Author: Avon Gale
Publisher: DreamSpinner Press
Genre: M/M Sport
A freak accident during the Stanley Cup Playoffs put an end to Max Ashford’s hockey career. Despite everything, Max gets back into the game he loves—only this time, behind the bench as an assistant coach of the Spartanburg Spitfires, the worst team in the entire league. But nothing prepares him for the shock when he learns the new head coach is Misha Samarin, the man who caused Max’s accident.
After spending years guilt ridden for his part in Max’s accident, Russian native Misha Samarin has no idea what to do when he’s confronted with Max’s presence. Max’s optimism plays havoc with Misha’s equilibrium—as does the fierce attraction that springs up between them.
Not only must they navigate Misha’s remorse and a past he’s spent a lifetime trying to forget, but also a sleazy GM who is determined to use their history as a marketing hook. But when an unwelcome visitor targets a player, Misha revisits his darkest days, and that might cost him and Max the beginning they’ve worked so hard to build.
Max Ashford’s career ended abruptly after only a few years as an NHL hockey player when he fell and hit his head during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The man who was suspended for fifteen games for causing Max’s accident was Misha Samarin—the same man who Max has just learned is now going to be head coach to the Spartanburg Spitfires, the team for which Max has just been hired as assistant coach.
But Max isn’t holding a grudge—far from it. He sees it as it is—simply an accident and it saddens him that Misha has carried the burden with him for so long. It surprises him when his new team manager uses the film clip from the game to drum up fan interest in the team, and if they expect to see the two coaches in a fight, they have another thing coming.
Max is one of the most wonderful characters I’ve ever encountered. He’s bright, upbeat, a positive role model, and sexy as sin. He not only forgives Misha for his role in the accident—It’s hockey, after all!—he also finds Misha to be one of the most attractive men he’s ever met. The tall, muscular Russian who rarely cracks a smile turns Max’s world on its axis and leaves him no choice but to acknowledge that his bisexuality is not just a maybe, it’s a definite.
The story is fast-paced as we witness the Spitfires go from last place in the league to a winning team, at the same time as we witness the charming Max working wonders on his stoic head coach’s personality. The secondary characters, which include most of the team as well as Max’s family members, are interesting, three-dimensional, and full of personality. Even the ostensibly greedy team owner has some redeeming qualities, though they aren’t revealed right away, and with the fast pace of the drama that unfolds, he makes a great character to “love to hate.”
The story isn’t just about hockey—it’s about relationships—both personal and professional. And it’s about growth, again, both personal and professional. And not just Max and Misha—it’s about their players as well. This is my first book by this author, but I’m most definitely getting the early books in the series and anything else Avon Gale has written because it was just so outstanding. I found myself smiling every time I thought about the couple and the things that happened along the way to their HEA, including how clueless they both were that their team was shipping them all season!
Though this is book three in a series, it does not rely on previous characters so can be easily read as a standalone. And you don’t have to be a sports fan to read this, but if you know anything about hockey, it will only enhance your enjoyment. If you don’t know much about hockey, you’re going to want to learn more when you finish this. You might even be tempted to attend a game! But most of all, if you’re in the mood to read a remarkable story that will be hard to put down, by all means pick this one up.