Backfield in Motion by Jami Davenport is the fourth book in the author's series about a fictional American football team, the Seattle Lumberjacks. It's one of the very few romance genre series that I am currently, unabashedly, hooked on. What has been the selling point, for me, is the entire world the author has been able to create - the team, the organization, the players, the coaches, the front office, just everything that goes into the world of professional athletes. So while I didn't quite enjoy this story as much as some of the earlier entries, it's still a solid addition that propels the series forward.
Bruce "Bruiser" Mackey is the team's star running back and, outside of the quarterback, Tyler, the face of the franchise. And oh what a face it is! Bruce is a pretty boy, something he plays up for maximum effect. This is the guy who does underwear ads. Who is known to have not one, but two, good-looking women on his arm at any one time. But behind that impossibly sexy face and charming smile? There's a lot of secret pain.
Mackenzie Hernandez is on the grounds keeping crew at the Lumberjacks home stadium. She's a bit of a tomboy and is seen as "just one of the guys." Which normally is OK with her - except she's got a really annoying, really distracting crush on Bruce. Bruce, who thinks she's "one of the guys." Bruce who will play pool with her, pal around with her, and drink beer with her. Bruce who doesn't see her as a woman at all. Or so she thinks! Anxious to win an annual scholarship the organization awards every year, Mac knows she needs to "network" to increase her chances. The problem being? Bruce gets roped in to help her and things get, well, complicated.
I love a good Ugly Duckling/Cinderella story, and that's what the author goes for with Mac. Mac knows who she is and what she wants - it's just that life keeps throwing up road blocks. Besides being dismissed out of hand because she's not "girly" - her family is still haunted by the disappearance of her older brother. Her father is obsessed, tracking down every half-baked "lead" that comes his way and spying on the merry widow. Naturally Mac not only has to deal with this fallout, she also finds herself drawn into "helping" her father with his various snooping. It doesn't leave any time for having a life. It doesn't leave any time for Mac to move on. So when sparks start flying between her and Bruce? It's a real eye-opener for her.
In turn, Bruce has some interesting baggage - also involving a doomed brother. This gives our couple "something in common" outside of football, and provides some emotional heft to the sexy contemporary vibe of the romance. What didn't quite work as well for me? Well, Bruce. He's kind of a jerk. Which is funny since it's the team quarterback, Tyler, who is the Asshole With The Heart Of Gold figure. No, Bruce is just kind of a jerk. His only real friend on the team is the back-up quarterback. The same back-up who has a "thing" for Mac. Bruce gives pause for like, three seconds, and steamrolls his way into Mac's panties anyway. OK sure, Mac doesn't have the hots for Brett - but still. I mean, isn't there an unspoken Guy Code about such things? I also found myself wanting a bit more on Bruce's family situation. More time spent with his mother and sister would have been welcome in really delving behind that pretty boy façade he'd built up.
In the end this is a good story. The author tackles a lot here (the romance, the mystery of Mac's brother, there's even a kid thrown into the mix) and ties up all her threads nicely. I didn't inhale it in quite the same way I did the previous books in the series, but it's a nice addition and moves things forward for Brett's story - which I cannot wait to get my hands on.
Final Grade = B-