Tate Collins has recently joined the Arizona Raptors, but he’s done so under a cloud of personal drama. He left Dallas and his position as a star player to join a team that is still struggling to coalesce and where he must prove himself all over again. With his ex-fiancé trashing his name in the press and burdened by a nasty reputation he doesn’t deserve, Tate is trying to find his place on the team. His attraction to his Russian Captain, Vlad Novikov, isn’t helping the situation.
Vlad is plenty attracted to Tate, but he isn’t necessarily happy about it. He isn’t publically out and worries about how any male relationship could affect his family in Russia. He just isn’t looking for love. But Tate has a way of breaking down all of Vlad’s barriers and making himself impossible to ignore. Their love affair is heated and secret, but as Tate’s ex continues to make waves, Vlad will have to decide if loving Tate is worth the fight.
Sugar and Ice is the fourth in the Arizona Raptors series and a spin off from the Harrisburg Railers, both of which involve hockey. I think you have to have a passing familiarity with the Raptors series so far to appreciate Sugar and Ice and knowledge of the Railers series will only help.
Sugar and Ice isn’t the strongest book of the series, I’m afraid. I found it pretty hard to connect with either Tate or Vlad. I just didn’t feel they had enough character depth and almost everything about their relationship seemed rushed. Neither Vlad or Tate was given the needed room to breathe, not in the way other characters in this expanded hockey world have been allowed. So, as a result, I often felt off balance when I was trying to understand these men. That isn’t to say they were caricatures or completely flat, only that they needed more development to make them truly relatable. Additionally, Vlad’s jealous tendencies weren’t particularly flattering and came off as a caveman, but not in a sexy way.
The “villain” of the piece is Tate’s ex, Lacey. She’s made his life a living hell and, while I think we’re supposed to loathe her, it becomes obvious the woman has mental health issues that need addressing. And Tate is the one who drives this home, which I appreciated. He didn’t hate her, because he knew there was more to her than the rest of the world knew about. But the entire situation involving Lacey is resolved so quickly it’s basically swept under the rug. And for something that so defined and wounded Tate, it disappears basically over the course of a page. This was exceptionally frustrating as reader because I wanted the stakes to mean something when it’s all said and done.
I have enjoyed and suspect will continue to enjoy the Raptors series and the expanded universe of the Harrisburg Railers, but Sugar and Ice was one of the weaker entries. It just never seemed to have the structure or definition that many other books in the series have had and the characters were lacking as well. I’m hoping the next book will be a return to stronger form.