Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Release Blitz: Off the Ice by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn (Reviews)

Out now: Off the Ice by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn

Release date: March 25, 2019 
Publisher: Carina Press 


Previously published; newly refreshed by the authors 


He’s hot for teacher 

NHL star Tristan Holt may be at the top of his game, but he’s already thinking one play ahead. Hitting the books in the off-season means he’ll have a business degree to fall back on when it’s time to hang up his hockey skates. 

But his straightforward plan is complicated by his undeniable attraction to his sexy sociology professor, Sebastian Cruz. 

Impressed by Tristan’s brain as well as his brawn, Sebastian can’t help lusting after the gorgeous jock. With tenure on the line, Sebastian won’t break the rules by becoming involved with one of his students—at least, not until the end of term. Once final grades are posted, though, their naughty mutual fantasies can become reality. 

Tristan’s not sure he’s up for being the poster boy for openly gay hockey players, but Sebastian’s never been the type of man to keep his sexuality—or his relationships—in the closet. For Tristan, being with Sebastian might mean risking more than just his heart. 

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise! 

Check out this excerpt of Off the Ice:

Tristan pulled the cap off as heat gathered in his face. He tossed it atop his book bag and combed his fingers through his hair. No doubt it looked a mess after being damp and crushed under his hat for the past hour. “Sorry, sir.”

Professor Cruz ignored him and kept talking. Or rather, ranting. Tristan groaned inwardly. Great. Another hard-ass who ran his classroom like some kind of drill sergeant. Tristan hated the type, but whatever. He’d survived coaches who would make Sebastian Cruz resemble a cuddly little lamb. Tristan couldn’t be intimidated easily, even if, yeah, it embarrassed him to be scolded like a high schooler in front of his peers.

Eh, you win some, you lose some in the professor roulette. If there was one thing hockey had taught Tristan, it was self-discipline. He enjoyed sociology and thought the classes would be beneficial to him as a potential businessman. Tristan could cope with Mr. Don’t-Expect-Me-to-Be-Your-Buddy for seven weeks.

“So power and inequality,” Professor Cruz was saying, “let’s talk about how that relates to blue-blooded Manhattanites and me, growing up as a Puerto Rican welfare kid in the Bronx.”

Well, he didn’t waste any time, did he?

Tristan flipped open his MacBook and started taking notes as Professor Cruz lectured. Warm and fuzzy the guy was not, but he certainly didn’t lack in passion for the subject matter. Soon, Tristan was fascinated. Professor Cruz absolutely came alive as he spoke. True, he suffered from a bad case of Resting Asshole Face, and Tristan wouldn’t go so far as to call him handsome, not exactly. Still, there was something compelling. Professor Cruz—tall and whipcord lean with warm golden-brown skin and wavy raven-black hair—definitely qualified as eye candy.

4.25 Stars!

Tristan is a NHL player. He wants to finish up his business degree so that he has a backup plan for when his hockey career is over. He takes a sociology class and is attracted to his professor, Sebastian Cruz.

Sebastian didn't want to teach a class this summer. He sees Tristan and while he finds him attractive, he brushes off those thoughts since Tristan’s a student. When an unfortunate incident happens, their confrontation changes things and sets off an undeniable attraction. They hold off making any moves until the class is done, and then all bets are off.

I liked Tristan a lot. He works hard at everything he does, school and hockey. He's a good friend and loves his family. He's thinking ahead and wants to be prepared for the future even if his friends and teammates don't get it. It took a little while to see more of Sebastian than the stern professor he embraces. I liked the glimpses that we get to see of him when he spends time with his friend, R.J. I liked that Tristan called Sebastian out for doing exactly what Sebastian talked about in his classes. But, I wasn't too thrilled about the way Sebastian handled a certain incident and thought that he should have known better than to accuse anyone without evidence; that whole situation was handled poorly. I did like that once they were free of the class and they decided to move forward on their attraction that they were honest about how they wanted things to go if things got serious between them.

It was inevitable that there would be a conflict since no one knew Tristan was gay, and I could totally understand why Tristan wouldn't want to be the first NHL player to announce he was gay. I think that the way he handled it was good, and I was happy to see R.J. set Sebastian straight about his "hidden" issues with Tristan as well.

These two characters made a great couple. Tristan and Sebastian's connection was tangible and hot. Their growing feelings were there to see, and they were fairly good about communicating their needs and wants. There is some domination and submissive tones to this one, but it's not a formal BDSM situation. Tristan likes his sex rough and to be able to let go during it. Sebastian likes to dominate and gives Tristan what he asks for.

I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading future books in the series. I really hope that we get Ryu's story soon.

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement
. ***

4.5 Stars 

Thankfully for this Brit, this is light on all things hockey! A good tale with decent, very different leads.

