Author ~ Avon Gale
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 2 September 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
A Scoring Chances Novel
Spartanburg Spitfires’ goalie and captain, Isaac Drake, ended last season with an unexpected trip to the playoffs. He’s found a home and a family with his coach and mentor, Misha Samarin, and he’s looking forward to making a serious run for the Kelly Cup. But things take an interesting turn when Isaac’s archnemesis, Laurent St. Savoy, is traded to the Spitfires. After Laurent’s despicable behavior in the playoffs last year, Isaac wants nothing to do with him—no matter how gorgeous he is. But that changes when Isaac discovers the reason for Laurent’s attitude.
Laurent St. Savoy grew up the only son of a legendary NHL goalie in a household rife with abuse. He was constantly treated like a disappointment, on and off the ice. When a desperate attempt to escape his father’s tyranny sends him to the Spitfires, the last thing Laurent wants is to make friends. But there’s something about Isaac Drake that he can’t resist. Laurent has an opportunity to explore his sexuality for the first time, but he’s cracking under end-of-the-season pressures. When facing the playoffs and a rivalry turned personal vendetta, Isaac’s not sure he’s enough to hold on to Laurent—or their relationship.
Enemies to lovers, hurt comfort, team spirit and so many feelings… Empty Net has all this and more. This is another fantastic entry in the series, and here the focus is on the Spitfire’s absolutely lovable blue-haired goalie, Isaac Drake and the man everyone wanted to beat up in Power Play, Laurent St. Savoy. Although you could read this as a standalone I would suggest you read Power Play to get a bit more of Isaac’s background story and understand his connection with his coach, Misha, and the rivalry with Laurent and the Ravens (actually I would suggest you read the entire series because it’s just so good!), but Avon Gale does give enough background on anything you would need to know.
Sent to the Spitfires from their archrivals, the Ravens, in a trade that was nothing more than his father’s way of punishing him, Laurent St. Savoy expects to once again be hated by his team. After what he and and his team pulled in last year’s playoffs he can’t see why they wouldn’t and he isn’t disappointed. Laurent is glad to be away from his father and the team, but he is lost and hurt. He is self-loathing, touch averse, and has never explored any part of his sexuality all as a result of the physical and emotional abuse his father has dished out. He has a host of defense mechanisms from purging, to spewing out hateful, homophobic remarks and just wants to be left alone. As Isaac says, he's got “more issues than The Hockey News.”
After a particularly upsetting locker room confrontation, Isaac realizes that there is more going on than Laurent just being an abrasive jerk. Isaac takes it upon himself to stand up for Laurent, assert his position as captain of the team and try to cool the tensions. He also takes it upon himself to be a friend to Laurent and, considering he’s just Isaac’s type, test the waters to see if there may be more. As much as Laurent wants to fight it, Isaac has a calming influence on him and maybe makes him feel something. Their unlikely friendship goes from tentative to touching and then to touching each other. This is a huge step for Laurent who has never had a friend and never even thought about having a lover. It opens up a whole new avenue of discovery that Avon Gale handled wonderfully. These two have serious heat between them but it’s the smaller things at the start, like Isaac just running his fingers through Laurent’s hair, that really warmed me.
Laurent, who was beyond unlikeable in his brief appearance in Power Play, had my sympathies from nearly the start. His abusive, a-hole father has done a real number on him, viciously controlling him all his life. This story definitely hits on some heavy themes, but I absolutely loved the way Isaac and Laurent interacted. While the majority of the focus seems to be on Laurent, Isaac is such a strong presence. He understands Laurent. He watches and listens and does his best to be there for him, even when he knows he may drive him away. The communication between the two MCs and between Isaac and his coaches, Max and Misha keeps the story from being dragged down into overly dramatic scenes, and puts the focus on healing and moving forward. There’s no magic cure here, but there is plenty of love and support.
I was so happy to see the relationship between Misha and Isaac still so strong. Misha has become a real father figure for Isaac, who does his best not to disappoint him. Misha’s own experiences allows him to also understand Laurent’s situation and he is protective of him from the start. If you loved Misha in Power Play you’ll be glad to see he plays a big role here.
Just because this story has a few heavier themes than the prior books, doesn’t mean the humor and hotness of the prior books is lost. Laurent’s landlady, Mrs. Bowen, is a delightful character and inseparable teammates Hux and Murph always have Isaac’s back and are willing to offer their commentary on his life. As I’ve said before, even if you’re not a hockey fan, the on-ice moments add to the story as the team bonds together and Laurent becomes the man he was always meant to be.
There will be two more books in the series and when you finish this story you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of where those are going to take place. I for one can’t wait! I highly recommend not just this book, but the entire series.
Scoring Chances Series
Breakaway (Scoring Chances #1)
Save of the Game (Scoring Chances #2)
Power Play (Scoring Chances #3)
Meet Avon Gale
Avon Gale wrote her first story at the age of seven, about a “Space Hat” hanging on a rack and waiting for that special person to come along and purchase it — even if it was a bit weirder than the other, more normal hats. Like all of Avon’s characters, the space hat did get its happily ever after — though she’s pretty sure it was with a unicorn. She likes to think her vocabulary has improved since then, but the theme of quirky people waiting for their perfect match is still one of her favorites.
Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert and will never say no to candy.
At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.