Sunday, October 29, 2017

ARC Review: Off the Ice (Hat Trick, #1) by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn

Off the Ice  (Hat Trick, #1)
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.

Jewel's rating:

Warning: Gushy review ahead, because this book rocked my socks off.

When I read that Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn were starting a new hockey series, I was ecstatic! And I don't even think I could follow a game of hockey without someone talking me through it. But I do love me some sports romance, even if I don't really like sports. Something about seeing alpha males laid low by love just gets me going. Who could blame me, right? And add in a super toppy academic and I'm in lurve!

Sebastian Cruz is a professor of sociology. He's kind of jaded and grumpy and a bit of a hard-ass. He expects a lot from his students, but really it's because he expects a lot from himself. But as much as he talks about recognizing your own bias, he isn't immune to bias, himself, and that lands him into a rather embarrassing situation when he accuses the wrong student of plagiarism. But he also showed integrity in the way he addressed his own failure.

I had a lot of respect for Seb throughout the story. He could be a bit "black & white" in his outlooks, at times, but he was also open to reason so I didn't hold it against him. I liked that Seb owned his mistakes and the admitted when he was unreasonable, so in my book, that makes him a stand-up guy.

Tristan Holt plays hockey for the NHL team, Atlanta Venom. He knows, though, that assuming that hockey will be there for him for the next decade would be careless, so he's working hard to finish his degree in international business. I loved Tristan. He worked for everything he got, he treated people with respect, and he knew that he needed to have a backup plan. To not look beyond his hockey career would be short-sighted.

Tristan wasn't arrogant, or a jerk, but he wasn't afraid to stand up for himself, either. And he wasn't afraid to go after something he really wanted -- like a scowly professor who pushed all the right buttons.

Though Sebastian and Tristan did not embark on anything romantic or sexual until after they were no longer teacher and student, the dynamic was still very present in their relationship and I loved how they played it (talk about HAWT). Sebastian is a super toppy guy and his scowly demeanor pushes all kinds of the right buttons for Tristan, who prefers both to bottom and also not be the one to call the shots. Tristan just wants to let go and he has a feeling that Professor Cruz would be that guy (spoiler: he is! OMG he is!!).

The problem? Sebastian is out and likes it that way, and Tristan is not and has no plans of risking his career or being the gay poster child for the NHL. But sometimes things don't go as planned and both Sebastian and Tristan go and fall in love. *swoon*

I genuinely liked both MC's as well as the cast of secondary characters. There was a touch of angst in their relationship, but it never felt manufactured or over the top. All the angst came from their relationship being a secret and was completely understandable. I do like how it all resolved and that both Sebastian and Tristan had people that were both voices of reason and had their backs. Coming out to those you love is hard enough.

Off the Ice was fantastic -- the co-writing was smooth, the romance very satisfying (as was the HFN/HEA), and I easily lost myself in the story. I loved the teacher/student dynamic, the slight age-gap, as well as the mild kink and abundance of dirty talk. Talk about delicious. Sebastian and Tristan set my Kindle on fire! And, much to my delight, it looks like we'll get more delicious hockey stories from these two fab authors. Gimme!!!


ARC of Off the Ice was generously provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

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