“Jared was going to take him to bed. It was a terrible idea, and he didn’t care.”
In a word: Read the thing. I loved this book. I started the Scoring Chances series with the fourth (and latest, at the time) book, which I also loved, and was very excited to start the series at the beginning. I wasn’t disappointed. The characters in this book had little to no connection with the characters in Empty Net, but I loved them anyway. Lane and Jared are two minor league pro hockey players in two completely different places in their careers. Lane is a rookie, just beginning his pro career, while Jared is a hockey veteran at 31 years old and pretty close to retirement. They both play on rival teams, so it makes sense that their relationship would start with a fight on the ice. It all works out though because, as weird as the two of them really are, they’re really good together. Lane is awkward as all hell and somewhat insecure, and Jared had long ago sworn off relationships after getting badly burned in the past, but being with each other gives them both the love and support they need to better themselves and reach for what they really want in life and love. And also they play hockey. Aside from Lane and Jared, who are more than enough to carry the story on their own, there is a cast of side characters to add even more fun to the story. These characters include, but aren’t limited to, Lane’s first ever best friend Zoe (who is awesome), and one of the protagonists for the next book, Riley Hunter.
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Series: This is the first book in the Scoring Chances series, which is a series of books about minor league pro hockey players. The books are mostly standalone novels (in that there is no one long overarching plot), but they all take place in the same universe and share characters. I started the series with the fourth book (Empty Net) and none of those characters were in this book, but Riley Hunter is introduced in Breakaway and he’s mentioned quite a few times in Empty Net (which I think takes place a couple of years later). I don’t remember any mentions of Lane and Jared, but hopefully this book isn’t the last we see of them.
The Couple: Lane Courtnall is a 21-year-old rookie starting his professional hockey career on the ECHL team the Jacksonville Sea Storm. He’s fresh from Canada (a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but we won’t hold that against him… much) and I think this might be his first time living away from his parents. Definitely his first time living in the US. It’s not all glamorous though. His awkwardness and shit social skills have alienated him from his teammates. In order to fix this, he takes the drastic measure of picking a fight with the enforcer of the Sea Storm’s rival team, the Savannah Renegades, Jared Shore. Luckily for Lane, it works. And, as a plus, he even gets a boyfriend out of it, eventually. Jared is 31 and pretty much at the end of his pro career. The Renegades is the last in a long line of teams Jared has been on since he signed his first contract straight out of college. At this point in his life, he’s a lot less optimistic than Lane. About a lot of things. He’s attracted to Lane immediately, but he was burned bad back in college by his first and only relationship and isn’t interested in anything more. Especially not with a socially awkward, naïve rookie with a promising career ahead of him. He does, however, go for a one night stand. That ultimately proves to be his downfall. The thing about Lane and Jared is that they probably shouldn’t work as well as they do together. Lane is unbelievably awkward and doesn’t seem to have a brain-to-mouth filter, or any sense. Throughout the whole book he constantly says the wrong thing and people are constantly getting angry with him. It’s hard to get a real read on Lane because he reads weird. He reminded me of the way autistic characters are sometimes written, only without the sensory issues and other everyday issues. He’s at times incredibly naïve (or that’s how he comes across) and says a lot of things without seeming to think them through. He’s also very literal and a lot of double meanings and subtleties go right over his head. Though at other times he’s stupidly perceptive and knowledgeable. I don’t know whether that’s intentional or not. It comes across as humorous a lot of the time, though sometimes it does fall flat. Either way, Lane is a good kid, kind and upright and protective of the people close to him. Though he has some issues of his own, Jared is pretty sure of himself and mostly resigned to his place in life. He knows that he won’t be moving any farther up the ranks and he has no shot in the NHL. He’s been pigeonholed as a goon and he does the job well. It isn’t until he allows Lane close that he starts to shake things up a bit. He clashes with Lane a lot, though it really is good-natured fun, and it encourages him to play a better game. Jared swore off relationships in college and he’s spent his 10-year career hooking up with random girls on the road (he’s bisexual) and being content with that. There’s something about Lane, though, that makes him want more.
The Game: Lane and Jared are both pro hockey players. A major part of the story focuses on their relationship development, but a great deal also focuses on their hockey careers and their love of the game. There are a few games during the story that are probably easier to understand if you have a working knowledge of the sport. I know nothing about what goes on behind the scenes with regards to contracts and trading and things, so I just read those parts and took everything at face value. I do know the basics about hockey as a sport (I am Canadian, after all, it’d probably be weird if I didn’t) so the games themselves didn’t confuse me. Though I didn’t find them all that interesting as I am not exactly a hockey fan (or a fan of sports in general). Hockey is an important part of the story though, so expect a lot of talk about it.
