Coach’s Challenge (Scoring Chances #5) – Avon Gale

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“Really? You can’t believe two contrary people who thought they were just gonna have sex every now and then decided to have feelings?”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I’m always happy with a new addition to the Scoring Chances series, and this time is no exception. Coach’s Challenge is a book that has a completely new and separate plot from the other books, but still furthers the general series timeline in significant ways. Main characters and romantic leads Troy Callahan and Shane North are both newcomers to the series, though they aren’t completely unknown to the other characters (Troy got a mention at the end of the previous book), and their story fits in well in the established universe. The team getting the focus in this book is the Asheville Ravens, probably the most hated team in the ECHL, and rival to the Spartanburg Spitfires. Troy is hired on as their new coach, to replace the vile Denis St Savoy, who was banned from the league at the end of the previous book. Troy’s job is to whip the Ravens into shape and turn them into a more cohesive team that can play a clean game. Shane is a veteran hockey player, but new to the Ravens. He’s there playing out his last season, and is easily the oldest member on the team. He and Troy get off to a bit of a rocky start, what with them both being contrary assholes, but it isn’t long before they fall head over heels in lust with each other. As good as the sex is, though, it doesn’t stop it from being a bad idea since Troy is Shane’s coach, and the Ravens really can’t afford any more scandals or bad press. Too bad Troy and Shane have way too much fun fighting and fucking to even bother trying to keep away from each other, even if it does all threaten to blow up in their faces. For all the serious background and possible disaster in this situation, this book is hilarious. Troy and Shane’s banter nearly made me laugh out loud a few times, which is good because it’s what they do most of the time they’re together (seriously, if snark and banter and constant arguing isn’t something you enjoy reading, you’re probably better off skipping this one because it happens a lot). Also we see the return of a lot of the characters I really liked in Empty Net, so that was definitely a bonus. This is another great addition to the series and I can’t wait for the next one.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) It’s been decades since blackmail forced Troy Callahan to retire from playing professional hockey, and he’s built a successful career behind the bench. When he’s offered the opportunity to coach the Asheville Ravens—the most hated team in the ECHL—he’s convinced that his no-nonsense attitude is just what the team needs to put their focus back on hockey. But Troy is disheartened when he finds out the Ravens have signed Shane North, a player known for his aggression—especially when Shane’s rough good looks have Troy thinking inappropriate thoughts about a player, even if he’s set to retire at the end of the season.

Shane’s career in the majors never quite took off. Wanting to quit on his own terms, Shane agrees to a one-year contract with the Ravens and finds himself playing for a coach who thinks he’s an aging goon, and with a team that doesn’t trust him, Troy, or each other. Despite his determination not to get involved, Shane unwillingly becomes part of the team… and is just as unwillingly drawn to the gruff, out-and-proud coach. As the Ravens struggle to build a new identity, Shane and Troy succumb to the passion that might cost them everything.

 

[available for purchase from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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His Right Choice (Men of Falcon Pointe #4) – Thianna Durston

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“His plan had been to meet some gay guys and realize that wasn’t who he was. Instead Nick had found more life in the last few weeks than he had in his total twenty-one years.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This one I liked a lot better than the previous two books. This was the sequel I’d been waiting for (though I did like Books 2 and 3, don’t get me wrong). I liked everything about this book (even the really ridiculous parts). Anyone who’s been reading the whole series knows the score by now (gay Mormon boy goes to university and meets a group of men who make him realize that he’s a person that deserves love and respect, and then he gets a hot older boyfriend and spanking is involved), and this book follows the same pattern while still managing to be a bit of a different story. Nick is struggling with his sexuality worse than the others ever did. He’s convinced himself that what he needs to do is work past his attraction to men and then settle down with his long-time girlfriend and start a family. It’s a sure recipe for disaster, but it’s all Nick knows to do. Luckily, he catches the attention of the gang from the other books, and they’re able to help him work through some things. He also catches the attention of Ethan, an older man and an old friend of Cory and Levlin’s, who would definitely like to get to know Nick better. There’s a lot of angst in this book because Nick has to come to terms with both the fact that he’s gay and nothing’s going to change that, and that everything he believed in up until this point might be built on lies. He’s in a very different place than the others were, and he has a lot more to work through. One thing I really liked about this book (and my favourite aspect of this whole series) is how everyone really came together to support Nick and help him on his journey. All the characters from past books are back and just as great as ever, and the new characters in this one make the story that much richer (I will forever love Nick’s friend Deke). This book was also very emotional and I had a hard time putting it down (a lot like my feelings for the first book in the series, actually). This is currently the last book in the series, but I really hope there are more coming, I’d really like to see what all these guys will get up to in the future.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Nicholas Layton, fresh off his mission for the Mormon church, attends Falcon Pointe University with plans to enjoy his final year of freedom before he gives in and marries his long-term girlfriend. But when he meets a group of gay men, some of whom are ex-Mormons and some who practice loving physical discipline, he finds he is more comfortable with them than anywhere else. Suddenly, he’s straddling the line between good Mormon and gay man.

