Rating: 3 stars
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Antonio “Tony” Côté is a 30-year-old professional hockey player who is deeply in the closet. Tony fears what coming out would do to his career so he has avoided all relationships, preferring to look for sex in anonymous hookups in gay bars on the road and outside of Toronto where he lives and plays. All that changes when Tony meets up with Charlie Trevino one night at a gay bar in Toronto. Tony notices the cute American immediately and turns a hookup into a date and night of lovemaking. The next morning, Tony wakes up alone with only a note from Charlie with his contact information. But the note gets soaked when Tony spills water on it and he can’t make out the information.
Charlie is finishing up a hotel management and hospitality degree at UAZ at Flagstaff and is on vacation when he meets the man of his dreams. After one passionate night, Charlie leaves a note beside a sleeping Tony and heads off to catch his plane, unaware that the man in the hotel bed is a well-known hockey player.
Both men desperately want to see each other again but without last names, phone numbers, or addresses, the odds are stacked against them. That is until Tony is transferred to an expansion hockey team in Las Vegas and they meet once more. Still the pair face many obstacles, including the closet Tony refuses to leave. What will it take for Tony and Charlie to find the happiness each seeks with each other?
Hat Trick refers to either three goals scored by one player in a game or three victories. In this case, Chelle Dugan uses the term in reference to the chances given Tony and Charlie to find each other and make a go of their relationship. It’s a clever use of the term and I only wish that the resulting story had lived up to that promise.
All the characterizations here suffer from a lack of layering, rendering them far too simplistic and one dimensional. It also made it hard for me to invest in these men and their romance. Tony’s character is especially hard to relate to as his character fluctuates between a realistic pro hockey player and a smitten teen with identity issues. It is hard to like a romance when the oldest partner of the pair comes off as so much younger than the twenty-something he is involved with. Combine that with the closet and the author making the character act like a jerk and the reader starts to wonder why Charlie would want this man in the first place.
The story starts out with Tony looking at a piece of paper then flashes back 6 months earlier. Sometimes this technique works, but here it is simply uneven. It would have been far more effective had the story started out when the men first met then progressed to the present time period. Instead, the long time frame where they spend a year looking for each other acts more like a bouncing ball that the reader has to follow in order to understand the lack of flow to the various meetings, miscommunications, and missed opportunities by Tony and Charles. Here is a small taste of Tony and his story:
Rafe and Amy sat and listened to Tony’s story. He left out the sex stuff, but he was sure that they got the picture. Amy was sniffling at the end of his monologue; she was a hopeless romantic, after all.
“Tony, I’m glad you shared this with us, but I’m not sure why. I mean, what can we do?” Rafe asked.
Tony pushed away from the table and began to pace in the small space between the table and the sliding glass door that overlooked downtown LA. He ran a hand through his hair and yelped when he swiped his stitches, having forgotten about them. “I don’t know. Is there any way to find him?”
“Let me make some calls,” Rafe offered. “I can give a heads-up to my secretary and hope he calls the office. Write down all the info you have, and I’ll discreetly hire a PI.” He held up his hand when Tony started to protest. “Your name will never come into the conversation. I hope his intentions are good.”
“Well, if they weren’t, we would have already seen stories in the papers or at least online.”
“Let me research that too. Are you sure you want to go after this guy? It could mean your career.”
“If I could feel like I did that night every day, then losing my career would be worth it.”
In addition to the issues I have already mentioned, Dugan includes a flip-flopping point of view that makes this short story more challenging to read than it ought to be. Again, it’s not a matter of simply changing the point of view of the narrative, but how often that happens and the confusing manner in which it occurs. The reader has just settled into one man’s mindset when the POV switches to the other main character. It’s disjointed and it works against the flow of the story.
For some readers, these issues won’t be a problem. If you find that excerpt above romantic, then perhaps you will love this story. If, however, style and characterizations matter, than this might not be the story for you. At 92 pages, Hat Trick is a relatively short read for those seeking a romance and a simplistic love story.