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!

Get BREAKAWAY for a Steal!

Hi there! I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M sports romance from Avon Gale. As you know I adored her hockey playing hunks in SAVE OF THE GAME and POWER PLAY so I went and picked up the first book in the series, BREAKAWAY. The fourth book, EMPTY NET, just released yesterday, and I’m nearly finished with it, as well. So, so good! I’m not even a hockey fan, and I adore these stories!

Breakaway (Scoring Chances, #1)About the book:
Drafted to play for the Jacksonville Sea Storm, an NHL affiliate, twenty-year-old Lane Courtnall’s future looks bright, apart from the awkwardness he feels as a gay man playing on a minor league hockey team. He’s put his foot in his mouth a few times and alienated his teammates. Then, during a rivalry game, Lane throws off his gloves against Jared Shore, enforcer for the Savannah Renegades. It’s a strange way to begin a relationship.

Jared’s been playing minor league hockey for most of his career. He’s bisexual and doesn’t care if anyone knows. But he’s determined to avoid another love affair after the last one left him devastated. Out of nowhere a one-nighter with rookie Lane Courtnall gives him second thoughts. Lane reminds Jared why he loves the game and why love might be worth the risk. In turn, Jared hopes to show Lane how to be comfortable with himself on and off the ice. But they’re at different points in their careers, and both men will have to decide what they value most.

My Review:
Lane is a young closeted gay man who’s on his own for the first time in his live. He’s moved from Canada to Jacksonville, Florida to play for the Sea Storm, a minor league hockey team in a place where people hardly understand the concept of ice. It’s a total culture shock, but Lane’s generally flummoxed. He’s got no filter, and is awkward to the point of /facepalm + Oh man!. He can’t help pissing off everyone in his vicinity with his unconscious lack of tact. In a last ditch attempt to win some favor, Lane, a superlative forward and primo scorer takes on the goon for a rival team, Jared Shore.

Jared isn’t sure what to make of young, virile, talented Lane. But he doesn’t kick the man out of bed. To be the only man that Lane’s ever been with? Seems like an empty net opportunity, but he’s also got to learn to tune out Lane’s odd chatter, at times. Lane’s ashamed of being gay, afraid that his parents will disown him–something he really struggles with even though he’s supporting himself now. Jared helps him to see that being an adult means coming clean with his fears and insecurities, and that helps Lane grow as a man and a player. It’s all good preparation for Lane when he gets The Call bringing him up to the big time, a few games in the NHL. Jared’s an amazing support and together they are able to deal with Lanes parents. I have to admit that was so much sweeter than I had expected. Poor Lane, he tortured himself for so long, and for no reason! I loved Lane, even when I wanted to smack him. He did crack me up with his completely outrageous conversations.

This is a very tender read, considering the guys are grown adult hockey players. I loved how the romance built a little at a time, as Lane and Jared are players on different teams and have lots of forced separations due to schedules. It made their brief trysts so much sweeter, and that was really fun to experience. Also fun? Lane and his new sexual experiences! I do love me a virgin, from time to time. I’m not a hockey fan at all, but this one put me in a smiling frame-of-mind and gave me warm feels despite all that ice.

Interested? You can find BREAKAWAY on Goodreads, and for a single DOLLAR on Dreamspinner Press through 9/4. Regularly priced on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.

SaveoftheGameFSPowerPlayfsSAVE OF THE GAME (Scoring Chances #2) is also on sale. Catch my review here, and pick it up for $2 on Dreamspinner Press.

POWER PLAY (Scoring Chances #3) is ALSO on sale. Catch my review here, and pick it up for $3 on Dreamspinner Press.

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!