Mike is an enforcer, both on the ice and in his private life. While he may not come to blows as he does during a game, Mike will protect those he considers his family to the bitter end. His baser frustrations and anger come out in full glory every hockey game he plays, but it’s more controlled these days—age will do that to a person. Still, Mike knows that at thirty-two, his days of playing hockey are coming to a close, he just doesn’t expect that ending to come as quickly as it does. Nor does he count on the young buck who has invaded his life despite Mike being known for his prickly and unwelcoming personality.
Young Liam, a rising star in the hockey world, has joined the team and glued himself to Mike’s side. Mike knows the kid is flirting with him, but there is absolutely no way that Mike is going to do anything with an eighteen-year old—no way. That is Mike’s intention at least, but Liam has this way of knowing just how to get under his skin and into his head and neither make Mike very happy—sexually satisfied, occasionally amused, less lonely, sure—but not happy, or so Mike keeps telling himself.
But Liam is on the cusp of greatness and Mike is barely holding on to his contract renewal so Mike does what he must to break things off with Liam and send him on his way. While it looks like it may work, leaving Mike so terribly lonely and empty, Liam has a mind of his own and before long he is back to worry Mike all over again; this time, Mike isn’t so sure he wants to send the young man away. A final fight on the ice may very well be the defining moment in Mike’s life—not just for him, but for Liam as well.
Thrown Off the Ice does not have your typical happy ever after. I try my best to never give away too much of a story, but I do think it’s important that future readers of this novel know that there is no happy ever after or even a happy for now in this novel. While this is a beautiful sweeping saga of a romance, it does not end in the typical romance-novel fashion.
Instead, we are privy to a life that is cut short by the realities of a concussive syndrome that affects the lives of too many professional athletes. There is a death of a main character in this story, but it is also a glimpse at a life well lived and a man well-loved and that, for me, makes any unhappy ending worth it in the end.
What this novel by Taylor Fitzpatrick does have is humor, an engaging story line, and love—so much love.
Mike never utters those three words, but every time he gives in to Liam, allows him to guide their decisions and invade Mike’s life, he radiates love and that is more than enough for Liam to hold onto and build upon. Liam is like an overactive puppy who wears every emotion he has on his face. He is smitten by Mike from the very start, but it turns out that it will take a great deal of tenacity and ability to see through Mike’s BS to make a home with the man. Mike is a guy who sees the world as a glass half empty—waiting on the next blow to be the final one. Liam is definitely a glass half full kind of guy and it drives Mike crazy but, still, Mike just can’t seem to say no. Theirs is a complicated, messy kind of relationship that appears to find Liam always compromising to fit into Mike’s life when the opposite is actually true. Mike makes room for Liam in his life—one that has always been rather scarce when it comes to close friends or romantic entanglements. But Liam is different and Mike is hooked.
Th novel covers several years of their relationship and, in the end, there is no doubt of the love these two men have for each other despite Mike never uttering the words, I love you. This story made me laugh, frustrated me, wounded me, and made me weep. I love, love, love when a novel is that well written that it can pull all the feels out of me and this one certainly does. I think the strongest praise I can give this story is that going into it I knew what the ending held and I still pushed forward and was so very happy I did. Thrown Off the Ice is a cautionary tale of just what many professional athletes endure for the love of the game. It is also a fierce love story that is beautifully played out and realistic to a fault. I can do nothing more than highly recommend this novel to you. While it may break your heart as it did mine, it’s the journey that makes it all worthwhile.