Icebreaker by A.L. Graziadei

4 out of 5 Stars

Summary

Seventeen-year-old Mickey James III is a college freshman, a brother to five sisters, and a hockey legacy. With a father and a grandfather who have gone down in NHL history, Mickey is almost guaranteed the league’s top draft spot.

The only person standing in his way is Jaysen Caulfield, a contender for the #1 spot and Mickey’s infuriating (and infuriatingly attractive) teammate. When rivalry turns to something more, Mickey will have to decide what he really wants, and what he’s willing to risk for it.

This is a story about falling in love, finding your team (on and off the ice), and choosing your own path.

 

Review

Hockey romances are my jam. There’s something about masculinity, the passion for the sport, and the tenderness that can be exhibited by the characters that pull me in. Icebreaker is a great book for those who don’t want all the smut but enjoy the art of flirtation and the development of a relationship.

Icebreaker is branded as a YA novel. I would categorize it as more of a new adult novel. It takes place at a university. There is fade to black scenes and mentions of hookups, but it’s not graphic by any means.

Mickey James III is a legacy hockey player. His father is a pro NHL player and as the predicted number one draft pick, Mikey has a LOT to live up to. Even if he’s not entirely sure if jumping into professional hockey after one year at university is over, staying at university for four years, or not pursuing hockey at all. Add in depression and anxiety? As the first line in the novel says, it makes life wild.

Jaysen is Mickey’s biggest competition in the draft class and the other of our leading men. There’s an intense rivalry between him and Mickey determining who will go number one and who will go number two. He likes to poke at Mickey to get under his skin. He reminded me of a friend in high school, alternative and into screamo.

It isn’t until the two are forced into an icebreaker that the anger melts and once they stop seeing each other as something other than rivals.

The style of writing in this novel makes it an extremely quick read. I read half one night before bed, the next half the morning after. I liked seeing text conversations and Twitter interactions between the characters. It put you further into their world.

The in-game writing was done well. I could picture the plays and actions in my mind without a problem. I also liked seeing the team bonding moments and how that contributed to the main characters’ growth.

Super fun, easy read. I’m looking forward to reading more by A.L. Graziadei.

 

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Amy Aislin – Author Spotlight

Meet the Author

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Amy’s lived with her head in the clouds since she first picked up a book as a child, and being fluent in two languages means she’s read a lot of books! She first picked up a pen on a rainy day in fourth grade when her class had to stay inside for recess. Tales of treasure hunts with her classmates eventually morphed into love stories between men, and she’s been writing ever since. She writes evenings and weekends—or whenever she isn’t at her full-time day job saving the planet at Canada’s largest environmental non-profit.

An unapologetic introvert, Amy reads too much and socializes too little, with no regrets. She loves connecting with readers.

Pride Month Sale – Keeping Casey

.99 Sale until June 27th

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Purchase your copy here

Casey Preston is the guy with the plan. The list-maker. The one who micromanages his own life.

Spontaneously offering to be his best friend’s fake boyfriend to get Ethan’s annoying team captain off his back?

That’s not thinking things through. It’s not even smart given Casey’s been fighting his feelings for Ethan for years.

Ethan Rain just wants to play hockey and get his college degree. Adding a fake boyfriend to the mix? He doesn’t need that complication.

If Casey were his real boyfriend, though? If he got to keep Casey forever? Now we’re talking.

Click the cover to purchase!

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Connect With Amy

Twitter * Instagram * Website * Facebook

What do I like about Amy Aislin (besides her writing)?

When she says she likes to connect with her readers, she means it. She’s very active in her Facebook group. She is active in other author groups as well. She participates in a lot of fun games and giveaways. She’s as much as a reader as the rest of us. I love checking her Goodreads to see what she’s read and her thoughts on the book.

Amy cares about the accuracy in her work. Fun fact, I got to sensitivity read for her on one of her books.

Also I have an ABSOLUTE love of hockey and I can read her work in one sitting.

If you like Amy Aislin, you should read:

RJ Scott, VL Locey, Rachel Reid, Amy Daws, Beth Bolden

The Long Game by Rachel Reid

Five out of Five Stars

Summary

To the world they are rivals, but to each other they are everything.

Ten years.

