Bryan Delaney must be the only player in the NFL who doesn’t fully embrace his transfer to the Harrisburg Railers. Coming off their Stanley Cup winning season, the team is rising high and Bryan is the odd man out. He has nothing to offer the team and his tendency to crumble under pressure means he’ll get kicked back to the minors before too long. Bryan is used to it and knows he just isn’t good enough for the Railers. And if he ever forgets it, his boyfriend is plenty quick to remind him. When Bryan reluctantly follows lead goalie Stan into a tattoo shop for some helmet artwork, he meets Gatlin.
The Railers players favor Gatlin’s artwork and he considers himself a huge fan of the team. When he meets the new back up goalie, it’s obvious to Gatlin the man is pain. Emboldened by Gatlin’s support, Bryan breaks free of his abusive relationship and the men can begin to explore their growing feelings for one another. But nearly as soon as Bryan and Gatlin settle into a relationship, tragedy strikes the Railers and it will change the team forever.
As best I can tell, Goal Line represents a fork in the road for the Harrisburg Railers series. Going forward there are several novellas coming out as companion pieces and a new series that will follow related characters. I’m not sure if Goal Line is the last official book in the series, but it definitely represents a shift. There’s a huge Event that occurs in the book and while I can’t talk about it (spoilers!) it affects nearly everything else in Goal Line, so bear with me.
Bryan and Gatlin are a sweet couple, but each man carries a huge burden. Bryan is rebounding from an abusive relationship where he was demoralized and generally degraded on a regular basis. As a result, he has no confidence in himself and seeing both the team and Gatlin rally around him gave me some real warm fuzzies. They’re a good couple to be sure, but because of the Event, their relationship ends up getting sidelined almost as soon as it starts.
Goal Line’s biggest issue is that the Event is so consuming that Bryan and Gatlin get really short shrift. The very obvious issues both men deal with are resolved too easily and almost brushed aside. Time moves too quickly in Goal Line, at least until the Event, and it leaves the story feeing somewhat jagged and abrupt. This doesn’t mean it’s bad, but the Event is so huge that it would have been better suited to its own novel. Had it been, then I feel like Gatlin and Bryan could have been given a stronger framework for their relationship.
Goal Line is a good addition to the Harrisburg Railers series, but it suffers from trying to juggle two incredibly complex characters with a pivotal shift in the storyline and it fails to give both the balance they deserve. It’s a must read for a fan of the series, but if you’re new to the Railers, you can’t think of starting with this one until you’ve read the others. I look forward to seeing what happens next and how the Railers move forward.