Off the Ice, by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn
Series: Hat Trick, Book 1
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: October 30, 2017
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.
POC (Person of Color)
Warning: Light BDSM includes D/s elements, mild humiliation and spanking.
Confession time, I was a bit leery going into this book because 1) I was not a fan of the previous collaboration by these two lovely authors and 2) The slightest mention of hockey these days makes my eye twitch. But I also couldn’t remember the last time I read some hot for teacher naughtiness, so I figured why the hell not? As it turns out, this was definitely one of my better ideas because I thoroughly enjoyed Off the Ice, hockey and all.
The writing was sharp with a quick turnaround on the dual POVs to keep the pace flowing. I thought the characters were really fleshed out and interesting and most importantly, relatable and likeable – even Sebastian, who was supposed to be a bit of an ass. He only came off as a jerk in the classroom to be honest. In fact by 15% I was absolutely spitting mad at him on Tristan’s behalf, which if nothing else was a sure sign I was invested in the story pretty early on.
Now when I say I actually enjoyed the hockey action in the book, that sadly didn’t extend to pop quizzes on hockey during sexy times (although to be fair, I would’ve found any kind of quiz obnoxious during sex). Speaking of sexy times, can a girl get a trigger warning for dirty bathroom sex please? I’ve had to DNF books in the past when the grossness got too descriptive and there was one notable scene that would’ve been a dealbreaker if I wasn’t already invested the the book (but seriously, I did not need further details beyond “highway rest stop”).
Despite skipping over a few early sex scenes, I still got plenty of uh, bang for my buck in that department. I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamic between Seb and Tris. There were some light but highly potent BDSM elements to their relationship that added a whole other layer to their compatibility. But to be honest, there was never an doubt in my mind that these two were perfect for each other – they just worked.
I thought the authors did a great job writing two complex heroes navigating a newly developing relationship. The book started out with plenty of (and sometimes overly repetitive) naughty teacher-student references but the relationship evolved way beyond that to something much more. Tristan being completely in the closet had a huge hurdle to overcome but Sebastian wasn’t without his own hangups when it came to their relationship. And while I’m aware that coming out is a hugely personal and often high-risk decision, it seemed strange that Tristan had never seriously considered coming out to two of his closest buddies on the team.
For all the challenges the men faced, the book was surprisingly low angst. I have to give props to the authors for making our heroes wait for their happy ending – too often it seems as if conflicts in romance don’t even last a day before they’re magically resolved. I also thought the HFN ending was a nice touch and was suitable for where they were in their relationship and in their lives as a whole.
I thought Off the Ice was a really successful collaboration and I look forward to more from them. Not only that, Avon and Piper managed to pull off the unthinkable – they had me enjoying hockey again. I’ll end my review with another confession: Off the Ice is only the first book of the series but I’m already 150% hooked, no thanks to Tristan’s enigmatic teammate Ryu. All the side characters were larger than life but Ryu easily stole the show for me and I need more of him in my life. Like, stat.
Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal Midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert, and will never say no to candy.
At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.
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, sci-fi, she loves them all (and has an over-two-thousand-book library to prove it!). She’s an avid tea drinker, a hockey fanatic, a vintage typewriter collector, and loves to travel so much she has “wanderlust” tattooed on her ankle and dozens of countries on her bucket list. Recently, she discovered the world of nail art and realized she’s pretty handy with a paintbrush—as long as it’s a miniature one.
As a bisexual and Latinx person, Piper takes great pride in her heritage. She grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood and strives to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. She currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, son, and a cat that has Piper wrapped around her little paw. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life … even if it’s only in a book.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.