Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrators: Iggy Toma and Alexander Cendese
Length: 6 hours, 59 minutes
Westly Dalton had a career in the NHL and a bright future as an athlete until his father and stepmother died in a car crash, leaving him the guardian of his five siblings. West came home and is raising the kids, while working as an assistant coach for the CU hockey team. West has help from his brother, Asher, who put his own NHL future on hold to stick around at college a while longer so he could help out at home. But things are tense with Asher as the two are always butting heads. However, when Asher is struggling in math class and his professor isn’t willing to offer him extra credit to get his grades up so he can stay on the team, West can’t help but rush to Asher’s defense. Asher is just run ragged between school, practice, and helping raise the kids, and West doesn’t understand why Asher’s professor is being so rigid.
Jasper hates athletes, and hockey players in particular. As a teen, he was severely bullied by a group of hockey players, and while he has changed a lot since then, his past still haunts him. Jasper doesn’t give extra credit to anyone, and certainly not to spoiled jocks who expect everyone to coddle them. So he is shocked when West comes bursting into his office, demanding to know why he won’t help his brother. Of course, when Jasper learns the truth about Asher’s situation, he realizes he may have jumped to conclusions. As as Jasper and West get to know each other better, Jasper realizes West may be able to help him in return. Jasper’s high school reunion is coming up, and a hot NHL player as his fake boyfriend may be just the thing to impress those old bullies.
As Jasper and West spend more time together, the attraction between them flares and they act on the chemistry between them. But West’s life is totally crazy and he is barely hanging on. Raising five kids ages 9-15 isn’t easy for anyone, let alone a guy who was living his best life as a pro athlete with more money than he could spend and freedom to do whatever he wanted just a short time ago. West’s whole life has turned upside down, and while he loves his siblings, he also is struggling to balance it all and is stressed and burned out. Having Jasper around, knowing he has someone in his corner, makes such a huge difference. The guys are starting to get serious, but West hasn’t even told Asher they are seeing each other yet, as he knows Asher will be mad West is dating his most hated professor. Not to mention, West has to tread carefully about bringing people around the other kids until he knows things are serious. But West and Jasper are so good together, and if they can find a way to make things work with all of West’s commitments, they may be able to find true happiness together.
Puck Drills & Quick Thrills is the fifth (and seemingly last) book in Eden Finley and Saxon James’ CU Hockey series. The books focus on a college hockey team and so there is crossover of characters across the books. The first three stories stand alone well if you are ok with cameos from other books, but this last one does link more directly with the prior book, Line Mates & Study Dates, which is Asher’s story. In that book, we hear about the situation between Jasper and Asher from Asher’s POV, and the books overlap in timelines. So I think you will enjoy this one a lot more if you have read Line Mates and see the various connections with events from different perspectives.
West is a former NHL party boy who gave up his future in the NHL to come home and take care of his siblings. He loves his family and would do anything for them, but he is really struggling as he is totally unprepared for how to handle it all. The kids need so much help and support and he feels overwhelmed and out of his depth. His life is just a constant race to try to manage way too much. I think the authors do a nice job here really showing what West is dealing with, especially since we previously saw things from Asher’s POV. West is cocky and fun and playful and a nice match for the more serious Jasper. We get a fun fake relationship set up here early on, as West goes with Jasper to the reunion. But after that, the story mostly focuses on these guys building a relationship as West navigates the complexities of his family life. I enjoyed West and Jasper together a lot, and I liked reconnecting with the Daltons after spending so much time with them in the previous book.
As I said, this appears to be the last book in the series and it is a nice way to cap things off. The other books have more of a new adult vibe since the MCs are all college students, but this book shifts toward the adult relationship. We get a nice epilogue at the end that takes us five years into the future and get to find out what is happening with all of the characters across the series, which I found a lot of fun and a great way to wrap things up.
As with the other books, I listened to this one in audio with Iggy Toma and Alexander Cendese doing dual narration. These narrators have really become the voices of the series for me and I think they do a nice job overall. The books generally have sort of a “type” with the characters, and the narrators’ voices seem to fit well into this style. I always struggle a little here, however, as Toma and Cendese’s voices are just so different that the characters sound nothing alike from one chapter to the next. In this story, Cendese also gives West a Boston accent, which sort of wavers in and out and doesn’t come through consistently. I am a little confused, as while I know West played for Boston a few years, it seems odd he would have such a strong accent that fast, but it does give some differentiation from other characters Cendese has voiced in the series. Toma’s Boston accent is even less consistent (actually mostly non-existent). There seemed to only be an accented word here or there thrown in, but largely the West in his chapters spoke without one. So I think this could have been a more solid part of the narration. Overall, I have enjoyed listening to this series, and while sometimes it seemed a little repetitive to have the same general voices book after book, the audio is a nice way to experience this series.
P.S. If you like Ezra as a side character (he is West’s former regular hook-up and the guy Asher sleeps with at the start of the fourth book), you may enjoy seeing him here again. He also stars in the first book in the authors’ Puckboys series and you can find him in Egotistical Puckboy.