As an added bonus—or problem, depending—he meets Ethan Kierk, who is good-looking, fun to be around, and who wants to be with him. Nick tries not to think about dating a man, but he can’t help it. He wants Ethan, and that terrifies him.

To avoid his feelings, Nick steels himself to propose to his girlfriend but breaks things off at the last moment. Instead, he jumps headlong into a relationship with Ethan, and it feels so right—until he has to tell his family. When they reject him, he shares his darkest secret with Ethan, hoping Ethan won’t reject him too.

Hoping he made the right choice.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Becoming Rafe (Men of Falcon Pointe #3) – Thianna Durston

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“As long as you are proud of yourself and have a support team, you can face anything and anyone. So let’s build up Rafe Norton and let the rest find its place.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. There were some things I really liked about this book, and some things I kinda didn’t. This was a bit of a mixed bag, I feel. The story about Rafe (formerly known as Nephi) going away to university and trying to find himself was a good one. It was similar enough to the others to fit the pattern, but still different enough so as to not be repetitive. There was also a lot of focus on Rafe hanging out with his friends, which was good because I found a lot of the things about his boyfriend Levlin a bit lacking. I liked Levlin, don’t get me wrong, but I mostly just didn’t get him. Through all of his and Rafe’s interactions, I kept finding myself wondering what a (assumed) successful psychologist in his mid-thirties would want with an 18-year-old college freshman struggling to find himself? I never had this problem with the other relationships (maybe because Rafe was younger than Trent and Bastien? I dunno), but it kept picking at me here. Outside of that, though, Rafe and Levlin’s relationship was stable and loving and engaging. Though, having said that, I thought that it moved a bit too fast for my liking. There were a lot of throwbacks to past books, with past characters showing up and interacting with the new characters. David and Bastien even got married, which managed to both be sentimental for the reader and a poignant moment for Rafe. There’s still discipline in this story, but this is the first time that Cory is not the one doling it out, Levlin is. Also Rafe’s family was a lot more involved in the story than any other character’s ever was, which made for great scenes and great angst (his siblings are awesome and I love them).

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Eighteen-year-old Nephi Rafe Norton goes to Falcon Pointe University to find himself. Away from his conservative family, he hopes to discover if his attraction to men is the real deal. Encouraged to be someone a little different, he starts using his middle name. “Rafe” quickly makes friends, some of whom practice loving physical discipline, and lives it up—until midterms hit and he realizes he’s flunking statistics class.

When Scotland native Éigneachán Jackson Levlin offers to help, Rafe is eager to accept—not only because Levlin is a psychologist, but also because he’s out and proud and hot as hell.

As their relationship heats up, Rafe decides to spend one last Christmas with his family before he tells them. When his little sister outs him to his siblings, they turn out to be fully supportive, and he takes heart—until he introduces Levlin to his father, who brutally dismisses both of them. Now Rafe must come to peace with his father’s rejection or risk losing Levlin—and all that he has become at Falcon Pointe—forever.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Finding His Home (Men of Falcon Pointe #2) – Thianna Durston

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“It was sweet, and Bastien couldn’t tear his eyes away. Sure, he’d hoped gay men could be loving, but that was the first time he’d ever seen it.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I will admit, I didn’t like this one as much as I did the first book (this one was a bit slow in places), but I did really enjoy reading it. It’s similar to the first book in some ways, but it’s still a different story. Like Trent from Book 1, Sebastien Cather is trying to break away from Mormonism because he knows that he’ll never be able to be happy in that lifestyle. Also like Trent, Sebastien makes his way to 959 Brenton Street and finds a new home, a new family, and a new love. Sebastien is in a different part of his journey than Trent was, though. He’d come to terms with the fact that he’s gay back when he was 14, and by the time he makes it to Falcon Pointe he’s already decided that he’s going to leave the Mormon church. His dilemmas are less about his religion and more about his relationships. David, from Book 1, is back in a main role, so we get a bit more insight into him. Trent, Cory, and Alan are also back, and it was great to see them again. Also Trent’s father tries to make some more trouble and is put back in his place, which is always fun. This is a good sequel to a book I enjoyed, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) A Men of Falcon Pointe Novel

Sebastien Cather moves to Falcon Pointe with a dream to live life his way. Offered a room at 959 Brenton Street, he discovers how liberating it can feel to live among accepting people, especially in a household where they practice loving physical discipline. And he quickly gains a boyfriend in Avery, a fellow student. Unfortunately Avery isn’t his first choice. His roommate David is fascinating and good-looking, and Bastien would do anything to have him—but he doesn’t think the attraction is returned.

