“You just… I don’t know, Ethan. Something about you makes me take chances that I don’t ever take.”
In a word: Read the thing. I am falling in love with this series more and more with every book. This is the second book in the Scoring Chances series and takes place not long after the first book, Breakaway. Breakaway was about Lane Courtnall and Jared Shore falling in love and moving along in their hockey careers. In this book it’s Lane’s friend (and former goalie) Riley Hunter’s turn. Calm and quiet Riley and loud and boisterous Ethan Kennedy seem like an odd pairing, but they end up as roommates for the new hockey season and are quick to become friendly with each other. Then, even though neither of them have really shown any significant interest in men before, their friendship soon turns sexual, and then turns into romance. I was actually surprised at how quickly Riley and Ethan got together, though it wasn’t necessarily romantic at first, I suppose, so there was still a lot more development to be had. Like the other books in the series, this book focuses more on the main couple’s relationship development than it does about hockey (though hockey is still a very big and important part of the characters’ lives). I really enjoyed Riley and Ethan’s dynamic, and the writing was very funny and very emotional in turns. There were also appearances from characters we first met in the first book (like Lane, Jared, Zoe, and Ryan) and we got to see how they were doing and developing, which was awesome. And the new characters that were introduced were quickly endearing and entertaining (I love Ethan’s family). This was a quick, enjoyable read and I’m very excited to start the next book.
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Series: This book is the second in the Scoring Chances series (which is, at the moment, five books and one short story long). I started this series with Empty Net (the fourth book, and the latest one at the time I read it), and I’m now reading it in order. The series doesn’t technically have to be read in order, since the stories are all separate, but it’s probably more fun if you do it because the stories all take place in the same universe and they tend to share characters. Save of the Game is about the relationship between Riley Hunter and Ethan Kennedy, but there are numerous cameos and mentions of some of the characters from the first book, Breakaway. Which includes the main couple from that book, Lane Courtnall and Jared Shore, along with their friends Ryan Sloan and Zoe Mays. I loved those characters and seeing them again and seeing how their relationships and stories progressed is great. There was even a quick mention of Isaac Drake and his team, though the only reason that even stood out to me is because he’s one of the leads in Empty Net, and I know that his team is getting the spotlight in the series’ next book Power Play.
The Couple: Riley Hunter is the goalie of the ECHL team the Jacksonville Sea Storm. We first met him in the last book (Breakaway) as a side character. He’s a main in this one. Riley is calm and quiet, and possibly a bit shy. He’s from a rich family (like, billionaire-level rich) but it’s something he keeps a secret because people tend to get awkward with him when they learn he has money. It’s one of the reasons he has a hard time getting really close to people; the other reason being that his family is kinda shit and never really taught him how to show real affection. Riley’s opposite is his new roommate, Ethan Kennedy, the Sea Storm’s new defenseman/enforcer who started on the team late the previous season. Ethan is loud and tough, and comes from a family that has struggled with money but never with love and affection. Ethan also has a bit of a temper and always prides himself on never having to ask for help. Being with Riley is a change for him because it sometimes makes him vulnerable in ways he’s not used to, especially when it comes to Riley wanting to take care of him. Neither Riley nor Ethan have ever really been interested in men before now, always having been with girls in the past (Ethan even has a one-night stand with one near the beginning of the book). The attraction they develop for each other throws them for a loop (though more so for Ethan than for Riley, who has been with women in the past but was never really bothered with whether or not he was gay or straight). It’s a new world for them when they decide to act on their attraction, and a completely new experience when that attraction comes with romantic feelings. I really do like Riley and Ethan’s dynamic, and their snarky banter that doesn’t stop when they get together. They’re both really funny and really good with each other, and I really liked that they didn’t let any misunderstandings or dramatics come between them. They started out as friends, but they became a really close couple over time, and it was a journey I enjoyed reading.
The Returns: Save of the Game is the second book in a series and it takes place not long after the first book ends (I think there’s a few months between them?). This books also follows some of the side characters from the first book, so it makes sense that some of the characters from Book 1 also appear in Book 2. Lane Courtnall and Jared Shore were the two leads in the last book, and I was happy to see them show up again in this book. Everyone who enjoyed Lane in the last book will be pleased to know that he has not changed one bit. He’s still the same awkward dweeb he was last time, though his awkward and thoughtless comments are a bit funnier now that we don’t have to deal with him as much. He and Jared are still together and very much in love, and the both of them are still trucking along in their respective careers. Lane is still friends with Riley, and it seems like they’re still in consistent contact (for better or for worse). Ryan Sloan is still the captain of the Jacksonville Sea Storm, so he’s there, and he’s still dating Zoe Mays and those two are still adorable. Those are the only major characters I really remember from the first book that show up here, and it was great seeing them again and knowing for sure that their stories weren’t completely over.
