Author: Avon Gale
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Narrator: Scott R. Smith
Spartanburg Spitfires’ goalie and captain Isaac Drake ended last season with an unexpected trip to the playoffs. He’s found a home and family with his coach and mentor, Misha Samarin, and he’s looking forward to making a serious run for the Kelly Cup. But things take an interesting turn when Isaac’s archnemesis, Laurent St. Savoy, is traded to the Spitfires. After Laurent’s despicable behavior in the playoffs last year, Isaac wants nothing to do with him – no matter how gorgeous he is. But that changes when Isaac discovers the reason for Laurent’s attitude.
Laurent St. Savoy grew up the only son of a legendary NHL goalie in a household rife with abuse, constantly treated like a disappointment on and off the ice. When a desperate attempt to escape his father’s tyranny sends him to the Spitfires, the last thing Laurent wants is to make friends. But there’s something about Isaac Drake that he can’t resist, and Laurent has an opportunity to explore his sexuality for the first time, but he’s cracking under end-of-the season pressures. When facing the playoffs and a rivalry turned personal vendetta, Isaac’s not sure he’s enough to hold Laurent—or their relationship—together.
Please be advised: This book does contain some non-graphic references to past childhood physical/emotional abuse as well as issues relating to ED (bulimia and restricted eating, disordered thoughts about eating).
This was absolutely lovely! I have read several books starring hockey players in recent months and I have no idea why they’re all so good! This one was a little different for all the right reasons and it was an absolute joy to read (listen to).
I was a little scured during the first chapter of the audiobook, not gonna lie. A lot of names were getting rattled off I had no idea who anybody was (I haven’t read any other books in this series), and the narrators voices and accents were a bit jarring and campy. I was nervous. But then that broken little asshole Larrant strutted into the locker room and I was a goner. Unlike most hockey books, we didn’t spend half the book watching the antagonism build, we didn’t have to see Larrant be a total jerk to everyone and dig himself deeper and deeper into a hole we knew he wanted out of.
There is a confrontation relatively early, and Isaac takes it upon himself to get their shit together. And Larrant just doesn’t have any fight left in hin. Things are actually relatively smooth and angst free from there. Don’t get me wrong, there is drama. Larrant has been through some shitand that all needs to be addressed. But he and Isaac are solid.
I love the way they are together, the banter is witty but not overly so where it feels scripted. Isaac calls Larrant out when he’s being an asshole and tells him to stop it… and he does. They both know it’s a defense mechanism, so they have strategies to counter it. An actual healthy and well-balance relationship between two 25 year old hockey players, one of which who has a severe history of abuse? Yes PLEASE!!!
And the SEX! There’s not a ton of it, that’s not the main point of the story, but it is there in the exact right amount and damn is it hot and sweet and natural and authentic. I love that being gay, and more specifically being a gay hockey player, is never an issue. The team and league in general has always been accepting of Isaac, and Larrant doesn’t struggle with his identity once he figures out what he wants.
There is a climax but it happens the way things happen in life, with a little planning and without too much fanfare. Things aren’t perfect. They don’t suddenly get traded up in to the majors making bank. But that’s not the point. They’re happy. This was just so easy to read.
I did end up liking the audio, although I don’t know that it enhanced my reading pleasure. The accents were a little off; Mischa didn’t sound Russian so much as that generic “Euro” accent Americans do when they can’t pinpoint an accent, I couldn’t tell if Max was supposed to be Canadian or what, and Issac’s country twang was a bit jarring… but I really didn’t care. It didn’t distract from the story at all. And I do tend to love listening to my hockey romances for some reason, so I wouldn’t change it.