Ryker Madsen is at a crossroads and he isn’t sure which path to choose. He loves hockey. It’s his whole life and he’s already been drafted. But he’s just finished his first year of college and while he know his father wants him to finish his education, the idea of going pro just calls to him. He attends a summer conditioning camp and while he’s there to hone his skills, Ryker can’t help hoping his impossible decision is made more clear.
For Jacob Benson, hockey is a means to an end. He loves the game, but the scholarship he has to Owatonna University is his only chance to complete his agricultural science degree and save his family farm. He comes to the summer conditioning camp so he doesn’t end up cut from the team and can keep his scholarship. Jacob ends up rooming with Ryker and doesn’t have much use for the kid. He knows who Mads is, or rather who is father is, but Ryker hasn’t had to work for anything in his life, not like Jacob. Jacob doesn’t have time to be charmed by Ryker’s sweet personality or incredible looks. But sometimes life has other plans and for Jacob and Ryker, finding the path towards happiness will be rocky but worthwhile.
Ryker is the first in the new Owatonna U. Hockey series by R.J. Scott and V.L. Locey. It appears to be a standalone series, but occurs in the same universe as the Harrisburg Railers series and mentions familiar characters and events. So while you won’t be lost if you haven’t read that series, doing so would help make this one more enjoyable. We’ve met Ryker Madsen before. He’s the son of Jared Madsen, who coaches the Railers. He has lived something of a charmed life, being born with natural skill and into a family with enough money to give him the best of everything. He isn’t stuck up by any means, but he does take his position and wealth somewhat for granted. But now that’s he’s older, it’s become harder and harder to find people who care about him as a person and not about the influence his father’s name might bring. It’s hard not to like Ryker. He’s got an irrepressible buoyancy and enough real affection to make him endearing. Jacob has a chip on his shoulder regarding Ryker and while his treatment of Ryker is annoying at times, it’s also believable and understandable. He’s fighting to keep what little he has while Ryker seems to sail through life. Theirs is a sweet, albeit fast moving, romance despite its moments of antagonism and they have a good rapport. I would have preferred a bit more development of their relationship and the ability to watch it mature it a bit more completely.
One of my biggest frustrations with Ryker is actually how it handles a side story. At the end of the Harrisburg Railers series, we see Jared Madsen and Ten Rowe confront a life-changing event. And it’s mentioned here, but it’s a vague and unfulfilling level of information. I realize this book isn’t about Jared and Ten, but given the pivotal nature of what happened and Ryker’s connection with his father, I would have liked to see this plot line explored with more depth. Additionally, a lot of the conflicts within Ryker seem too easily resolved. Or they’re set up in detail and then resolved within a few lines. This book just lacked the extra layer of depth that I’ve come to expect from these authors.
Ryker is a fairly strong set up for a new series and while there were some aspects I didn’t love, I enjoyed it overall. Ryker and Jacob steal the show here and it’s their relationship that makes this book work so well. If you’ve enjoyed the Harrisburg Railers series, this one will definitely make a great addition.