Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Length: 6 hours, 7 minutes
Vinnie is a pro hockey player, newly retired, and looking for some direction in his life. He’s returning to his hometown, Elmwood, Vermont, for the first time in seven years. Vinnie hasn’t been back since he spent a morning at the funeral of his first hockey coach–the father of his childhood best friend, Ronnie Moore. Ronnie was his first teammate, as was Ronnie’s younger brother, Nolan.
The Moore family basically adopted Vinnie, as his widower father was absently neglectful. Unfortunately, Vinnie and Nolan had a clandestine tendresse back in high school, and he feared his bisexuality would affect his scholarship and later his contracts. As a “mature” thirty-six year-old millionaire former pro-player, Vinnie’s now willing to face his mistakes, especially how he all but abandoned Ronnie, who really could have used his help these past years. Vinnie’s offered to front Ronnie some cash to fix up his ice rink, but Ronnie wants Vinnie’s time–coaching a juniors summer league team. And, Nolan figures Vinnie owes this to Ronnie; he’s super salty over how Vinnie skated away and never looked back at the people who’d cared for him.
Nolan had to give up his dreams to help out the family after his dad’s death. Vinnie can’t imagine that he’s going to be a good coach for impressionable kids, so he agrees to take the role–if Nolan helps. Nolan, who runs a successful restaurant in town, really doesn’t want to spend time with Vinnie, but he won’t let his brother down. And, well, Vinnie’s just the same free-spirited clown he was back in school. Pranks and foul-mouthed chirping are as familiar as his high energy and effortless sexiness. Nolan doesn’t stand a chance not falling hard for him–even if it means upsetting Ronnie. Or, watching Vinnie leave town at the end of summer to go back to his high-flying social life.
I enjoyed this audiobook, which had great pacing and strong emotive passages from narrator Nick J. Russo. Vinnie’s irreverent sensibilities–about life and hockey–really came across the audio, as did Nolan’s more staid and reluctant emotional tone. This is a sweet and sexy reconnection romance nearly 20 years in the making, and it was really fun experiencing the small town folk swoon for their famous hockey hero. Vinnie and Nolan seem like great guys, both working toward a happy life and good relationships. Vinnie makes silly romantic gestures that only Nolan understands–and confesses his deep feelings had extended from their youth. It’s a lot for Nolan to digest, and he’s afraid to lose his heart again. That said, it was pretty angst-free. I think Russo did a good job of separating the voice quality for all the characters, and bringing a lot of energy to the performance. I’ve listened to it several times, and still enjoy each time I restart it.
I kind of thought this was going to be a hockey romance, but having the MC retire at the opening is a little twist on the genre. It’s mostly a small-town, reconnection romance with a side of hockey coaching, so don’t expect a lot of athletics or training, or any fears of careers at risk. It’s a sweet summer romance with a definite HEA.