That’s how long Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov have been seeing each other. How long they’ve been keeping their relationship a secret. From friends, from family…from the league. If Shane wants to stay at the top of his game, what he and Ilya share has to remain secret. He loves Ilya, but what if going public ruins everything?

Ilya is sick of secrets. Shane has gotten so good at hiding his feelings, sometimes Ilya questions if they even exist. The closeness, the intimacy, even the risk that would come with being open about their relationship…Ilya wants it all.

It’s time for them to decide what’s most important—hockey or love.

It’s time to make a call.

Review

 

I have been looking forward to the conclusion of Shane and Ilya’s story since Heated Rivalry ended. I needed to know so much. Would their love make it? Would they come out or keep their relationship a secret until retirement? I NEEDED TO KNOW! And this book did not let me down.

            In this book, we get to see the more emotional side to Ilya. There was a much more vulnerable portrayal of him. I liked that we got to see that part of him. It was funny, when I was reading I had the thought, “Well shit, he’s done a lot for Shane, but what has Shane done for Ilya?” It hit me all at once. Ilya had sacrificed so much for this relationship, and I really wanted Shane to wake up and see what was in front of him.

            There was one scene that made me tear up (in the middle of a Mexican restaurant as I ate tacos by myself during my lunch break), it was such a great scene to include. You’ll know what I’m talking about once you read it, but it made me want to give both Ilya and Shane a hug. I could imagine how difficult it would have been to be on other end of that moment. It made my heart hurt.

            I was so excited to see more of Ilya’s team and how much they evolved over the course of the season. For a team that was already counted out, it was so exciting to see them play their hearts out. The Centaurs, they are definitely a team I would love to be on or a part of.

            There were so many cute moments too. Like Ilya, big bad Ilya, getting married to Shane by one of his team mate’s children? How excited he was at the idea of getting a team dog? I loved it.

            The spicy scenes? Well, I never thought it’d be sexy to do it in a trophy room, but kink unlocked. The passion was still as intense now as it had been years ago. I loved seeing that. They missed each other, craved each other, and treated on each other.

            I absolutely loved this addition to Shane and Ilya’s story.

Get your copy here

Too Much Man by Katy James

3.5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Summary

A grumpy former hockey player and a bisexual coffee-shop owner refuse to commit—to themselves or each other—in this fun, flirty debut.

Piper Welborn has created a warm, welcoming space for all in her queer-inclusive coffee shop, even if the long hours came at the cost of her love life. But she’s not ready to welcome one man in particular—a grumpy, muscular former hockey player. His smoldering presence is a temptation and a challenge to her long-standing vow not to date cis men.

Gavin Williams has no business starting a relationship, least of all with a woman he’s not sure even likes him. He can’t resist the Friendly Bean’s hot, pink-haired owner, but a casual fling is all he can commit to. He’s hoping to leave town for the next stage in his career…if he ever gets the call with the job offer.

A friends-with-benefits arrangement is perfect for them both—but neither is ready for the feelings that hit. When the post-hockey life Gavin always dreamed of is suddenly within his grasp, they’ll both have to make a choice: hold tight to what they thought life should look like, or work together to build something new.

 

Review

I haven’t had much in the way of bisexual representation here and it’s time I remedy that. Too Much Man by Katy James was a great book to review. It addressed issues that I have dealt with and could relate to. James has put everything I’ve felt into words that I had a hard time putting into words.

I’m not sure I can avoid spoilers, so here’s your warning!

Piper, a bisexual, coffee house owner. Piper offers up her coffee as a coffee house as the location for a charity event for the area hockey team. She is tasked with making sure the players can serve coffee as well as make sure the winners have a great time.

That is a very small aspect of the story, but it’s how she ends up meeting a very angry Gavin Williams who is still healing from a devastating injury. He’s in pain and unsure of his future. I’d be grumpy too.

Piper fights against her attraction to Gavin. She’s made a promise to herself as a bisexual woman she was done with men. The queer community is where she feels most at home and whenever she is with a man, it’s almost like a party trick, her liking women. She feels excluded from the community whenever she dates a man.

I felt that so much. Personal information time, I’m Demi. My attraction tends to lean more towards women, but I’ve been in a relationship with a man the past year and there are times I feel like I’m not who I’ve thought I’ve been my entire life. That people will claim all those dates and relationships were a phase. Spoiler alert, they weren’t. But it just felt good knowing I wasn’t alone in that feeling.

