Title: The Game that Breaks Us
Author: Micalea Smeltzer
Series: Us Series #3 (Standalone)
Release Date: June 27, 2016
Hockey’s bad boy needs to clean up his reputation…
Bennett James has built his career at being the best, on and off the ice, and now it’s come back to bite him. The media has turned against him, and with a near career-ending injury, he needs to clean up his act and prove that he’s serious about the game. For Bennett, working with his old coach at his alma mater feels like a step back, but it might be just what he needs.
…and she’s going to help him do it.
Grace Wentworth has always been the good girl, and she’s tired of that stigma. She wants to prove that she can get down and dirty with the best of them. The problem? She doesn’t know how.
Bennett will teach the good girl how to be bad, if she pretends to be his goody two-shoes girlfriend in front of the media.
But what happens when the game becomes real?
The Game that Breaks Us is another fantastic Us Series novel from Micalea Smeltzer. Bennett and Grace’s story exemplifies the new adult genre, transporting readers to Grace’s college campus and highlighting the trials and triumphs of stepping out on your own for the first time. These two were enchanting right from the start, effortlessly reeling me into their world of unavoidable fame, unexpected feelings, and sour patch kids. Where Bennett was wild, Grace was tame and together they made the perfect match. Their instant spark grew with each passing page until their undeniable connection had me absolutely hooked on their happily ever after. Flirtatious banter, adorable adventures, and swoon-worthy moments of honesty filled this novel, taking me through a gamut of emotions as I experienced their journey.
“I don’t think this is goodbye, Grace. Something tells me I’ll see you again.”
Micalea Smeltzer has a talent for writing memorable characters that are both out of reach enough to be utterly intriguing and genuine enough to be relatable. Grace and Bennett were certainly no exception, each of them charming me instantly and making me feel deeply as they grew in different ways over the course of this story. Bennett was a fun character to unravel. With Grace he seemed to be a direct contradiction to all of the circulating rumors so I made it my mission to figure him out. The more time Bennett spent with Grace the more she grounded him, highlighting his true nature. I quickly fell for the bad boy who turned out to be pretty darn sweet and a whole lot sexy. His relationship with his family and the rediscovery of his love of hockey served to further expose the normal guy beneath the limelight and it was that authentic, lovable man that I swooned over.
“Something tells me that anyone that falls in love with Bennett gets their heart broken, and I don’t want to be added to that list.”
Grace was equal parts the girl next door and the unattainable product of famous parents, a dichotomy that was fascinating to explore. Just as Grace brought Bennett back down to earth, Bennett helped Grace to let go. I absolutely adored seeing Grace experience life, make mistakes, and go a little crazy. Her parent’s fame and their subsequent overprotectiveness left her hesitant to step outside the lines, but with Bennett by her side she learned to live in the moment and laugh at herself. Grace’s roommate Elle provided a sharp contrast to Grace’s soft demeanor but as they got to know one another and recognized their similarities I found myself admiring the growth of Grace’s character. Elle made her bold and sure and brave in a deeply satisfying way. Grace’s insecurities and surprising vulnerability made her that much more genuine and by the end of the novel she was someone entirely tangible.
“I’m scared I’ll ruin this.”
While the fake relationship storyline isn’t anything new, Micalea Smeltzer infuses so much of her own style into this story that it felt fun and fresh. Micalea’s own brand of drama ensured a few surprise turns that not only kept me reading but also gave Bennett and Grace’s journey an added depth. Filled with a great cast of secondary characters, Micalea Smeltzer brings her fictional world to life with the easy dialogue, socially relevant humor, and a whole lot of feeling. As always, we get plenty of adorable family moments with the characters from Micalea Smeltzer’s other novels in this story. She somehow manages to make each of her books feel like coming home and it never ceases to solidify my connection to the characters and the world they live in. The Game that Breaks Us left me with all of the familiar, warm and fuzzy feelings that inevitably have me wanting more. Well paced, wonderfully written, and absolutely sparkling, Micalea Smeltzer has another hit on her hands with The Game that Breaks Us.
There are angry drunks.
And reckless drunks.
Grace is a silly drunk.
“Another!” she declares, slamming her last glass on the table and hiccups, then giggles.
“Nah, I think you’re good,” I tell her, trying not laugh.
She pouts. “I want more.”
I shake my head. “Maybe later.” More like never, but I don’t tell her that. The girl is a lightweight, and there’s no way she’ll be able to stomach anything else and still function.
“You’re such a fun sucker.”
I laugh. “I don’t hear that one often.”
She glances down at dance floor. “I’m going to dance.” Before I can blink, she’s up out of her chair, heading for the exit of the VIP room.
“Like hell you are,” I mutter under my breath, storming after her.
When I get to the hall, she’s already gone. I look left and then right so fast that my head probably blurs. How can someone in heels that high walk that fast? It can’t be humanly possible.
“Fuck,” I curse, tearing at my hair. I practically run down the stairs into the club and of-fucking-course she’s disappeared yet again, swallowed whole by the crowd. The chances of me finding her are slim to none, like finding a needle in a haystack. But I never give up, and I’ll burn down the damn haystack if that’s what it takes to find the needle.
I shove my way through the crowd, my eyes searching every person I pass.
“Dammit, Grace. Where the fuck are you?”
Panic rises inside me and I never panic. But the thought that Grace is drunk off her ass and lost in here is killing me. If she gets hurt, or some guy gropes her, it’s my fault.
