Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrators: Iggy Toma and Alexander Cendese
Length: 7 hours, 33 minutes
Ever since Asher’s parents died, leaving him and his older brother caring for their five younger siblings, life has been rough for him. He barely had time to grieve his parents himself before he became responsible for his brothers and sisters. It also meant that Asher left his chance at a spot in the NHL to come to play college hockey at CU where his brother, West, is an assistant coach. This is Asher’s second year on the team, but he still isn’t really fitting in with the other guys and the tension is showing in the way the team is playing. Asher is also struggling in school and in danger of failing his classes and getting kicked off the team. Between school, hockey, and family, Asher has barely a chance to breathe and he is dealing with his emotions mostly by alienating everyone around him.
Kole’s father is the CU hockey coach and this year Kole is working as the equipment manager for the team. Kole’s dad warns him to stay away from Asher, but West wants Kole to keep an eye on his brother. When Kole realizes that Asher is struggling with classes, he offers to help him study. But getting Asher to focus and understand his work is a challenge… at least until Kole offers him a little sexy incentive. Soon the men are rooming together during away games and exploring each other whenever they can get some privacy.
Both men claim it is nothing but study dates with some sex on the side, but the reality is that Kole and Asher are becoming friends as well. Asher finds himself able to open up with Kole in a way he doesn’t with many other people. Kole is there for him for support and friendship, in addition to their hot nights together. But Kole isn’t supposed to be getting involved with anyone on the hockey team, and Asher’s life is still overwhelmingly complicated. Being together isn’t a good idea, yet now that Kole and Asher have fallen for each other, they are both ready to take their relationship to something more.
Line Mates & Study Dates is the fourth book in the CU Hockey series. Both Asher and his brother, West, appear in earlier books and we learned a little about them and their parents’ accident, so I was eager to find out more about Asher here (and West is the MC of the next book). When we meet Asher, he is having a rough time of it. Between school, hockey, and family, he is worn way too thin. He and West are trying to raise their five younger siblings and things are just chaos and so overwhelming at home. Asher has never really dealt emotionally with his own loss and he mostly pushes people away, which means he has been having trouble making friends on the team or really gelling with his teammates. As readers we can see how much Asher is hurting, but to others he is just a jerk who can’t get along with anyone. So this story is really a lot about Asher’s journey as he finally deals with his grief, but also as he figures out how to balance his life and to lean on others for support.
Kole and Asher start off studying together to help keep Asher from flunking off the team. Of course, it doesn’t take long for the chemistry between them to come into play and the guys are acting on their attraction for one another. Kole has a way of pushing past Asher’s barriers and it allows both a friendship and a relationship to form. There is a lot of heat between them, but also a sense of Asher finally having someone who is there for him to help him ease some of his burdens and support him when he needs it. Kole helps encourage Asher to face some of his grief, as well as to reach out to West and be more open about how he is feeling. So this is a nice journey for the guys together and there is a sexiness, but also a sweet connection that gives Asher the support he needs.
As with the rest of this series, I am listening to it in audio with narrators Iggy Toma and Alexander Cendese. The story is told in alternating chapters from Asher and Kole’s POVs and each narrator takes a chapter. I still feel like Toma’s narration flows a touch more smoothly for me, but overall, I think they are both very good. Once again, I think the narrators have picked the right POV characters for their voices. After four books, I have really settled into these narrators for this series and they fit well for me. However, I do still struggle at times with just how different these Toma and Cendese sound from one another, which means that all the characters also sound different depending on which narrator is speaking. I also find audio generally more difficult with this type of series where the same narrators do each book, but they feature different main characters. At this point, I feel like I can’t help but identify the narrators with the first characters in the series they voiced. But that is not a fault of the narrators and I think the series is easy to enjoy in audio format. If you are into this series, I wouldn’t hesitate to check this one out in audio.
As with the other books in the series, we do get a chance to see the other characters from past books, which is always fun. There is a nice camaraderie among the teammates, old and new. We also spend some time with West here and, as I said, he is the MC of the next series (we do get a hint dropped as to his love interest, but don’t read the blurb for book five until after reading this book if you don’t want it spoiled). I am really looking forward to his book. Overall, I find this a fun, light series and this is a nice installment. If you enjoy hockey stories, particularly new adult, this is a nice series to check out.