This is my first but not last book by these authors, and I'm already looking forward to books 2 and 3, due out later this year. No spoilers, but we meet one of the leads from book 2 here, and I suspected the guy was gay from his descriptions, insight and the amount of page time he was getting, and, I think at the end of the tale we find out who's going to be one of the leads from book 3, a bi guy who has kids. I can't wait for both, because this tale itself was an excellent intro to these authors writing as a duo, though I have read PV co-authored books before and enjoyed them.

So, as a Brit, we don't do hockey as a rule and it's not really even on our radar, ergo I was pleased that this isn't full-on hockey speak, or else I'd have been doing a Sebastian myself, eyes glazing over... I think we get enough explanations of the game so that fans of hockey romances will be satisfied.

It's a really decent tale that felt real and I can imagine how hard it must be for sportsmen in ultra macho sports to come out, especially in USA 2019, though yes, it's not easy in any country, I don't think. I know that we Brits have many closeted sportsmen, but it's heartwarming that we're accepting as a public (not sure about fellow sportsmen, hence the secrecy, but I hope that's changing, too) and that some, admittedly retired ones, have been able to come out.

I liked both guys, but I had a real soft spot for the gentle, sweet, thoughtful giant that was Tristan, than the more sedate (in appearances only), serious professor that was Sebastian. And he was a Sebastian, not a Seb for me, though I think Seb did make a one-off appearance in the tale. I thought their romance was realistic and I liked that the authors didn't do the somewhat trope-y 'student-professor forbidden stuff', as that's been done too much in het romances and has me eye rolling. But, at the same time, the tale lost a 0.5* for me because at the end, we'd learned that Tristan had outed himself for his love, and yet we never got to see him and Sebastian at one of the latter's official functions, or saw them as a couple with the latter's friends. That was actually pointed out by Sebastian's maths professor friend RJ, and I do think for the sake of quid pro quo, it would have been nice for Sebastian to be a bit more open with his colleagues and friends. It wasn't a deal breaker for me, but when your bestie points it out and you agree, as a reader it makes me want to see that interaction. It felt like Tristan was a bit 'forced' (too strong a word, but read and you'll see why I've used it) for his love and because he didn't want to lose his guy, and yet his guy kind of got it all his own way. I'd have liked to see it reciprocated from Sebastian's side of things, is all.

I saw an Authors' Note saying that the book had been previously published and has been lightly edited and updated. I could tell where this took place, and it's both a bit nice and a bit 'stand up', which I appreciated. I do think people whose voices can be heard, and who can influence and who might be able to make a difference, should speak up, and I've seen a couple of respected authors in MM speak up in the last year, openly and critically and honestly so, and I admire that. Here, there's a comment about players standing for the national anthem - read and make your mind up about the authors' stance - I applaud them. And, there are a couple of comments about macho sports/men and men not being meant to cry; here, satisfyingly, it was an attempt to organically bring in the idea of toxic masculinity and trying to overcome/erase it, and again I applaud the authors. Right now in current pop MM tales, too many authors are jumping on the 'let's erase toxic masculinity' and the 'let's erase bi-erasure' bandwagons, but they're doing it so... plantedly and inorganically, talking the talk and not walking the walk. Refreshingly, here, none of the actual words are used, but I 'saw' more of the actions - well, where the toxic masculinity issue is concerned, I mean, and I suspect I've heard a loud hint re the authors' future tackling of bi-erasure. Kudos to them!

This is a really good tale and I can't wait for more by this duo.

ARC courtesy of Carina Press and NetGalley, for my reading pleasure.

About the Authors:

Avon Gale: Avon Gale lives in a liberal Midwestern college town, where she spends her days getting heavily invested in everything from craft projects to video games. She likes road trips by car, rock concerts, thunderstorms, IPAs, Kentucky bourbon and tattoos. As a queer author, Avon is committed to providing happy endings for all and loves to tell stories that focus on found families, strong and open communication, and friendship. She loves writing about quirky people who might not be perfect, but always find a place where they belong. In her former life, Avon wrote fanfiction at her desk while ostensibly doing work in non-profit fundraising for public radio and women’s liberal arts education, and worked on her books in between haircuts and highlights as a stylist. Now she’s a full-time writer, delighted to be able to tell stories for a living. Avon is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.


Piper Vaughn: Piper Vaughn is a queer Latinx author and longtime romance reader. Since writing their first love story at age eleven, they’ve known writing in some form was exactly what they wanted to do. A reader to the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book. Piper grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Chicago and loves putting faces and characters of every ethnicity in their stories, making their fictional worlds as colorful as the real one. Above all, Piper believes there’s no one way to have an HEA, and every person deserves to see themselves reflected on the page.

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