Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars
Narrator: Scott R. Smith
Length: 7 hours, 33 minutes
Lane Courtnall is the new man on the Jacksonville Sea Storm, a minor league hockey team. He was drafted, which looks good for his future as a hockey player, but being in Florida is a long way from him Canadian home. Lane’s lack of filter and social awkwardness got him off to a rocky start with his teammates and the only way he can think to salvage any relationship is to throw down with an opponent, veteran player Jared Shore. Lane certainly isn’t a fighter, but being that close to Jared certainly isn’t a hardship.
Jared has made a career in the minor leagues. Now that he’s over 30, he knows his playing days are almost over and he’s feeling the pressure as he has no idea what else he will do next. Being on the road so much leaves him with few possessions and no time or interest in a relationship. Jared tells himself he’s fine with hookups and being bisexual offers him many options, but after one night with Lane, Jared finds himself wanting a second. They are two men at different stages of their careers that can both learn something from the other about the love of hockey and the love they grow to have for each other.
The fourth book in the Scoring Chances series was recently released and when this first book was offered on audio, it was the perfect time for me to start the series. The book starts with 20-year-old Lane as he’s been drafted to an NHL affiliate team and has already alienated his teammates. Your enjoyment of this book may fall on the side of how much you enjoy Lane. He’s socially inept, naïve, and fairly sheltered. Whatever thought comes into his head comes out of his mouth and he has barely any idea what is appropriate. He knows he wants to play hockey, he’s always known that, and he’s told he has great potential to move up, but navigating a team proves to be a challenge. He also knows he finds Jared completely irresistible.
Approaching 32, Jared is the veteran hockey player. He can’t even believe that he wants more than one night with the younger man who never stops talking, but he finds himself falling hard for Lane. Jared has become jaded over the years, but meeting Lane gives him a new appreciation for the game. So we have one hockey player on the way up and one on the way out, but both of them complement each other in what they have to offer. Jared is not only the more experienced hockey player, he’s also way more experienced than Lane in the bedroom and Lane is eager and willing to learn all that Jared offers to teach him.
Lane is also struggling with coming out and telling his parents and his teammates hangs over him for a good portion of the book. Jared never pressures him and they develop quite a supportive relationship in a short time. Lane’s struggle stems from coming out to his parents, but as supportive as they were, one simple conversation initiated by either side would have eliminated years of internal conflict for Lane and the set up became frustrating. There were also side characters including Lane’s friend, Zoe, that served to attempt to break Lane out of his sheltered, awkward ways but left me more than ready to get back to other areas of the story.
Gale’s knowledge of hockey comes across well and while there are many scenes with ice time, it never overwhelms the story and there is a good balance between the sport and the relationship. With all of that however, I couldn’t seem to understand how all of the players, new and seasoned, existed on a diet of pizza, take out, beer, and soda and kept up the training schedule that they did.
This was a solid first book to the series and a good introduction to Gale’s writing for me. It seemed like the starting point me for all of the stories still left to be told in the ice hockey world that Gale has created and I will definitely be looking forward to catching up with more of those stories.
This book was narrated by Scott R. Smith and this was my first audio experience performed by him. He had a smooth narrative voice that was easy to get started with the story. Lane’s voice was the same as the basic narrative voice but for his personality, his voice was somewhat subdued. He was also Canadian and sounded southern at times. Jared’s voice did sound appropriately older and offered a nice contrast to Lane. The secondary characters didn’t work so well for me. Zoe had many scenes and her voice sounded much older then her years. Her voice was reminiscent of an elderly southern woman and the narrator’s voice broke character many times and Lane’s Canadian mother was a watered down version of this and they were both unpleasant to my ears. The other hockey players all had the stereotypical dude bro vibe and it was too much for all of them to sound that way. The intimate scenes were also performed like any of the other scenes. The audio wasn’t the most impressive performance I have listened to, but I was still able to enjoy the narrative and I would try the next in the series should the same narrator continue on.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.