Review: Home Field Advantage by Liz Lincoln (2019)

Milwaukee Dragons, Book 3

Heat Factor: Epic Sex Marathon kicks up the heat dramatically at the 60% mark.

Character Chemistry: They separately have identical parallel reactions to basically everything.

Plot: She broke his heart years ago. Now they have to work together. 

Overall: Some pacing issues, but I was rooting for the protagonists. 

After two years off the field and in recovery, Quinn is getting his second shot in the NFL. The only problem is that his college girlfriend, who broke his heart 8 years ago, is a sports reporter whose exclusive beat is… his new football team. Natalie isn’t too thrilled about the arrangement either – especially since she got her big break because she wrote an exposé on Quinn’s alcoholism, and her boss thinks that Quinn’s return to football is a great opportunity for Natalie to make another big splash by uncovering dirt on Quinn. Natalie and Quinn therefore frequently find themselves awkwardly interacting. They have a lot of baggage surrounding their relationship, but haven’t spoken in years and can’t easily jettison the anger and hurt and awkwardness in order to talk through things. 

Normally, I find it extremely frustrating when protagonists in romance novels could solve all of their problems if they would just have an honest conversation. After all, Lincoln repeatedly shows Natalie and Quinn having very similar internal monologues as they react to each other (ie: “Obviously we can’t be together, but I still care about him/her.”). However, in this case, Lincoln clearly lays out enough of a past between Quinn and Natalie that it feels legitimate that it’s not that easy – they are also coping with their emotions about alcoholism, family, careers, and trust. Lincoln does an especially good job in navigating Quinn’s alcoholism and recovery, and not just how it relates to his own life, but how it impacted Natalie back when they were dating. Lincoln takes Quinn’s struggle seriously, but doesn’t allow it to overshadow the rest of the book. 

With that said, the first half of the book is a bit slow. Yes, it makes sense that Quinn and Natalie have to work through their baggage before they can start talking, but it meant that the first half of the book was kind of a slog to read. Things got much better once they established that they were still physically attracted to each other and had an extremely epic sex marathon. Opening the door to one form of intimacy – even if it is ostensibly just a booty call and nothing more – allowed them to start having those necessary open and honest conversations. Their healing still happened slowly, but at least there were bouts of sex in between, and as a reader I could finally see them progressing back together as a couple.  

Repetition exacerbated the slowness at times – both in terms of language and in terms of what the characters are processing. For example, in the opening scene, Natalie thinks about how “lickable” Quinn and his various body parts are so many times that I was convinced that she had a fetish. More important, however, is the larger scale repetition. To give one concrete example: Natalie feels guilty about writing the article about Quinn’s alcoholism a few years ago, even though everything she used was public record. They have a conversation about it (finally!) and he makes it clear that he forgives her. And then… Natalie has yet another conversation with her best friend about how guilty she feels for betraying Quinn by writing this article and how he can’t trust her, and I’m like: a) Haven’t we heard this before? And b) Didn’t he just tell you that while he was angry at the time, he doesn’t hold the article against her? Yes, in real life, one conversation can’t just fix things, but this dynamic happened repeatedly; Lincoln did not quite strike the correct balance between a reasonable time frame for healing and not dragging things on. 

Finally, I should acknowledge that sports romance is not my usual wheelhouse. Mainly because… sports are not my usual wheelhouse. Other readers may find this more a feature than a bug, but there is a LOT of football in this book. I am all for hot athletes and their rippling pectorals, but every once in a while my eyes would glaze over when the characters started talking about plays and game tapes and the like. On the plus side, I learned some things about football strategy. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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