Tensions rise as his roommates’ wedding is threatened and his present and past lives clash. Outed by the national media, Bastien knows he will never be able to return home again. Just as he’s sure he can’t handle any more stress, David shows his interest. Bastien slowly makes his way forward, trying to find firm footing in the minefield that is his life. But when his landlord makes an announcement about the future of the house, it may change all of his dreams.

 

[available for purchase from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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959 Brenton Street (Men of Falcon Pointe #1) – Thianna Durston

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“Trent felt like he had opened some mystical portal into a world that could not possibly exist, where men like himself were accepted.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I wasn’t completely sure going in if I was gonna like this one or not, but I was definitely curious. I actually did like this, quite a bit. I mean, it also confused me, but I did enjoy reading Trent’s journey and the development of his relationship with Cory and the others. There are a few things going on in this book. First there’s Trent out on his own for the first time, away from his family and his church and finally getting the chance to be himself. That ties in a bit with Trent’s struggle over whether he can be a good Mormon while also being gay, and how he’ll choose to deal with that. He also falls in love for the first time, and that’s both an adventure and a bit of an added stressor to an already stressful situation. Lastly, and what piqued my interest in this book in the first place, there’s Trent learning how to live in a household that practises domestic discipline. I’d never before read a book where non-sexual and non-romantic discipline was a major part of the characters’ interactions, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in. It’s definitely a weird arrangement to a complete outsider (even Trent has reservations at first), but it’s obvious that it’s all totally consensual and every participant is getting something positive out of it all. I liked Trent and Cory and the other roommates, who were all unique and interesting characters. The drama with Trent’s family and religion was heartbreaking, making Trent work for his happy ending and it was so satisfying when he got it.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Trent Farnsworth moves to Falcon Pointe to get as far away from his controlling family and religion as he can. While his conservative upbringing makes it hard for Trent to admit he’s gay, he accidentally outs himself in front of his four new roommates. None of the men living at 959 Brenton Street are what the world would consider normal, but all four accept him for who he is. He never expects to feel right at home in a loving discipline household. And when Trent falls for his much older landlord, Dr. Cory Venerin, he’s as surprised as anyone, but discovering Cory feels the same makes Trent realize he’s truly in the right place at the right time.

Until he tells his family he’s gay. His father uses any resource at his disposal to destroy him, including Trent’s love for Cory. As his father schemes to send Trent to a hospital whose sole purpose is to rip the gay out of him, Cory battles to save not only Trent—but also the possibility of a future together.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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A Wounded Promise (Sam’s Café Romances #2) – Ashavan Doyon

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Will Russ be mad at me? Which wasn’t nearly as bad as the other thought. Am I allowed to be mad at Russ?

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing? I had a few problems with this one, and I’m not sure which problems are down to bad writing and which are due to the fact that I didn’t read the book that came before this one. Russ and Justin got together in the previous book (The King’s Mate) and this book continues their story. While I was reading this book it felt a lot like the author was banking on me already having read the first book. It kinda felt like being dumped into a story already in progress, with minimal character introductions and people making references to events in ways that make it seem like I should already know about them. Sam and Russ in particular are always talking about past events and the text doesn’t explain anything about them, but I don’t know if that’s bad writing and we will be learning about those events eventually, or if it was already explained in the first book and I’m missing out because I didn’t read it. Although I also had problems with the writing in other ways, mostly with the dialogue and the (many) sex scenes. Also I never felt that I connected with any of the characters, I felt for them and their problems, but I didn’t really care about them. Speaking of problems, this story is also really bleak. The main focus of it is about Russ and Justin confiding in each other about issues they have about their past and how they are trying to work through them and learning to work through them together. It’s mostly a downer and pretty heavy. Also I don’t think I was ever really sold on Russ and Justin as a couple; I never really got invested in them.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo]

 

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Breakaway (Scoring Chances #1) – Avon Gale

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“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.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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