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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Overtime (Scoring Chances #3.5) – Avon Gale

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“As the game progressed, Isaac found his attention focused almost exclusively on the Ravens’ goalie, Laurent St. Savoy.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This is a short story – only a little over 4000 words – that takes place between Book 3 (Power Play) and Book 4 (Empty Net) of the Scoring Chances series. It’s mainly a slice-of-life short from Isaac Drake’s point of view, though it does reference events that were mentioned in passing in Empty Net. It also explores a bit of the relationship between Isaac and Misha. It’s not really necessary to read this to understand the next book; it’s just some extra fun. The extra insight was interesting: we get some moments with Isaac and Misha, and we also get a bit of background on Isaac’s brief relationship with Xavier Matthews (who plays on the Asheville Ravens). There’s also a lot of foreshadowing for the impending romance between Isaac and Laurent St. Savoy. This isn’t really a romantic short (even with the focus on Laurent), I feel it’s more to do with the father/son type relationship between Isaac and Misha, which was very sweet. There were also some moments with some of the other hockey players, and it’s always good to see the boys interacting and having fun. Even Belsey wasn’t as much of a dick as he usually is. So this isn’t really required reading to understand the main story going forward, but it really is a fun read and the extra time spent on some of the relationships certainly doesn’t hurt. (Also it’s free to read.)

 

[available for free from Instafreebie]

 

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Power Play (Scoring Chances #3) – Avon Gale

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“Misha’s words were all stolen away, taken from him by Max Ashford’s pretty eyes and his easy smile – all the things he was giving to Misha that Misha did not deserve. All the things he wanted that he couldn’t have.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. Another winner, of course. I still love this series, and this was another wonderful addition to it. In a change of pace from the other books in the series, the romantic couple aren’t hockey players, but former hockey players who are now hockey coaches. Max and Misha are more or less strangers who are forever tied to each other because of one event that changed both of their lives forever. Misha accidentally caused Max an injury that ended his professional hockey career, and he’s never really gotten over it. Max, however, has moved on with his life and is now happy to have a chance to coach the game he loves. The two men had never expected to see each other again, so of course it’s no surprise (to us) that they do and that their eventual reactions to each other is basically ‘Oh no, he’s hot’. They’re hired to coach the Spartanburg Spitfires because the team’s manager thinks that the potential drama will be good for ticket sales. There ends up being no drama, instead there’s a romance and a journey of self-forgiveness and sometimes there’s hockey. There’s also plenty of Isaac Drake, which I especially enjoyed because I already read Empty Net, which is about him, and liked him in that.

 

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

 

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Save of the Game (Scoring Chances #2) – Avon Gale

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“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.

 

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

 

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The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson (Get Out #1) – Sean Kennedy

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“Yes, because I have a raging boner for all the guys in the school. Soon it will explode and shower them all and they will catch The Gay and life will never be the same.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing? I started out liking this book, but I was completely ready to be done with it by the time I got to the end. A lot of other people seem to like it so I’m assuming it’s just a personal problem I have with it. This is a book about teenager Micah Johnson and his ongoing struggle to not be an arsehole. I think. The reason I started off really enjoying this was that I found Micah pretty funny. He’s really sarcastic and snarky and a bit of a dick, but I found him a likeable enough character. I liked Micah, which was probably part of the problem of why I didn’t end up liking the book. Judging by the behaviour of the other characters, I don’t think I was supposed to like Micah as much as I did. Micah first appeared in a previous book in a different series by the same author (Tigers and Devils) and a lot of things happened in that book that are only vaguely summarized in this one, so anyone who hasn’t read the previous book is missing a large chunk of the backstory. As it is, Micah comes off with an attitude problem, but I didn’t feel it was so bad that it warranted the other characters to get on his case every time he opened his mouth (there were times where he crossed a line, but most of his behaviour is average teenage dickishness). This book also has no real plot; though I suppose Micah’s reformation is supposed to be the main one, though I never got into it. There are few other subplots about starting a GSA, Micah’s school environment, a vague romance, and his future career in the AFL. I usually enjoy reading slice of life stories, but not really ones that only seemed to shit on the main character for reasons not adequately portrayed.

 

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

 

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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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Empty Net (Scoring Chances #4) – Avon Gale

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I like you. Laurent didn’t say it, but he didn’t need to. It was probably written all over his face.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I didn’t really know much about this book going in. All I knew was that it was about hockey players and that one of the leads was asexual. I really liked this book. Like, a lot. I’m not really a big hockey fan, but I didn’t really need to be since the story was more about the characters and less about the game, so that worked for me. This is book four in the Scoring Chances series so a lot of the characters that I read about for the first time were actually already introduced in previous books. This didn’t turn out to be too much of a problem because the book gave me enough information about past major events so that I wasn’t too out of the loop, but I feel like I did miss a lot of character development in some places (this isn’t the book’s fault). Regardless, it didn’t take me long to get attached to the characters. There’s our two leads, of course, Isaac and Laurent, but there’s also their friends and coaches and a wacky landlady I enjoyed reading about as well. Although this story is definitely a romance, it’s also kind of Laurent’s journey to find himself and become the man he was truly meant to be outside of his father’s shadow. Also sometimes hockey happens. This book is both heartbreaking and heartwarming in parts, and also surprisingly funny. I don’t know if this series is still ongoing, but if it is I hope we get to see more of Isaac and Laurent (and their teammates) in the future.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, All Romance E-books, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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