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


Note: This ARC was provided by Riptide Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Authors Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn have joined writing forces once again for a brand new hockey romance-themed series entitled Hat Trick. The series kicks off with Off the Ice, a student-professor story with BDSM elements between twenty-three-year-old Atlanta Venom defenseman Tristan Holt and thirty-four-year-old sociology professor Sebastian Cruz. Tristan may be you and capable of doing his job on the ice, but he's also realistic and knows that the time may come wherein he'll need something to fall back on. Going back to school to get his business degree while playing the sport he loves is his main focus, but he soon finds himself distracted by his professor, the grumpy and very much out Sebastian. In order to do what he does, Tristan needs to stay in control, but he craves to be with someone who can get him out of his own head--someone in whom he can pass on that tightly held control. Sebastian seems to be more than qualified to be who Tristan needs, but as quickly as his feelings are developing for the pro hockey player, he refuses to be any man's dirty secret--even if it's Tristan's.

I loved the pace in which Tristan and Sebastian's relationship developed, even though there was that unacknowledged mutual spark of attraction from the moment they noticed each other inside the classroom. The direction that the authors chose to take was one that I appreciated, especially because we got to see that Tristan wasn't a simple story about a teacher and his student crushing on one another and then falling madly in love and defying the odds and rules and regulations of the school and society. Both men are complicated, and I enjoyed getting to know them beyond Tristan's being a young professional hockey player and Sebastian's being a university professor with ambitions of tenure. I appreciated that there weren't any other men popping about simply to cause friction between these two because that's one of the more common sources of tension in romances. Same goes with how most of those around them reacted to their relationship and the revelation of Tristan's sexuality, what with him being in the closet for fear of how his Midwestern family and his teammates would deal with his secret.

These two men had some major hurdles to get through, the biggest of which was Tristan's not being open about his sexuality. It's also this particular issue that had me pausing a bit because I wasn't a fan of the way Sebastian pressured him to come out. Sure, he didn't flat-out tell Tristan that he needed to tell the world he was gay, but to me, it felt as if he held the future of their relationship hostage, refusing to go any further if the younger man kept silent about his sexuality. And this was AFTER Tristan took the huge step of coming out to his parents and siblings. It was Sebastian's best friend and fellow professor, R.J. Marcus, who saw things from a far clearer perspective, especially when it came to what Sebastian was asking Tristan to do. that Tristan was in love with. I wasn't a fan of Sebastian's for the latter part of the book, to the point that the guy simply ticked me off. He didn't have as much that had to be put in the line compared to Tristan, even though I get his not wanting to be in the closet with the man he loved. Sigh. So, while I liked the book overall, my dislike for Sebastian has me giving Off the Ice four stars. ♥

Date Read: 30 October 2017

Learn more about Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn.

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