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 out the Ravens have signed Shane North, a player known for his aggression—especially when Shane’s rough good looks have Troy thinking inappropriate thoughts about a player, even if he’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, Troy, or each other. Despite his determination not to 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.
I really enjoyed this latest installment of Avon Gale's Scoring Chances series. I don't watch hockey, but I might be picking up enough lingo to keep up with at least some of the hockey--speak. Regardless of my (lack of) fluency in hockey, though, I love this series. Coach's Challenge is a low angst, sexy read.
The Asheville Ravens are the most hated team in the ECHL league -- and with good reason. Their former coach was paying players to injure competitors and also blackmailing people to get his way. He was not a good example of a human being (understatement).
Troy Callahan knows what it is like to have a promising career cut short by Denis St. Savoy. Many years ago, he was playing on the same team as St. Savoy and he has first hand experience knowing what it is like to be at that man's (lack of) mercy, when St. Savoy blackmailed Troy into quitting the team, because Troy wasn't ready to come out as gay, yet. Now, Troy has been hired to take over as lead coach of the Ravens, after St. Savoy was fired in disgrace. Troy could have taken a more prestigious position as assistant coach of an NHL team, but because of his personal experience with St Savoy, taking over the team and transforming them is personal for him.
Shane North has just signed on with the Ravens for his last season, since his team on the west coast declined to sign him for one more year. He wants to play one more season and then retire on his own terms. Shane has a reputation for being a bit of a thug and the reoccurring theme in his career is that he never met his potential. It's given him a little bit of a complex, but he just wants to play hockey. Assuming, of course, he and Coach Callahan don't actually kill each other.
Shane and Troy, at first, don't really get along. They are each the other's type, though, and you don't have to like someone to want to have sex with them. And once they start? Well, let's just say -- yum!
What I liked:
~~ Coach's Challenge was a very sexy read...Troy and Shane were so delicious together.
~~ Public/semi-public sex -- though it isn't my thing, I admit it is hot. Also, Troy's bossiness in bed was quite the turn on.
~~ I liked both Troy and Shane, in and out of bed...or wherever they were having sex or a conversation.
~~ Getting to visit a bit with Isaac Drake from the Spitfires. I adore Drake, and was happy to see him and Laurent.
~~ River -- he was delightful! I was kind of disappointed that he had a boyfriend, though, because I wanted to pair him up with a hot hockey player.
What didn't work as well for me:
~~ The antagonist was pretty ineffectual. He was a weasel who never really mattered in the story. I do think his role could have been expanded a bit, though I would have changed his endgame. I didn't find the resolution of that plot point to be all that satisfying.
My hopes for the series:
~~ I really want Xavier Matthews to find his happy.
Overall, I enjoyed Coach's Challenge. Empty Net is still my favorite, of the series, but Coach's Challenge came in at a solid four stars.
ARC of Coach's Challenge was generously provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
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