Series: Rookie Rebels, #3
Published by Kate Meader on 28th July 2020
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Gunnar Bond is broken.
Three years ago, he lived through the car crash that took his wife and twins away from him—though “lived” barely describes his current state. Giving up professional hockey, going off grid, and drinking himself into oblivion are his coping mechanisms. Another is texting his dead wife about his days without her. Therapeutic? Doubtful. Crazy? Definitely. But those messages into the ether are virtually the only thing stopping him from spiraling to even darker places.
Until someone texts back …
Sadie Yates is losing it.
Suddenly guardian to a little sister she doesn’t know and a misbehaving hound she’d rather not know at all, she’s had to upend her (sort of) glamorous life in LA and move back to Chicago. The nanny has quit, the money’s running out, and her job is on the line. The last thing she needs is her sister’s hockey camp counselor, a judgmental Viking type, telling her she sucks at this parenting lark. Thank the goddess for her sweet, sensitive, and—fingers crossed—sexy text buddy who always knows the right thing to say. In the same city at last, they can finally see if their online chemistry is mirrored in real life. She just needs to set up a meeting …
A ruined man who claims to have used up all his love is surely a bad bet, but Sadie’s never been afraid of a challenge … even one that might shatter her heart into a million pieces.
Grief and bereavement aren’t the easiest things to write about, particularly when it comes the (in)ability of the protagonist to move on and fully commit to the love interest, especially if his/her previous relationship was established and near impossible to let go of.
‘Man Down’ however, is one that’s written compellingly about bereavement and the complicated emotional and mental journey of the grieving character. Kate Meader explores Gunnar Bond’s guilt, his pain and rawness (and by extension, his dilemma between wanting to stay where he is out of misplaced loyalty and being able to move forward with someone else), and puts him alongside with a compassionate heroine who has so many things on her plate.
Gunnar’s and Sadie’s meeting has the written-in-the-stars sort of vibe: there’s accidental texting, initial faceless communication and later, a huge coincidence finally bring them face to face though it isn’t as swoony as you’d expect. There’re pockets of friction and sparks and a whole hockey team that surrounds the pairing as a support system—and the inevitable dishing of angst given the topic at hand. Both Gunnar and Sadie as a pairing are generally easy to get behind; their motivations are explained and dealt with in ways that I may not always agree with but could understand. I did wish that Sadie had a harder streak in her at times however as she she copped one too many on the chin when I thought she could have easily pushed back—all well within her rights to do so.
‘Man Down’ definitely feels like it has a more heartfelt, more sensitive emotional core that I don’t always observe in Meader’s books. It’s one that reads differently anyhow—more stripped down, more chipping away in order to expose the bare bones of the human psyche than I’d expected but it’s always welcome in my opinion. The result is a more engaging, more satisfying read that shows love in its shades of grey for people both dead and alive and that it’s way more malleable than what we always like to make of it.