Rating: 4.25 stars
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Benoit Morin lives and breathes hockey. He’s the lead goalie for Owatonna U and at a point in his life where everything has to count if he wants to get picked up by the pros, so he’s focused on his schooling and the game. Everything else is secondary. At least until he meets Ethan.
After 14 years, Ethan Girard is at a crossroads. The contract offers just aren’t rushing in and given his recent broken leg, that isn’t likely to change. After getting hurt, Ethan decides to stay a few weeks to rest up and volunteer as coach with Owatonna U. And there he meets Benoit. There’s ten years between them and a lot of living, but their attraction is undeniable. But even when Ethan and Ben decide to take the risk of a loving one another, they’ll have to contend with racism, a violent stalker, and the ups and downs of being in a committed relationship. But together they might just be strong enough to face whatever life has to offer.
Benoit is the third in the Owatonna U series, following Ryker and Scott. You don’t have to read the series in order, but doing so will provide some context for this book and give you a better backstory. So I think it’s probably worth it to start at the beginning of the series.
One of the things I really liked about Benoit is we get a look at racism in hockey. It’s a predominately white sport and while racism isn’t the center of the book, the authors do acknowledge it and the affect it has on players and fans. This added an aspect of realism to the story and one that I think added to the context, especially since it’s an issue that often gets ignored.
A grumble I had with Benoit is similar to one I had with Scott. Things seem to move far too quickly between Ben and Ethan for believability. Now I’m well aware that there is an actual passage of time in this book as it takes the couple through the school year, holidays, etc. but with that being said, time isn’t well defined. We know it’s passing, but it’s not always clear how much time has gone by. As a result, the relationship between Ben and Ethan feels rushed, when in actuality it isn’t. Which probably seems confusing, but it’s the best way I know to explain it. I will say that sensation isn’t as pronounced here as it was in Scott, and Ben and Ethan do read like a stronger couple as a result. It just feels as though their relationship goes from brand spanking new to relaxed and well worn in the blink of an eye. I’m willing to concede a lot of this is on me though, so you may read Benoit and see this as completely different.
My only big frustration here concerns the antagonist, Ben’s stalker. The set up is done easily enough and we see their cryptic notes throughout the book, but then things come together in a way that’s too neat and pat and the entire problem resolves far too quickly. Given the seriousness of this situation, I felt like it needed a lot more fleshing out.
On the whole, Benoit was a nice entry into the Owatonna U series. There are some issues, but they don’t distract too much from the wider story and Ben and Ethan are a sweet couple. I’m not sure where this series goes from here, but the final Railers story and the first in the Raptors series are on the horizon (both of which take place in the same universe), so I suspect there are still stories coming from Owatonna U.