The Families: I love Ethan’s family, they are amazing. By complete contrast, Riley’s family is mostly shit. A big source of angst for Riley is the fact that he’s from a rich family (being sad about having a ton of money is a bit of a first world problem, but it does make it difficult for Riley to make friends because it can cause legitimate problems for him) and that family doesn’t seem to care for him much. Even Riley himself mentions that his parents tend to ignore his existence. The parents Hunter don’t even show up in the story, they don’t even get any lines. The only part of Riley’s family that ever appears is his younger sister Madison, showing up unexpectedly in Riley and Ethan’s apartment after escaping her overbearing mother’s life plan for her. It’s the first time they’ve seen each other in over three years, and it’s an interesting dynamic they have as they’re practically strangers (they weren’t really close as children either) and have to now build a new relationship and get to know each other as adults. On the complete opposite end of the Loving Family Spectrum is the Kennedy clan: Ethan’s mother Maura Kennedy, and his two younger sisters Britt and Kelsey. Maura actually reminded me a lot of Mrs Weasley from the Harry Potter series. She’s a loving mother from a lower-income family who has so much love for her children and pretty much adopts Riley when she first meets him (and the same thing happens with Madison). Britt and Kelsey are both pretty entertaining; Kelsey comes off a bit shyer, but Riley describes Britt as ‘Ethan with tits’ and it fits because their personalities are very similar. The Kennedy family are a close bunch, and his mother and sisters are the most important people in Ethan’s life. They’re so great and loving and they teach Riley what a normal loving family looks like.
The Game: So this is a book – and series – about hockey players, but there isn’t a whole lot of in-depth focus and detail on the hockey aspects of the whole thing. As with the other books I’ve read in the series (Breakaway and Empty Net) this book puts more of a focus on the relationship between the main couple, and their relationship to the game than the actual game itself. There’s an introduction at the beginning of every book about the different national hockey levels (all these books feature players in the ECHL league) and explains a bit about them, but even if you don’t know anything going in it’ll be fine. Also you don’t have to be a hockey fan to enjoy the books or understand anything that’s going on (I’m not really one – a failure of a Canadian) since there isn’t much hockey going on. The characters are all hockey players, so of course, there are hockey games and practices and training and playoffs going on, but they aren’t really detailed. Unless something significant to character or relationship development is happening, the games and practices are summarized. They rarely happen in real time. Like for most of the playoff games, we only got a summary of what went on, who played, and who won. I didn’t have a problem with that since I’m not really a sports fan, but if you went into this expecting a lot of hockey action you’ll be disappointed.
The Sex: Riley and Ethan actually started having sex a lot sooner than I thought they would (considering the fact that they’ve never been with men before, and a sexual relationship could potentially make the roommate situation awkward if things went south), but they formed an attraction to each other early on, so I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised. There were some indications in the beginning that their sex would fall under the BDSM category (namely, Riley’s internet porn history), but it didn’t completely happen that way. There are very mild D/s undertones in most of the scenes, where Riley is sort of in charge/in control and Ethan is just following his lead. It kinda skirts the border of BDSM, of a type. A lot of the scenes can be a bit rough, where Ethan will be angry or otherwise keyed up and Riley will be rough with him to calm him down. Or something. There are a few scenes where Ethan’s hands are tied up during the sex, but that’s as far as that goes. I really liked a lot of the scenes because Riley and Ethan tend to banter a lot during sex and that’s always entertaining and did make me laugh out loud a few times. Also it could get emotional once they started to acknowledge their romantic feelings for each other, which was nice.
The Writing: I loved the writing in this. It’s written in the same way as Breakaway and Empty Net, which I also really liked. Though, unlike in Breakaway at least, the protagonists are less awkward so the humour works a lot better. Though Lane actually did show up a few times in this, the brand of humour he’s written with is a lot funnier in smaller doses. And it was nice seeing some of the characters from Breakaway again. Riley and Ethan had their own quirks and that made for some laughs as well (also Riley’s obsession with coconut water: I have tried that and it is fucking disgusting there is definitely something wrong with that boy). The contrast between Riley and Ethan’s families was interesting, and can I just say how much I love the Kennedy clan? I love them. Speaking of, Riley’s family could’ve opened the door for a lot of drama and angst, but there definitely wasn’t as much as there could’ve been. Which was good because the story was able to maintain an all-around lighter tone without it. The story is pretty low angst, which I really liked. There was no third act breakup, and it was nice to see a couple disagree on things and get into arguments and then resolve the issues without dramatic breakups and misunderstandings. And when there was angst it wasn’t overly dramatic, it was very well done and an opportunity for the characters to grow. Like the other books, a lot of the hockey stuff is mostly glossed over, but I’m not much of a sports fan so that didn’t bother me. The focus of the story was the relationship between the two mains, and their relationship to the sport, and that’s where it stayed, which was nice. I really can’t wait to read the next book, and I do hope that we get to see glimpses of how Riley and Ethan are doing in the future.
[Save of the Game was published January 29, 2016, by Dreamspinner Press; it is available both in print and as an ebook]