Why are you fighting me on this?”
“Because I don’t want to put up with any little jabs you might make about me not being able to climb a set of fucking stairs,” Campbell hissed.
Emma gave her a look that clearly said, Are you kidding me right now? “Give me a little credit. I wouldn’t do that. I might have really enjoyed knocking you on your ass when we played against each other, but I’m not an asshole.”
Campbell huffed a quiet laugh. “I used to love knocking you on your ass, too.”
The elevator doors slid open, and Emma arched a challenging brow at Campbell as she strode inside. “You coming? Or are you going to take the stairs just to prove some stupid point?”
For the briefest of moments, Emma could have sworn Campbell was going to choose the stairs, but then she sighed and shook her head. “I’ll ride up with you.”
Once the doors closed and the elevator began to move, she stared at the numbers above the door as she said softly, “Thanks.”
Emma nodded. “No problem.”
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 978-8624126800
Publisher: Indie author
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