The Parents: So this story is very low-angst and, unlike Empty Net, there are no villain type characters. The closest would probably be the man from Jared’s first ever relationship except that he doesn’t show up in the story at all. After him it would probably be Lane’s and Jared’s parents, but that turns out to all be misunderstandings. Lane’s parents are hockey parents (Canadians, yo) and have always supported his love for the sport and his career aspirations, attending all his games and making sure he had many opportunities open to him. Their misunderstanding comes from an event from when Lane was 16 that left him with the impression that his parents couldn’t accept him being gay. That eventually gets sorted out (it turns out that Lane’s parents, especially his mother, are as bad with words and feelings as Lane is), thankfully, because Lane’s parents are pretty entertaining when you know they aren’t homophobic arseholes. Jared seems to have the opposite problem with his parents, who we don’t see as much of as Lane’s. Jared’s parents have never seemed overly bothered about his bisexuality (and really, they aren’t), but they’ve never really supported his hockey career because they don’t like sports. Jared has had years to come to terms with that, but it’s a pleasant surprise to him to find out he’s been wrong the whole time.
The Teams: Most of the extended cast comes from Lane and Jared’s hockey teams; Jacksonville Sea Storm for Lane and Savannah Renegades for Jared. Their teammates and coaches appear throughout the story. Not so much the coaches, really, and some of the teammates (like Bridey, Reeder, Wynn, and others I’m forgetting) don’t show up enough to be actual characters. We don’t really get to know any of the people on Jared’s team (just Wynn, really, sorta) as we don’t spend a lot of time with them. Jared’s storyline seems less about learning to be on a team (like Lane’s) and more about his relationship with the sport itself. The character we see most of from Lane’s team is Ryan Sloane, who kicks off his and Lane’s relationship by asking Lane to be his roommate after his fight with Jared. Ryan is a typical hockey bro (as per this book); a messy guy in his early twenties whose only concerns are hockey, video games, and getting laid. It took me a bit of time to get used to Ryan, but he’s really an okay guy. The other two we really get to know from Lane’s team are Riley Hunter, the goalie, and Ethan Kennedy, a new transfer defenseman. Riley becomes Lane’s second friend on the team and we really don’t know much about him, other than that he’s rich, quiet, and a bit odd. Ethan becomes Riley’s roommate when he comes to the team and he seems like a pretty interesting guy. Big, loud, tattooed, and very outspoken against bigotry and homophobia. We don’t get to know them all that well, but I do know that they are the main couple in the next book and that glimpse of them made me very excited for that.
The Best Friend: Probably my favorite side character is Zoe, Lane’s first ever best friend. Zoe is a waitress at Cruisers, the local bar/restaurant in Jacksonville that the Sea Storm team goes to often. Zoe’s first appearance comes when Ryan is trying to get Lane laid and Zoe happens to be the nearest target. Zoe has absolutely no patience for macho hockey players, she takes absolutely no shit from anyone, and shuts that down. Ryan doesn’t get the hint, though, so he leaves Lane behind so that he’ll have no choice but to get a ride with Zoe (dat logic tho). Given that Lane is pretty much harmless and hopeless, Zoe actually does give him a ride back to his hotel and from that starts their friendship. Zoe is bisexual and, although she does fine Lane attractive (and somewhat endearing, when she doesn’t think he’s annoying), she isn’t really interested in going out with him (though it wouldn’t matter anyway because, beyond a weird fixation with Zoe’s boobs, Lane is gay as fuck and has no interest in Zoe as a romantic partner). Lane and Zoe are really good friends and Lane does become really attached to her, and her to him. Zoe even gets her own side plot about her romantic life and relationship with her parents and their issues about her liking girls. (Note: Zoe does end up with a man in this story, but her previous relationship was with a woman and she is still attracted to women as well as men.)
The Sex: There are quite a few sex scenes throughout the story, and there’s only one that isn’t between Lane and Jared. There’s one brief het scene between Jared and an unnamed woman his roommate Wynn brings home one night (this happens before Jared gets together with Lane). Outside the sex scenes there is a lot of talk about sex because most of the characters are hockey bros who love to share and Lane sometimes has no filter. Most of the characters seem to have a very casual attitude towards sex, if all the talk about participating in threesomes and instances of listening to people going at it in the next room are anything to go by. Lane and Jared’s first scene happens after the second time they meet off the ice and it’s meant to be a one night stand (HA). Lane’s a virgin, so (thankfully, for my personal tastes) they don’t do perfect anal right away (I think it’s just hand jobs or something), that’s something they work up to over time. I did enjoy their scenes because they were all different enough to not get boring and relevant to the characters’ emotions and the plot. Also a lot of them were pretty funny because Lane and Jared’s dialogue can play off each other pretty well. Also there were some really good moments that showed just how much they both came to care for each other.
The Writing: Like Empty Net I really like the writing for this. Also like Empty Net there were some issues with showing the passage of time in some parts, but it wasn’t really a big thing. The story was pretty cute and engaging and low-angst, and I enjoyed that. I thought at one point we were heading to a third-act breakup, but luckily that didn’t happen. Lane’s character quirks were sometimes hit or miss, as was some of the humour, but overall, I found it was really good and I laughed a lot. Also I really did enjoy the side characters and what they brought to the story. I’m really looking forward to the next book with Riley and Ethan.
[Breakaway was published November 27, 2015, by Dreamspinner Press, it is available both in print and as an ebook]