Five out of Five Stars
Summary: They have nothing in common—so why does Ryan feel most like himself whenever he’s with Fabian?
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.
I looooved this book. I’m an unabashed hockey fanatic stuck in Louisiana. I don’t think we get enough books featuring players from the defense (or goalies or gingers). There is more to Ryan Price as a person than being an enforcer on the ice, and he’s trying to figure out what that means for him. He gets traded from team with the expectation that when it comes down to it, he’ll be there to drop gloves. Arriving in Toronto, he doesn’t want to be that player. He wants to find his love for hockey again, and but he doesn’t know how to find it. I’m going to focus a lot on Ryan’s character, I apologize in advance, but some of the things he said and did, I felt it in my bones.
Ryan and Fabian met when Ryan billeted with Fabian family for a year during his junior hockey years. They shared a moment with each other, but then were separated. (I have such a need for a YA book with this premise, just FYI) Fabian is chasing his dreams, playing music, working in a drug store support himself, and then Ryan unexpectedly comes back into his life.
The chemistry between the two of them, it was present since their youth and it has only grown stronger since they’ve reconnected as adults. As they’ve started to get to know each other as friends, their relationship slowly transitions into something more steamy, delicious and just perfect.
Rachel Reid does something great with Tough Guy. She acknowledges the mental health stigma that men face, and the impact treating those illnesses can have on a personal physically and intimately. There is a moment between he and Fabian, that I wish I could quote it here but it would be entirely spoiler-y and I won’t do that to you, but I felt it in my heart and it brought tears to my eyes. Anxiety makes your mind do crazy things, even during sex, and Ryan trusting Fabian enough to be open with him about this? That got me. I finally felt like there was a character out there that was written for me!
Fabian supported Ryan and Ryan supported Fabian in the very best way, even though they had their ups and downs, they were such a great couple together. The supporting characters, Fabian’s friends and Ryan’s teammate, kept this story moving and fun.
Please, go pre-order this. I apparently did in October, then got approved for an E-ARC, so I was all about this book months ago and younger me was on to something.