Coach’s Challenge, by Avon Gale
Series: Scoring Chances, Book 5
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: June 26, 2017
It’s been decades since blackmail forced Troy Callahan to retire from playing professional hockey, and he’s built a successful career behind the bench. When he’s offered the opportunity to coach the Asheville Ravens—the most hated team in the ECHL—he’s convinced that his no-nonsense attitude is just what the team needs to put their focus back on hockey. But Troy is disheartened when he finds that the Ravens have signed Shane North, a player known for his aggression. And it only gets worse when Shane’s rough good looks give Troy inappropriate thoughts about a member of his team, even if Shane’s set to retire at the end of the season.
Shane’s career in the majors never quite took off. Wanting to quit on his own terms, Shane agrees to a one-year contract with the Ravens and finds himself playing for a coach who thinks he’s an aging goon and with a team that doesn’t trust him, the coach, or each other. Despite his determination to not get involved, Shane unwillingly becomes part of the team… and is just as unwillingly drawn to the gruff out-and-proud coach. As the Ravens struggle to build a new identity, Shane and Troy succumb to the passion that might cost them everything.
Enemies To Lovers
One of the things I really enjoy about Avon Gale’s Scoring Chances series is that each book kind of has it’s own vibe. Yes, the overall theme is about hockey and the players and coaches that make the game so much fun, but each book has it’s own intensity, whether it be deeply emotional, angsty or lighthearted. For me, this means that it never gets stale because I never know where Avon is going to take the story. So, if I was to describe the general vibe of Coach’s Challenge it would be…bantery fun.
Coach’s Challenge doesn’t have pack the same emotional punch of Empty Net, and that’s perfectly okay with me. As good as it was, the last book kind of wrung me out, but this one – with it’s UST and sexy banter – will fluff you up, tuck you in and make you giddy with joy.
Troy Callahan is new coach of the Asheville Ravens. Determined to erase the horrendous legacy left by the previous coach, Troy needs to light a spark under his team to help them build up their confidence and gain back the respect that has been all but lost by being the most hated team in league. That spark comes in the form of sexy veteran player, Shane North.
Despite getting off on the wrong skate, the two men discover they are attracted to one another. Troy, however, is trying hard to keep that information on the down low as getting involved with a player, no matter how attractive he may be, is a very bad idea indeed.
The air practically sparked between them. Shane wanted to do nothing more than to light a metaphorical match and let it burn. He had the same flush on his face as Callahan. He could tell.
“Why? We’re adults. Flirting in the locker room isn’t fucking, Callahan.”
“For fuck’s sake, call me Troy.” Troy leaned in and effectively trapped Shane against the bar. Shane sucked in a breath at the sudden closeness, but didn’t move a muscle. “I didn’t think you liked me very much, Shane.”
It was such an un-Callahan thing to say, it was almost cute. “I don’t really need to like you to want you to fuck me, do I?”
Troy’s pale eyes flashed. “Goddammit.”
While the physical relationship is off the hook from the start, their emotional relationship takes a little bit longer to develop. And although flowery language isn’t in either man’s repertoire, they still manage to let the other know how they feel without too many of those pesky ‘feelings’ getting in the way:
“I’m not fucking around with anyone else, and I don’t want you to either.”
“Yeah, well, I wasn’t planning on it.” Troy tipped his head back and stared up at the ceiling. “I can’t believe this happened.”
Shane wasn’t really sure he bought that at all. “Really? You can’t believe two contrary people who thought they were just gonna have sex every now and then decided to have feelings?”
“When you put it that way, maybe it’s not such a surprise.”
Honestly, I was just delighted by Troy and Shane. Even when things threatened to go off the rails, they didn’t resort to secrets and lies, or sacrifice their relationship in some ill-guided effort to protect the other person. They worked through it together. This is one of the benefits of older protagonists – they usually know better than to hide the important stuff. Communication saves the day!
I’m sure if you’re already a fan of the series, you will enjoy this lighthearted but thoroughly enjoyable book. And if you’ve been putting off starting this series because you’re not a hockey fan (blashphemy!), read it anyway. It’s fantastic.
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 she never gets tired of people and their stories — either real or the ones she makes up in her head.
You can purchase Coach’s Challenge from:
Barnes & Noble
Or add it to Goodreads
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.