Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new M/M contemporary hockey romance from Rachel Reid. TOUGH GUY is the third book in her Game Changers series, but is a standalone romance.
Pro hockey star Ryan Price may be an enforcer, but off the ice he struggles with anxiety. Recently traded to the Toronto Guardians, he’s determined to make a fresh start in the city’s dynamic LGBTQ Village. The last thing he expects to stumble upon in his new neighborhood is a blast from his past in the fabulous form of Fabian Salah.
Aspiring musician Fabian loathes hockey. But that doesn’t stop him from being attracted to a certain burly, ginger-bearded defenseman. He hasn’t forgotten the kiss they almost shared back in high school, and it’s clear the chemistry between them has only intensified.
Fabian is more than happy to be Ryan’s guide to the gay scene in Toronto. Between dance clubs and art exhibits—and the most amazing sex—Ryan’s starting to feel something he hasn’t experienced in a long time: joy. But playing the role of the heavy on the ice has taken its toll on his body and mind, and a future with Fabian may mean hanging up his skates for good.
Veteran Ryan Price is a defenseman and enforcer for the Toronto Guardians hockey team. It’s not a role he relishes, but his bulk and size have pinned him into the situation, so he goes to battle on the ice, and throws more punches than shots on goal. He’s new to Toronto, having been recently traded after having a spectacular meltdown on the bench of his previous team during a game, though his anxiety struggles are being medically managed for the most part. Ryan is gay, and he’s never hidden it, but he’s also never broadcast it–not that he’s had many friends, or boyfriends, to speak about it. His social anxiety, size and reputation usually keep him isolated, even from his own teammates. Ryan’s self-esteem is pretty low, despite being a pro hockey player.
On this team, however, the back-up goalie Wyatt seems determined to make friends with Ryan. He sits with him on flights, helping him to manage his deep-seated fears, and invites him to a local kids club where Wyatt volunteers. This relationship is the first that Ryan cultivates in years. The second, is a reconnection to Fabian Saleh, a boy he lived with in his teens, since Fabian’s family regularly hosted junior hockey players. Fabian is out and fabulous, having a genderqueer sensibility. He keeps a day-job at the drug store nearest Ryan’s new condo in the heart of Toronto’s queer village. Fabian is a first-rate violinist, though, and Ryan has many memories of listening to Fabian play back in his childhood home. Fabian’s rabid hockey fan family has never been that supportive of Fabian, his music or his life. It turned Fabian away from hockey, but he never forgot Ryan, the shy boy who made more of an effort to see Fabian play back then than Fabian’s own parents did.
Ryan had a big regret of never kissing Fabian back when they were young, but he’s not going to make the same mistake again–even if he’s terrible in bed. His meds and his anxiety often make him unable to perform, but Fabian’s outre look has his libido perking up big time–and Fabian’s happy to go at Ryan’s pace–even if Ryan is a hockey player. Fabian’s friends adore Ryan, even wishing to scoop him up if Fabian doesn’t make a claim, and Ryan’s so happy to be accepted by Fabian’s posse–and hear the fantastic music he makes. For a couple of months it seems things are going really well for Ryan, but then Wyatt is traded and he loses that close friendship. Then, he hurts his back on the ice, and the recovery is…bad. Fabian is mad that Ryan won’t take time off from the season to heal, and Ryan’s frustrated that Fabian keeps harping at him. With all his pain meds on top of his anxiety meds it’s an untenable situation.
With a break looming, both Fabian and Ryan are searching their souls. Should they make up? Should Ryan quit hockey? What would help them find the right path to mutual happiness? There are some really touching moments of deep introspection here, while each man figures out how to live a true and happy life. Ryan gets a chance to connect with an old teammate who offers him a chance to explore his passion for hockey in a low pressure situation. Could this be the first step to Ryan taking care of himself–first and foremost? The resolution is tender and awesome, with Ryan and Fabian being the support one another needs–right when they need it. I loved how each man found his personal happiness, and that magnified their joined happiness. Each man is a little bit broken, and to see both healed and whole in each other and in the end was so cool. I loved how uninhibited Fabian is, and how he coaxes Ryan out of his shell by his sheer exuberance. Not only that, Ryan developing a support network for himself was so great to experience. I really liked both of these characters a lot, and I liked the little glimpse of Ilya Rozanov and Shane Hollander, from the second book in this series, that we get at the end.
About the Author:
Rachel Reid is the pen name of Rachelle Goguen. She chose it because it is much easier to say, spell and remember than Rachelle Goguen!
Rachel writes cute, romantic smut, mostly about hockey players.
Rachelle co-hosts a comic book podcast called Living Between Wednesdays.
Rachel/Rachelle lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. She has always lived there, and it’s looking like she probably always will. She has two boring degrees and two interesting kids.
The first two books in her Game Changers m/m hockey romance series, Game Changer and Heated Rivalry, are both available now from Carina Press. Book three is coming soon!
Are you a hockey fan? I am honestly not, because all my winter sports effort goes into wrestling–which my kids do and my hubs coaches. Still, I’ve been reading hockey romance for years now, and have more book reviews coming in that sub-genre over the next month or so. Feel free to share some of your fave hockey romance titles in the comments.
In the meantime, thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!