“Hey, watch where you’re going.” Some beefy ass dude shoves me away. I’m tempted to punch the fucker in the face but I have more important matters at hand.
I spot a flash of glossy brown hair in a ponytail and grab the girl’s shoulder. “Grace?” She looks up at me, her blue eyes pissed off. I immediately let go. “Not Grace.”
I move along the dance floor, but she’s nowhere to be found. I’m beginning to worry that she left, and the thought of her outside wandering the streets alone actually scares me.
I head toward the bar to find Danicka in the hope that maybe she’s seen Grace.
That’s when I finally spot her, leaning over the bar speaking to one of the male bartenders. The guy grins and she throws her head back and laughs.
Oh, hell no.
I storm forward. “What do you think you’re doing, Princess?”
She nearly collapses in my arms. “Bennett, I was just talking to Peter here thanking him for the delicious drinks.”
“Danicka made your drinks, remember?” I tell her, holding onto her waist so she doesn’t fall.
“Ugh, Porn Star, that’s right. I remember now.” She taps her forehead.
“Come on, we’re leaving.” I start to drag her away.
“No,” she cries, pulling out of my arms. “I want to dance. Dance with me, Bennett.”
I lower my head, silently cursing Grace and this whole “Bennett’s Guide to Being Bad” thing.
“Fine. One dance,” I tell her, holding up one finger and wiggling it.
“Yay!” she cries, bouncing up and down. She all but tackles me, wrapping her thin arms around my neck and hugging me. “Your chest is so hard,” she says in her alcohol-induced haze.
“I thought you wanted to dance,” I remind her, pushing softly against her shoulders.
“Aren’t we dancing?” Her words slur.
“Oh, yeah. Totally dancing.”
“You’re lying.” She pulls away, her eyes glassy. Her pink lips pucker in a frown. “I’m going to go find someone who really wants to dance with me.” She starts to flee into the crowd but I grab her arm and she ricochets back into my chest. She looks up at me with wide doe eyes. “That wasn’t nice.”
I lower my head, my lips skimming her ear. “You wanna dance, Princess? You dance with me.”
Interviewer: Bennett, do you think you can ever forgive your former coach for everything he did to you?
Bennett: (squirms in his seat) Maybe this makes me weak, but I’m sorry, I don’t think I can.
(Grace grabs his hand, entwining their fingers together, and gives him an encouraging smile)
Interviewer: Grace, have your parents accepted Bennett? Bennett, did you have to do anything to win them over?
Grace: (looks at Bennett with a wistful smile) Once the truth came out about everything, and I explained that he’s the man I love, they were accepting. My dad still gives him a hard time, but that’s just my dad. He means it more as a joke than anything else.
Bennett: He made me eat these gross ketchup flavored chips, then smacked me on the shoulder, and said I was part of the family now—so I guess that’s all I really had to do to win him over. (chuckles) I’ve learned the man loves ketchup. If I’d known that beforehand I would’ve surprised him with an antique bottle of the stuff and called it a day. Those chips were gross.
Interviewer: We know that you two are living together for the summer, so fill us in on how that’s going? Has it changed your relationship any by living together?
Grace: (shrugs) I don’t think it’s changed much—other than learning to live with each other’s quirks. Like Bennett always leaves his toothbrush on the sink and it drives me nuts.
Bennett: And she always leaves coffee mugs sitting around. (kisses her cheek)
Grace: So far it’s been really good, though. I like waking up in his arms.
Bennett: (smirks) Of course you do, sweetheart. These arms are what dreams are made of. (looks at interviewer) have you seen my abs? I’ve heard they’re lickable.
(Interviewer blushes and stutters a response. Grace smacks his arm and they dissolve into laughter.)
Interviewer: Now that Bennett is playing professionally again, and you’ll soon be returning to college fulltime, how do you think that will effect your relationship?
Grace: He was already back with his team for the last few months of the school year—so I think it won’t change that much from what we were used to. He’s busy with hockey and I’m busy with school, but we’ll always make time for each other.
Interviewer: Bennett, are you still in touch with Coach Harrison? How’s Michael—the player on the college team you became friends with?
Bennett: Yeah, of course I still talk to Coach. He’s the man. We’ve always stayed in contact—that’s why I was able to train with him when everything fell to shit. Michael is going into the draft, and I know he’s going to go to a good team. He’s also flirting way too much with my sister. (huffs in agitation)
Grace: Do you think he’ll end up on your team?
Bennett: Maybe. It’d be cool.
Interviewer: It looks like we have time for one more question. If you could offer anyone out here one piece of advice, what would it be?
Bennett: Never give up on your dreams.
Grace: Trust your gut. It will always lead you in the right direction.
Interviewer: Okay folks, that’s all we have time for today. I hope you enjoyed the interview. Grace and Bennett, thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us.
Grace: We were happy to do it.
Bennett: What she said…but if you skew what we say like all these other asshat media people I will end you.
Interviewer: (gulps) Of course not. Everything will stay 100% as you said it.
Bennett: (nods) Good. Thank you. (takes Grace’s hand again and bends to kiss her)
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Don’t miss the rest of the Us series:
The Road that Leads to Us (Us #1)
The Lies that Define Us (Us #2)
A Love Like Ours (Us Series Novella)
Micalea Smeltzer is a bestselling Young and New Adult author from Winchester, Virginia. She’s always working on her next book, and when she has spare time she loves to read and spend time with her family.