Piper bargains with herself. She can have a friend with benefits relationship with Gavin. He’s leaving, there’s an expiration date on it. There won’t be any feelings and when he’s gone, she’ll move on. Easy as that. Right?

It’s never as easy as that.

Now I will fully admit, I can’t give a rating to the spiciness. I was more focused on the emotional journey that both Piper and Gavin went on as they learn who they truly are as individuals and what they want in life.

The beginning was a little slow for me. At times I got irritated with the pair of them, but overall I enjoyed reading this. The secondary characters weren’t memorable. Which I feel terrible for saying, but I was so focused on Piper and Gavin.

Get your copy here

Season’s Change by Cait Nary

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3 Out of 5 Stars

Summary

Olly Järvinen has a long way to go. He’s got a fresh start playing for a new team, but getting his hockey career back on track is going to take more than a change of scenery. He’s got to shut his past out and focus. On the game, not on his rookie roommate and his annoyingly sunny disposition—and annoyingly distracting good looks.

All Benji Bryzinski ever wanted was to play in the big leagues, and he’s not going to waste one single second of his rookie season. Yoga, kale smoothies and guided meditation help keep his head in the game. But his roommate keeps knocking him off track. Maybe it’s just that Olly is a grumpy bastard. Or maybe it’s something else, something Benji doesn’t have a name for yet.

Olly and Benji spend all their time together—on the ice, in the locker room, in their apartment—and ignoring their unspoken feelings isn’t making them go away. Acting on attraction is one thing, but turning a season’s fling into forever would mean facing the past—and redefining the future.

The Review

            Ya’ll know I love my sports romances. Especially, hockey. So, it hurts me to say this one, was a little difficult for me to get into.

            I think it was more the presentation of the material than the actual storyline. The story was good. There were too many page breaks and not enough transition from scene to scene that I got lost a couple of times. There were a lot of shifts in time that weren’t entirely clear.

            There were aspects about Olly that I think the reader was supposed to infer but later it’s finally spelled out. I’m not a fan of that in writing. I need to understand why a character acts the way they do for me to connect to them better. I didn’t connect as much with Olly and Benji as I usually do with characters.  

            On to the actual story.

            Olly is a bit of a jaded, veteran hockey player. He’s got a lot of issues that impact how he plays on his new team and you can see it in how he plays the game now. Benji is the bright-eyed, excited rookie. He is himself, no matter what anyone else (Olly) may think about his yoga, meditation, and kale smoothies. I like that about Benji. Even if he was pretty clueless at times lol.

            Olly and Benji are a good balance of each other. There is a push/pull kind of relationship that developed between the two men. Benji doesn’t back down when Olly is his angry, grumpy self. Olly listens to some of the things that Benji talks about, like yoga and meditation.

            I was very surprised when Olly and Benji participated in a … spoiler alert …. I’ll let your mind do the running or you can check my tags. I just, don’t feel like Olly would have done that no matter what. Benji? Yes, one hundred percent. That I could see happening.  

            I wanted more affection between the pair. I wanted more tender moments of actualization. I wanted more romance.

            This was definitely a story that focused more on Olly coming to terms with who he is as an individual and as a hockey player on a new team. It got a bit angsty at times, but that was an emotion called for in this storyline.

 

Get your copy here

Role Model by Rachel Reid

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

Troy Barrett has been freshly traded to Ottawa after calling out Dallas Kent during a team practice. He wants to be a better person, and the weird, scrappy energy of the struggling Ottawa team seems like the place to…well. It seems like the only place that will have Troy right now.

Fortunately the Ottawa team includes Ilya Rozanov and Wyatt Hayes, and also includes an adorable social media manager, Harris Drover. Harris is the opposite of Troy in every way: friendly, cheerful, chatty, and goofy with a booming voice, a startlingly loud laugh, and Pride pins all over his denim jacket. Definitely not the sort of person Troy would normally associate with, and yet…

Review

Troy Barrett has been punished for doing what he felt was right. Calling out a former teammate for deplorable behavior and taking a stand. He landed in Ottawa, to a failing team, trying to find his place among players he feels like are better people than he is. He keeps his guard up and doesn’t let plan on letting anyone in to see the real him.

