Tense Attraction OFF THE ICE–A Review

Hi there! Today, I’m starting something I’d like to go back to from time to time, feature weeks! This week, I’ll be sharing reviews/alerts that highlight athletes and I’m kicking this “Sports Week” off with a review for a new M/M contemporary hockey romance from the writing team of Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn. OFF THE ICE is a new collaboration that came out a couple months ago. It’s also a coming out story, which is always fun to read. I really loved PERMANENT INK by this team and I wasn’t let down with this new story. If you like M/M hockey romances I’d highly recommend BREAKAWAY by Avon Gale or THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR by Sarina Bowen, too.

About the book:
Tristan Holt is nothing if not pragmatic. Despite a flourishing career as a defenseman for the Atlanta Venom, Tristan knows he can’t play hockey forever. One day he’ll retire—if an injury doesn’t force him to hang up his skates first. His backup plan? Finishing his business degree. But he doesn’t count on a very inappropriate attraction to his standoffish sociology professor, Sebastian Cruz.

Sebastian is on the bottom rung of the Sociology Department at Georgia State. He has his sights set on tenure, and he can’t afford to be distracted, especially not by a sexy student with a body straight out of Sebastian’s dreams. No matter how much Tristan tempts him, that’s one line Sebastian won’t cross. At least not until summer classes end. After that, everything is fair game.

But Sebastian lives loud and proud, and Tristan is terrified of being the first out player in the NHL. Neither of them can afford to risk their hearts when they can’t imagine a happily ever after. The problem is, unlike hockey, when it comes to love, there are no rules

My Review:
Tristan Holt is a pro hockey player in Atlanta on his summer hiatus and taking college courses to finish his degree in business management. He’s interested in his sociology class, and his sexy professor, Sebastian Cruz, an out and proud gay Puerto Rican man who never quails at speaking truth to power. Prof Cruz can’t help noticing fit and burly Tristan, either. Unfortunately, Sebastian makes some wrong assumptions, and levels an accusation that reveals all of his own prejudices.

Tristan not only calls Sebastian out on it, he accepts Sebastian’s apology, and that allows Tristan to feels safe enough to not only reveal his hidden sexuality, but also his deep attraction. Not that they can do anything about it. But…summer school is over soon, and Tristan wouldn’t mind his austere professor taking him well in hand. If Sebastian is willing to take that next step.

The chemistry between them is intense, and their mutual love of classic rock and muscle cars helps draw them closer. Tristan is a 23 year old pro athlete, and Sebastian is a mid-30s professor, but they share a love of learning, too, and Sebastian’s prejudices are settled once he gets to know Tristan up close and very personally. The biggest hurdle they face is Tristan’s unwillingness to come out. There are gay players in the NHL, but none of them are out and on an active roster; Tristan doesn’t want to be the vanguard player. Tristan hasn’t even come out to his parents or teammates, and he’s rather confident they won’t mind. Sebastian isn’t pushing Tristan to come out…at first, but, the longer they date, the more Sebastian realizes that he can’t just be Tristan’s public “friend.”

This conflict felt real, as did the anguish. They have to take a step back, and think about their lives, careers and goals. Sebastian takes the advice of his good friend to really examine his motives, and his decisions. Sebastian is a prickly guy, who is sometimes self-righteous, but he’s also humbled by Tristan’s quiet dignity, and his kindness. Sebastian wishes his relationship with his own parents was as loving and accepting as Tristan’s is with his family. Tristan’s personal life and his professional face are two very separate spheres, but he recognizes the need to be honest with his closest friends and family. I liked how this shook out, with Tristan being happier in his relationships. There’s a lot of hot moments, and some good discussion of prejudice, in the context of wealth, power and professional sports. I’m looking forward to reading more in this new series. Expect some interesting power plays in the bedroom and on the ice, and teammate shenanigans. There’s heart with the heat, and even a “hot for teacher” reference that brought me back to sixth grade.

Interested? You can find OFF THE ICE on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

About the Authors:
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.

Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, she loves them all (and has a two-thousand-book library to prove it!). She grew up in Chicago, in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, and loves to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life…even if it’s only in a book.

You can find Piper online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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