There are days that Ben barely manages to juggle all the needs required by his animal rescue organization. When his husband was alive, they put their hearts and souls into the place and now that Liam is dead, Ben is struggling to carry on. The idea of a relationship with anyone is really the furthest thing from his mind. And then he meets Max Van Hellren of the Harrisburg Railers. The imposing and attractive hockey player makes Ben re-evaluate his need for a one night stand, no strings attached.
Max lives with the specter of death hanging over him. He’s managed to keep a potentially devastating health diagnosis under wraps and he knows that every time he goes on the ice, he’s risking his life. So this is his last year in the game and then he’s out. Max wants the Stanley Cup more than anything, but falling in love has never been on his radar. But one night with Ben isn’t enough and Max finds himself thinking of a life after hockey for the first time. Both men have their secrets though and each could threaten a long-term relationship. Only by trusting one another can Ben and Max hope to form something that lasts longer than a season on the ice.
Last Defense is the fifth entry into the Harrisburg Railers series and it generally holds up to the enjoyable standards I’ve come to expect from these books. The Railers, easily the gayest team in the NHL at this point, are in the running for the Stanley Cup. It adds an extra layer of stress for the players, who realize everything has come down to the next few games. For Max, it represents the end of his career and he won’t get another chance at the Cup after this. The anxiety he has over his health is relatable and so too is his tendency to lean toward expecting the worst. It’s human nature and it makes Max a character we want to care about. Ben is equally sympathetic and both his love of animals and his genuine goodness make him a nice fit for Max. Their chemistry is palpable and their acquaintances with benefits style relationship evolves in a natural way.
Really the only downfall of Last Defense is it’s overly predictable plot. Everything plays out a little obviously and the antagonist is so over the top it’s hard to take that aspect of the story very seriously. Also, there are several major events that occur near the end of the book and they are resolved with such swiftness it made me wonder why they were included at all. It would have been nice to see these things play out more evenly.
Last Defense is another enjoyable book in the Harrisburg Railers series. These novels have been consistently strong and despite not being a sports fan, I’ve found myself appreciating the hockey angle. You don’t have to read them in order, but it will help if you do. Last Defense suffers a bit from a predictable plot, but it still a fun read. Max and Ben are an engaging and sweet couple who are sure to be a hit with most readers.