Author ~ Avon Gale
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 9th May 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
A Scoring Chances Novel
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.
I can always tell when I’m reading an Avon Gale story. To me, she has such a distinct voice and whether it’s hockey talk, snarky internal musings or the interplay between the characters, her books always put a smile on my face. I know I’ve said it before, but her joy in writing these stories really does come through on the page.
Initially hired as a publicity grab by the sleazy owner of the last place Spitfires, the two new coaches are smarter than they are given credit for and aren’t willing to play that game. Max has long forgiven Misha for his part in the accident that ended his career five years ago and while Misha hasn’t forgiven himself, he is willing to defer to Max to keep him happy and employed and as further penance. As they begin working together, bi-sexual Max feels his attraction growing for the broody Russian. Misha is gay and doesn’t deny it, but he is steeped in shame resulting from his childhood in Russia and his father’s treatment of him, but even that can’t keep the sexy and outgoing Max from getting under his skin.
These are the two most grown-up characters of the series so far, but that’s not to say they are any less fun, endearing or sexy as the previous pairings. They fall into the relationship fairly easily, and once again there is no crazy drama or angst hounding the relationship itself, but there are individual issues that need to be worked out, mostly by Misha, in order to ensure their future can be happy and healthy. Misha has quite a thing for self-flagellation and is incredibly hard on himself. Luckily Max isn’t going to stand for it, forcing Misha to talk and take care of himself and working his way into Misha’s heart and his pants.
Max and Misha are two different ends of the spectrum. Max is open, enthusiastic and outgoing. Avon Gale has written him with a bit of the quirkiness I’ve come to expect from her by allowing us in on some of his internal musings. He may not be the brightest guy out there, but he’s trying! Knowing he was bi-sexual for a while he never before imagined he would have a serious relationship with a man, but he never denies how he feels for Misha and he is ready to have the full experience. He has a wonderfully supportive family and that carries over into the way he treats the team as well. Misha had a difficult childhood and instead of finding joy in the new life he has made for himself in the past 20 years, he can’t shake his guilt or shame or even fully accept himself for the man he is.
The men had amazing chemistry and the sex was fun and enthusiastic, giving Max the experience of everything he’s ever imagined trying (and teaching Misha a new thing or two). Whether it was getting off on Misha speaking in Russian, awkwardly initiating phone sex or using blow jobs as currency, Max is all in!
I loved watching Misha discover the joy in loving and living. Once Max starts breaking through the angsty, broody shell, Misha’s caring and protective side blossoms. He also manages to forge a special bond with their young goalie and team captain, Isaac Drake (who I am thrilled to see will be featured in the next book), who manages to crack the last of Misha’s carefully erected walls.
As the men’s relationship strengthens and moves forward, so does the dynamics of the team. The motley crew of Spitfires eventually bands together after a rocky start. There are some good hockey scenes and I enjoyed both the down and out team and the more cohesive team. If you’re a fan of old 80’s movies, you’ll probably find yourself visualizing a sports montage in your head with the highlights backed up by Bonnie Tyler belting out “Holding Out For a Hero” just as team owner Belsy would want you to.
It’s a new season and a new team so you don’t need to have read the prior books in the series, but if you have there are a couple of games against the Sea Storm and some appearances by their players. If you aren’t sure you want to read a hockey story, this one would probably be a good jumping off point for you. Since it’s told from the coaches’ perspective, there is less actual on-ice time, but still enough to get you into the game.
If you haven’t read an Avon Gale book before, I’m a bit hurt you haven’t taken my prior reviews seriously enough to do so, but I’ll get over it and strongly encourage you to do so right away. You won’t be disappointed.
Scoring Chances Series
Breakaway (Scoring Chances #1)
Save of the Game (Scoring Chances #2)
Meet Avon Gale
Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and she never gets tired of people and their stories -- either real or the ones she makes up in her head.