New York Times best-selling author Shannon Stacey starts a sweet and satisfying series with Under the Lights. A former high school football star returns to his charming hometown in order to help out the man who changed his life—his old coach. What he doesn’t expect is his attraction to the now-grown coach’s daughter, a woman who may still be off limits after all these years.
Chase Sanders is not exactly having the best year. His girlfriend has just left him, and his business partner cleaned out his accounts. Returning to Stewart Mills, New Hampshire—where he used to be the big man on campus—at his lowest point would just be the cherry on top. But when Kelly McDonnell, his former coach’s daughter, calls him asking for his help in saving the hometown’s high school football team, he can’t seem to say no to returning home. With budget cuts wreaking havoc, Kelly puts together a two-week fundraising extravaganza to save her father’s passion, and Chase can’t leave his coach hanging out to dry.
Chase and Kelly weren’t necessarily on friendly terms when they attended high school together. Since Kelly was two years behind him, she wasn’t even on Chase’s radar. Plus, showing any interest in the coach’s daughter meant trouble. Seeing Chase and Kelly relive their high school experiences had me longing for Friday night lights, fresh popcorn at the concession stand and swathes of team colors in the stands.
Kelly, a local police officer, is a headstrong heroine motivated by such earnest feelings of love toward her father and her hometown that it’s difficult not to get misty-eyed at her dedication. However, she does have a stubborn streak when it comes to Chase. Neither wants to admit to their attraction; Kelly wants to save face and Chase fears driving a wedge in his relationship with his mentor. Watching them try to reconcile the things holding them back while being forced into close contact is a slow, torturous burn, but it makes Chase and Kelly’s chemistry that much sweeter.
Stacey also does an impeccable job of introducing the town’s characters and Chase’s former teammates. Chase’s jokes with his old friends and Kelly’s interactions with the high school’s current football players are practically guaranteed to produce smiles, and readers will look forward to seeing these two, as well as their friends, again in future books.
With yet another great start to a series under her belt, Shannon Stacey clearly knows her way around building the perfect contemporary romance. Under the Lights is a nice reminder that people can change and grow, and that sometimes, forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest.