Gibson’s protagonist scores a hat trick

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“Nothing But Trouble,” by Rachel Gibson; Avon; 354 pages; $7.99 (paperback)

 Rachel Gibson scores with another hockey romance featuring a player from the fictional Chinooks NHL team.

Fans briefly became acquainted with Mark Bressler’s existence in Gibson’s previous book, “True Love and Other Disasters” (that paired team owner Faith with Ty). Mark’s stellar hockey career ended when he wrecked his Hummer on an icy road. Ty was brought in to assume Mark’s role as captain and team star.

While Mark’s life was saved, his rehabilitation was a slow process. Even once he began walking, inching toward full recovery, his mood was surly because he dwelled on everything he had lost: His beloved hockey career, and his dream of playing on a team that won the Stanley Cup.

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Oh, the Chinooks won the coveted NHL title a few weeks after Mark’s wreck, and everyone knew that the reason they were in position to win the Cup was because of Mark’s leadership and play. But since he didn’t participate in the playoffs, and especially the title game, Mark didn’t feel like he had a real part in winning the trophy.

So, he moped. And while he moped, he was obnoxious, crude and rude, forcing his home care nurses to flee one by one.

Then came Chelsea.

Chelsea’s sister works for the Chinooks, and she gets Chelsea the job as Mark’s assistant. The aspiring actress (whose claim to fame was being the first screaming slut killed in a few slasher flicks) is determined to continue as Mark’s assistant long enough to earn the $10,000 bonus the Chinooks promise if she lasts three months.

So, Chelsea endures Mark’s nastiness until he’s not nasty any more. They try to deny their attraction, try to ignore the passion that ignites when they get too close, but after a while (almost 300 pages), they succumb.

And boy, do they succumb.

While the plot is almost too simplistic (of course there are times when that fits a reader’s mood perfectly), Gibson has a knack for making you care about her quirky characters, and smile at some of their banter.

How it stacks up

Overall rating: 3 of 5 hearts. It’s an easy, fast read. It may even make you shed a few tears. It’s nice to get a brief look at a couple of past couples (Ty and Faith, and Rob and Kate from “The Trouble With Valentine’s Day”). It’s simply a fun romance.

Hunk appeal: 10. Even when Mark was being surly, crude and rude, he was appealing.

Steamy scene grade: XXXXX. Will make you blush.

Happily-ever-after: Good. The setting was perhaps a bit disappointing, but the outcome was satisfying. Mark groveled well, covered all his bases and said all the right things, the right way. You could say he scored a hat trick.

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