He didn’t predict the social media manager, Harris Drover. There’s something about the man that makes Troy want to smile, be himself, and to share who he is with everyone else. Troy believes that he could be a better person.

First off, I was not ugly crying towards the end of the book. I just had a really big eye lash in my eye, and I couldn’t get it out. Also, I’m sure Reid had no way of knowing just how Troy’s storyline would tie into reality. There’s a double standard in athletics today that she addresses and does eloquently. Just because someone is an athlete, it doesn’t excuse their behavior. They are held to the same rules as the rest of us normal folks.

What I loved about Role Model was the way I could relate to Troy. He wasn’t just a fictional hockey player. There was depth to his character. There is so much I want to just say here, but I’d spoil the book. I’m trying to be careful not to do that.

Troy had hidden himself from the people in his life for so long, finally meeting people who accepted him no matter what and supported him, I could feel the freedom that Troy was experiencing.

I was proud of him, for sticking to his beliefs and challenging those around him, even when he was pretty much ousted for those beliefs. I was proud of the whole Ottawa team.

Harris was so adorable. Any time he came into a scene I ended up smiling. Then finding out he wasn’t all innocent under it all made him even better.

The chemistry between Troy and Harris was phenomenal. They gravitated towards each other. Then those romance scenes, oh my, they were good. It made my heart beat a little faster. It felt right for them in those scenes and moments.

Reid has a way of painting a vivid picture with her words, and I could see Troy, Harris, and the entire Ottawa setting clearly in my mind as I read.

To be released August 10, 2021

Risking the Shot by Amy Aislin

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Time for distractions? Hardly.

A chance at making the playoffs? It’s a dream for NHL forward Taylor Cunningham that just might come true. If he can keep his eyes on the ball—ahem, puck. And study for midterms. Dakota Cotton, eleven years his senior, isn’t just a distraction, though—he’s everything Tay’s ever wanted.

Dakota has no interest in introducing someone who might not stick around to his four-year-old son. Been there, done that, with the divorce to prove it. But there’s something about Tay that hits all of the right buttons and has him wanting to take a chance.

As things heat up between them, and the pressure to succeed hits an all-time high, will they risk a shot at happiness or choke?

Review

Taylor Cunningham, professional hockey player, has been crushing on Dakota Cotton, who works for the team’s nonprofit, since he laid eyes on the man. Dakota may be eleven years older than Tay, but there’s something about the older man that pushes every button for him. Even his four year old son, Andy.

I related to Taylor so much. Not because I’m a hockey player, but because he takes so much on his shoulders. He’s playing professional hockey while pursuing a degree for paramedicine. Then he works on his comic and helps plan a big party for his mom while dealing with the strained relationship he has with his older sisters.

He’s doesn’t share his art with those closest to him because he felt like it wasn’t ever going to be good enough. When he starts gaining his confidence, oh that was such a sweet feeling. It’s something that I struggled with. I’m glad it wasn’t just me (even if Taylor is a fictional character) other people experience the same feelings.

Dakota, oh goodness, he and Andy were my heart. Taylor integrated into their little family unit seamlessly and he treated Dakota’s son Andy the way any parent would want their child to be treated by someone they were dating. And, Dakota, oh boy, he’s quite an attractive fella. He’s smart, creative, and sexy.  I’ll never think about scotch in the same way after reading this.

Dakota and Taylor, the chemistry and tension between them *fans self* whoo boy. I so wish we would have gotten to see what could have happened in the coat room. And the scotch! Like hell to the yes. All the yeses! I’m going to have to file that away for later *cackles*.

Would I recommend reading this book? 100%, read it. It would be helpful reading the rest of the Stick Side series because other characters pop up in this.

 

To be released September 8th 2020 – Get your copy here

Common Goal by Rachel Reid

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

New York Admirals goalie Eric never thought his friends-with-benefits arrangement with much-younger Kyle would leave them both wanting more…

Veteran goaltender Eric Bennett has faced down some of the toughest shooters on the ice, but nothing prepared him for his latest challenge—life after hockey. It’s time to make some big changes, starting with finally dating men for the first time.

