Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Iggy Toma and Alexander Cendese
Length: 7 hours, 14 minutes
Foster Grant is a college hockey star with dreams of playing in the NHL. His twin brother, Seth, has a best friend transferring to Foster’s school and he asks Foster to keep an eye on Zach — and to keep his hands off of him. Foster figures it will be no big deal. He has known Zach for the last few years and the guy is geeky and adorable, but Foster’s sole focus is on hockey and he doesn’t have time for distractions. When they spend time together and he gets to know Zach better, however, Foster finds himself drawn to him more than he ever expected.
Zach transferred schools in an attempt to stand more on his own two feet. He is a super smart guy, but socially awkward, and he avoids situations that make him uncomfortable. Seth is a great friend, but he worries over Zach and coddles him and Zach wants to learn to take care of himself. So he isn’t thrilled to find that Seth has asked Foster to look out for him at his new school. However, despite being wildly different, Zach and Foster get along well. Even better, while Foster is caring toward Zach, he also trusts Zach to take care of himself and gives him support without taking over.
The guys start to become friends and end up spending more time together. When Zach confides that he has no experience with sex, Foster is more than willing to help him out. What starts as some experimentation ends up turning into something more serious and soon the guys are spending every moment they can together. But between Foster’s demanding schedule with hockey and Zach’s research and teaching obligations, it’s hard for them to find time. Zach also worries whether Foster will be interested in something long term given his dreams of playing professional hockey. As much as Zach cares about Foster, he is never going to be a comfortable in social situations or hanging out in the world of athletes and he worries he will hold Foster back. The pair have fallen hard for one another and now they just need to open up about their feelings and reach for the future they both imagine together.
Power Plays and Straight A’s is the first book in Eden Finley and Saxon James’ CU Hockey series. The story is pretty adorable and full of all kinds of tropes I love — jock and geek, virgin hero, opposites attract, and best friend’s brother. It was just what I like in a new adult story and I found this one a lot of fun. It isn’t breaking a ton of new ground with the plot, and I think most of us have read variations on this theme before. But this story is still charming and entertaining and it was a great introduction to both of these authors for me.
Even with the familiar structure, there are some nice elements here that I found fun. Zach and Foster are sweet and adorable together, with Foster just the right amount of doting to support Zach and offer him confidence when he needs it, but also believing that Zach can handle things on his own. Foster is a bit arrogant, but somehow still charming, and I loved the banter between them. There are some sexy first time explorations, but also a nice overall growth from both of them. A lot of this is Zach’s journey as he comes to learn he can handle more than he thinks he can. Zach takes a lot of steps out of his comfort zone and challenges himself in new ways, which gives him a lot more confidence. It takes time for him to really believe that a hot guy like Foster is interested, and it is rewarding to see Zach find that inner belief in himself. For Foster’s part, we see him handling the stress of his senior season with so much riding on his performance. He also is struggling because while everyone at school knows he is bi, he still hasn’t told his parents. So we see both of the guys takes some steps forward in nice ways.
There is also a fun dynamic between Foster, Zach, and Foster’s brother, Seth. At first Seth isn’t so happy his brother is interested in his best friend, but Seth ends up being supportive and there are some entertaining moments with all three of them as they navigate this new dynamic. There are some issues brought up with regard to Seth and some family dynamics, particularly when Foster comes out, that seem like they needed a lot more attention here. I did a quick peek ahead and Seth has his own book in the series, so I assume that is why we don’t see those issues addressed here. But several things are brought up and I feel like we either needed to have some attention paid here, or hold them for Seth’s book.
I listened to this in audio with narrators Iggy Toma and Alexander Cendese. This is my first book with Cendese and overall I found him a good narrator. He voices Foster and it is a good fit for Cendese’s style. Foster is big and gregarious and it comes across in the narration. Cendese also manages to make Foster’s arrogance charming rather than annoying. He also does a nice job in the hockey scenes capturing Foster’s excitement and the intensity of the games. I did find him to speak somewhat quickly, at least compared to Toma. Also, while Cendese’s default voices for Foster and Zach sound different, often in conversation they became more interchangeable and it was hard to tell who was speaking. Also, his narration for Foster’s coach was very distracting to me. He sounded almost like a cartoon pirate to my ears and just didn’t work at all. Foster’s father has a similar sound, just not as exaggerated.
Toma is one of my favorite narrators and he does a nice job here with Zach. As with Cendese, it is a good match of narrator and POV character. His tone really fits with Zach’s personality and captures his anxieties, as well as those moments of confidence.
As often happens with dual narration, I did find the switch between narrators to be a little bumpy. Cendese and Toma sound nothing alike, so their narration of the characters sounds very different from one another. It helps that Zach and Foster tend to move in different circles, so most of their friends/family don’t appear a lot in each other’s chapters, aside from Seth and one of Foster’s teammates. But having the MCs sound so different across chapters was a little distracting. Overall, however, I enjoyed the audio and I think the narrators captured the characters well and really matched the tone and feel of the story.
I found this one to be an entertaining new adult book with engaging characters. It doesn’t break a lot of new ground, but it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the story. It definitely has my attention and I am excited the next book in the series is already out in audio.