From the Blurb:
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.
"Tough Guy" is the third book in a series that includes one of my favorite hockey books ever. But "Heated Rivalry" is a tough act to follow...
We first saw Ryan as Ilya's short-term teammate. He didn't have a lot of page time in that book but it was clear that he had a lot to say. So, this is his story.
On the ice he's the tough guy that no one wants to go against. He plays defence but in reality he's an enforcer. That means that he's getting payed to fight the opponents that try to rough up the really valuable players of whichever team he plays for. His position doesn't excite him and he lost his enjoyment of the game somewhere along the way. Now, he just plays out of habit and because he thinks that's his only way to make a living.
A chance encounter with Fabian becomes the reason for him to re-evaluate his life.
Fabian is an aspiring musician. He gives everything he has into getting the musical career he wants. He works part time to help his dream but he spends countless hours writing music and playing his songs. He recognizes Ryan immediately and the forgotten feelings rush forward once again for both of them.
They start hanging out but Fabian's attitude toward hockey was very black and white. He doesn't like the sport or the players and he's not shy about letting everyone around him know that.
As they grow closer again Ryan is struggling to keep his job separate from Fabian because he knows his opinion. I don't know how they thought that was going to work. Ryan's job was his way of life. I don't know how they thought it would be possible to keep their relationship separate from hockey. And I also think it was unfair of Fabian to have this kind of attitude about Ryan's job.
One thing that bothered me is how unrealistic Ryan's daily routine was. I don't think he went to practice even once. He had many mornings free where he could just lie in bed until whatever time he wanted and he could stay out late without worring about morning practice. The story was supposed to take place during the season and, while they did have away games and left for long road trips, when they were at their home base Ryan's daily routine didn't seem possible for a pro athlete during the season.
For me, the highlight of the book was, of course, Ilya and Shane's appearance! I just love reading about these two characters! And, once again, they didn't disappoint. Ilya was still the laid back guy that got on Shane's nerves and Shane was still the slightly uptight guy that melts when Ilya looks at him. I couldn't resist doing a re-read of their story after finishing this book. Now I'm wondering if there's a sequel coming about them! Please, let there be a part two!!
An ARC of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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