Monday, October 30, 2017

Release Day Review: Off The Ice by Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn

Title: Off the Ice
Series: Hat Trick #1
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date (Print & Ebook): October 30, 2017
Subgenre: M/M Contemporary Sports Romance

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.

4 Stars

It’s weird, I don’t really watch Hockey, but I seem to love stories written against the backdrop of the sport. Off The Ice was a well-written collaboration between Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn. The transition from one author's portion to the other was absolutely seamless.

I liked both Tristan and Sebastian and although they meet when Tristan takes Sebastian’s summer sociology course, this is not a Teacher/Student trope, as although the attraction is there neither act on it until the class is through.

I’m not really a fan of big age gaps, so I was pleasantly surprised that the 10 to 12 year age difference between Sebastian and Tristan was a non-issue. It was mentioned a couple of times, but the story focused on other conflicting issues and despite that age gap, Sebastian and Tristan actually had a lot of things in common and they fit together well. They had amazing chemistry and the sexual tension between them was palpable.

So as great as the story was and as much as I loved it, let’s talk about the rating I gave it. This book contained some BDSM. I could have handled a little bit of dominance in bed and a little spanking, but not the humiliation. Not calling someone names and smacking them across the face. These aren’t the types of books I’m comfortable reading and if a book contains these things the blurb should indicate this or warnings should be listed to let the reader know the story contains these things, because I was completely blindsided and totally caught off guard. If I had known this I would have scrolled past it and not requested the book. The following scene takes place at about 63% in and I seriously considered DNF’ing it at this point, but the story was so good I had to continue on and see how it all would end.

“8-( ●`ε´●)爻(●`ε´● )-8″

As it was, he still had to stretch a little to get a good grip in Tristan’s hair. “What’s the matter? Tell me.” 

“I—” Tristan swallowed, hard. “I fucked up, and my team was humiliated on the ice.”

 Sebastian held his head still and slapped him across the face. It wasn’t particularly hard, but that wasn’t the point of this. Tristan’s skin mottled immediately from the contact, though, which was both arousing and concerning. Sebastian drew his fingers over the reddened skin, and he heard Tristan’s quick indrawn breath at the contrast. 

“Why was that your fault?” He pulled a little harder on Tristan’s hair. “Tell me.” 

“I didn’t do what I was supposed to.” Tristan’s eyes were very wide. “I’m supposed to defend the puck, not give it up to the other team so they can score.” 

Sebastian smacked him again. Tristan made a sound, and glancing down, Sebastian saw Tristan’s cock begin to harden. He smiled inwardly. Good. 

“You had a bad game. You didn’t play as well as you could have. Neither did the rest of your team.” 

“But I—” 

Sebastian smacked him again, a bit harder this time. Tristan’s breath escaped in a soft groan, and his cock was fully hard now. “I didn’t say you could talk, did I?” Tristan shook his head. His chest was moving as his breath quickened. “Mmm. You’ll practice and do better next time.”

“8-( ●`ε´●)爻(●`ε´● )-8″

Needless to say, I skipped over the remaining sex scenes after this incident. I have no problem whatsoever with an author putting this content into their story, but it’s not something I want to or am comfortable reading and maybe I’m wrong, but I feel I should be given that choice before I open a book.

So, all in all, except the BDSM sex scenes this was a really enjoyable read. I loved not only the main characters, but the story had some great secondary characters as well, secondary characters that are definite potential future main characters. I know this is a trilogy and I’d love to read the other stories, but I’ll definitely be asking questions of the authors before I pick the next book up.

If you don’t mind the above scene or similar ones, then I can say I highly recommend the story.

^copy provided by author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

*Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure in hopes of an unbiased opinion, a review was not a requirement.*

Off the Ice is Book 1 in the Hat Trick series by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn. On one hand, this is the typical professional sports romance, in that someone is hiding in the closet, but with a kinky twist. For all of you that can't get enough of the many facets of BDSM, you'll love this one. If you're like me and don't enjoy reading about BDSM, you may want to pause before diving into the book. I don't know if the blurb mentions these elements, it's entirely possible that I didn't read it and just jumped at the chance to read a book by these authors.

This surprised me with the kink, as I was not expecting it and honestly wouldn't have read it had I known. It had an age gap, which didn't really bother me. But it also had student/teacher and even more not for me, restraining/humiliation/spanking. This is not something I enjoy reading about, and it was very prominent in the relationship between Tristan and Sebastian.

Tristan is the typical professional hockey player in the closet, but he's smart. He's in his early 20's but knows he won't be able to play hockey forever so he's working to get his degree. He comes from a working-class family where education is important, more important than professional hockey. He's not expecting his attraction to his Sociology professor, who's a jerk. Sebastian is out of the closet and not even for his family will he go back in. He seems to have a holier than thou attitude and completely acts exactly like he teaches his class not to. He's pegged Tristan as the sloppy, lazy, stupid jock and it takes a pretty embarrassing act for him to change his mind and come down a peg or two. Though Tristan shares his attraction with Sebastian, nothing happens between these two men until final grades have been completed.

I thought the interactions between Sebastian and Tristan were fun and enjoyable. There was a lot of push/pull between the men and then, of course, the whole issue of Tristan being in the closet. Watching Sebastian learn about hockey was a lot of fun, and I think this is especially helpful for those who don't have experience with the sport. There are fun, supporting characters in the story and I absolutely adored Tristan's family. They definitely change the preconceived notions people would have of people in the middle of nowhere on a farm. I would have loved more interactions with them. And, though I skimmed or skipped a lot of the sex stuff between the two men, I thought this was a really enjoyable story that's going to be loved by many of my fellow readers! There's also a great set-up for book 2, and it led me to think it was going to have a similar kink theme, so for all of you who can't get enough, this series is for you!

Rating: 4 stars

Author Bios:

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.

Avon is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan at Handspun Literary Agency.

Connect with Avon: Twitter | Facebook  | Newsletter | Instagram Website

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 a three-thousand-book library to prove it!).
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. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life … even if it’s only in a book.
Connect with Piper: Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | Website | Blog

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