Graduate student Kyle Swift moved to New York nursing a broken heart. He’d sworn to find someone his own age to crush on (for once). Until he meets a gorgeous, distinguished silver fox hockey player. Despite their intense physical attraction, Kyle has no intention of getting emotionally involved. He’ll teach Eric a few tricks, have some mutually consensual fun, then walk away.

Eric is more than happy to learn anything Kyle brings to the table. And Kyle never expected their friends-with-benefits arrangement to leave him wanting more. Happily-ever-after might be staring them in the face, but it won’t happen if they’re too stubborn to come clean about their feelings.

Everything they both want is within reach… They just have to be brave enough to grab it.

Review

First, ya’ll I apologize. I’m in a strict hockey headspace because the Stanley Cup and HOCKEY IS BACK!!

That being said, this cover, uh, yes please, thank you. I need all the gorgeous goalie covers in my life. I have a soft spot for goalies and their quirks. Like, the goalie head-bumps at the end of the game? I LIVE for those moments.

Eric, veteran goalie, recently divorced and he is exploring his bisexuality for the first time. He’s seen several other players find the type of love he didn’t think he could have and he’s finally found someone who he wants to experience these moments with.

Kyle is getting over his long time crush and offers his expertise to Eric. As he and Eric end up in each other’s lives more often than not, it would be hard not to form a friendship. That relationship steadily develops the more time they spend with each other.

What I absolutely loved? Eric, just one hundred percent Eric. He had a kinship with the goalie posts and it reminded me of all the moments I caught of a goalie tapping their goal posts after a save, or pregame as they’re getting into the zone. There was more to him than being a professional hockey player. He has a love for art that he wants to share with people (which just so happens to be Kyle). I enjoyed the party scene where he and Kyle were off on their own connecting with each other. Even in a house full of hockey players, it still felt intimate.

Kyle,  oh I felt for him. I just wanted to give him all the hugs. Like I know what it feels like to be in those shoes, crushing hard on someone only to find out they’ll never return those feelings. I just wished he would have had more faith in Eric instead of being stuck on the age difference.

They were such a great pairing though. Their chemistry as both friends and lovers was off the charts. They communicated, tried new things and enjoyed themselves when they were together.

I have so much love for this series! If you are a hockey fan, give these a read because they don’t let you down At all.

Pre-Order your copy here

To be released September 21, 2020

 

Out on the Ice by Kelly Farmer

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary:

Caro Cassidy used to be a legend.

During her career, Caro was one of the best defense players in women’s hockey. These days, she keeps to herself. Her all-girls hockey camp is her life, and she hopes it’ll be her legacy. Sure, her new summer hire is charming and magnetic, but Caro keeps her work and personal life strictly separate.

Amy Schwarzbach lives life out loud.

Amy’s as bright and cheerful as her lavender hair, and she uses her high-profile position in women’s hockey to advocate for the things she believes in. Ten weeks in Chicago coaching a girls’ training camp is the perfect opportunity to mentor the next generation before she goes back to Boston.

Letting love in means putting yourself out there.

When the reticent head coach offers to help Amy get in shape for next season, her starstruck crush on Caro quickly blossoms into real chemistry. As summer comes to an end, neither of them can quite let go of this fling—but Amy can’t afford a distraction, and Caro can’t risk her relationship becoming public and jeopardizing the one thing that’s really hers.

The Review

This was a low-angst, quick-to-read, romance.

Caro Cassidy runs a hockey school for girls. She keeps her personal life close to the vest and doesn’t advertise her sexuality. She adheres to a strict professional policy. In comes Amy Schwarzbach, lives her life out loud and doesn’t let anyone tell her how she should live her life. She does her best to encourage girls to be true to themselves while playing hockey in a safe space provided by Girls and Goals.

What I liked about Out on the Ice was the fact Caro and Amy were polar opposites, but they still fit together. Caro had gotten stuck in a repetitive cycle, but Amy makes her consider what how she could change for the better.

Amy was a bisexual character and If eel like there aren’t enough books with bisexual characters, and they talk about their previous partners. It was a genuine representation.

A lot of the romance was off screen, so if you’re looking for that you aren’t going to find that here. It was very sweet.

I was left wanting, but this was a good debut for Kelly Farmer .

Pre-Order here

 

Tough Guy by Rachel Reid

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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.

The Review

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.

Order your copy here!