Finding Love Despite an EMPTY NET–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M hockey romance from Avon Gale. EMPTY NET is her fourth book in the Scoring Chances series, and really a fantastic read. It’s find to read on it’s own, but might be better enjoyed after reading POWER PLAY. I’ve enjoyed BREAKAWAY and SAVE OF THE GAME, so I couldn’t wait to continue this series.

Empty NetAbout the book:
Spartanburg Spitfires’ goalie and captain Isaac Drake ended last season with an unexpected trip to the playoffs. He’s found a home and family with his coach and mentor, Misha Samarin, and he’s looking forward to making a serious run for the Kelly Cup. But things take an interesting turn when Isaac’s archnemesis, Laurent St. Savoy, is traded to the Spitfires. After Laurent’s despicable behavior in the playoffs last year, Isaac wants nothing to do with him – no matter how gorgeous he is. But that changes when Isaac discovers the reason for Laurent’s attitude.

Laurent St. Savoy grew up the only son of a legendary NHL goalie in a household rife with abuse, constantly treated like a disappointment on and off the ice. When a desperate attempt to escape his father’s tyranny sends him to the Spitfires, the last thing Laurent wants is to make friends. But there’s something about Isaac Drake that he can’t resist, and Laurent has an opportunity to explore his sexuality for the first time, but he’s cracking under end-of-the season pressures. When facing the playoffs and a rivalry turned personal vendetta, Isaac’s not sure he’s enough to hold Laurent—or their relationship—together.

Please be advised: This book does contain some non-graphic references to past childhood physical/emotional abuse as well as issues relating to ED (bulimia and restricted eating, disordered thoughts about eating).

My Review:
I really enjoyed this tender and tumultuous M/M hockey romance. This is the fourth book in a series, and features the characters from Book Three, POWER PLAY, though the romance involves a separate couple.

Isaac Drake knows who he is: a professional hockey goalie who’s out-and-proud, even if he’d rather forget his rentboy days. He lives with his coaches, Misha Samarin and Max Ashford, who are an out-gay couple, and he hopes to find a man with whom to share some of his life. Isaac is not happy when he learns that Laurent St. Savoy has just been traded to their team. Laurent said some pretty hateful, homophobic slurs the last time he played the Spartanburg Spitfires, and there is no love lost between the staff, team–and Laurent.

Laurent is a man of many secrets. He’s young, and talented, but he’s mostly just glad to not be living with his abusive father any longer. He’s also attractive, and mean–as he’s been trained to be. His father, who was also his lifelong coach, rewarded cruelty in his players, and regularly beat or tortured Laurent if he was too good, or too bad, on the ice. Working with men who hate him is nothing new to Laurent, and he’d love to make amends to his Spitfires teammates, if he thought it would make a difference. Instead, he drowns in self-loathing and assuages his guilt by disordered eating behaviors.

Isaac isn’t happy with his teammates, who bully Laurent for suspected homophobia. His attitude toward Laurent changes when he learns that Laurent’s a victim of abuse. While Isaac’s parents did him wrong in many ways, he didn’t suffer abuse at their hands, and his compassion allows Laurent to make the first friend he’s had in his life. Laurent cannot believe that Isaac would show him any compassion, but soon this friendship is the best and brightest part of Laurent’s dark life. Preserving this relationship becomes paramount. He’s not even bothered that Isaac is gay, or finds him attractive; Laurent thinks he might find Isaac just as attractive. He’s never had a girlfriend, or a boyfriend; never felt worthy of being loved after years emotional abuse from his father, so attraction is a foreign concept to him. But he knows that Isaac is a good man, and Laurent feels safe with him. It’s easy to explore his sexuality, slowly, with a patient Isaac.

The story is less about the romance, though it develops naturally and beautifully, and more about Laurent becoming a better human through interaction with Isaac, and regular therapist visits–suggested by Isaac. The team comes around and supports him, and his coaches are really standing behind him throughout. That said, Isaac is a blue-haired white knight, and Laurent is grateful for his intervention, even as he resents the need for it. I really enjoyed the adversarial dynamic they had going. And I loved how Isaac broke down their barriers in simple, but effective, ways. It seems that Laurent is demisexual, which means he’s only able to experience attraction to people with whom he forms an emotional bond. And–boy howdy!–do he and Isaac bond! It’s sweet and frustrating and sometimes really sexy. As I’m no expert on the array of sexualities, this seemed a reasonable fit for Laurent, who’s had little affection in his life. I swooned for Isaac petting Laurent’s hair like a cat–and that being so charged because Laurent was attuned to being touched only in malice and anger. The end is really sweet, with Laurent taking charge of his life for the first time. Isaac is a delicious hero. Yum.

Interested? You can find EMPTY NET on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a copy of POWER PLAY.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the author:
Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and when she’s not writing you can find her at the salon, making her clients look and feel fabulous. She never gets tired of people and their stories — either real or the ones she makes up in her head.

You can find Avon on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest or sign up for her newsletter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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