Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
This reviewer has taken a front seat on the ride that is the Moo U Hockey series in Sarina Bowen’s Heart Eyes Press’s (whew that was a mouthful) World of True North. Revisiting the newest generation of Burlington University’s hockey team makes for some great reading and some serious swooning. Gametime by Jami Davenport finally introduces us to Paxton Graham, one half of the Graham twins. In earlier Moo U stories, I’ll be honest…I thought the Graham twins, Paxton and Patrick, were, for lack of a better word, man-hos. And we find out quickly that, at least Patrick is. However, Davenport allows us entry into Paxton’s story where we find out that he has had an unrequited crush on his best girl-friend, Naomi, since freshman year. Unfortunately, Naomi has only had eyes for Pax’s twin, Patrick.
Well, Gametime begins with the biggest misunderstanding. After a night of some serious drinking, Naomi mistakes Paxton for Patrick, and they sleep together. In the morning, all is revealed, and Naomi and Paxton struggle to regain the nature of their friendship as Paxton develops deeper feelings while Naomi’s eyes are opened. This is the foundation of Paxton and Naomi’s journey. Now, add to that journey two fathers whose expectations for their children muddy the issues between Paxton and Naomi. Add to that a strained relationship between twin brothers as Paxton is encouraged to step out of his brother’s shadow. There are lots of plot threads with this story that hit on ideas about unrealistic parental expectations, realizing one’s full potential, and staying true to yourself when others expect more from you.
And all of those messages are worthy ones. As Paxton and Naomi wrestle with all of these issues, you can see the depth of love between these two. What Davenport has done well with Gametime is show two young adults living their best lives together. There is definitely chemistry between Naomi and Paxton. Even more, I like Paxton as a foil to his brother, Patrick. It’s fun to read about characters, who have been ancillary in other stories, gain their own space, and as we have seen in other Moo U books, Paxton has been an encouragement to his teammates and, in many ways, empathic and cerebral. Honestly, of the two brothers thus far, I would align myself with Paxton any day.
Now, the difficulty of Gametime is Naomi. I hate to say it because I adore heroines, especially when they are drawn well. In my opinion, Naomi is difficult to like. This comes in the shadow of Kaitlyn who was not a female character I could support, but her characterization in another Moo U book allows for the reader to move past her nastiness in a former story. This isn’t the case for Naomi, though. For much of Gametime, Naomi’s choices and actions are inconsistent with her growing adoration of Paxton. Yes, I know that she lives with the actions of her own father which cause her to have some self-esteem issues, but until the very end when she makes a grand gesture (one that will make the reader smile), I actually don’t want her with Paxton. I think he’s too good for her. Therein lies the issues with Gametime for me. There is a lot of inconsistency with character development, and the heroine, Naomi, isn’t the most impressive heroine I’ve read in romance.
Thankfully, as I mentioned above, it’s the end of Gametime that pulls it all together. Even more, if you’ve invested in time or money in the Moo U world, then you will want to read Paxton’s story. The Graham twins have played significant parts in the stories of the other hockey players. To miss out on Paxton’s story is to miss out on a big part of the Moo U world.
In love and romance,