Title: Empty Net
Series: Scoring Chances 04
Author: Avon Gale
Genre: Contemporary, Sports
Length: Novel (200pgs)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (2 Sept 2016)
Heat Level: Moderate
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ 5 Hearts
Blurb: Spartanburg Spitfires’ goalie and captain Isaac Drake ended last season with an unexpected trip to the playoffs. He’s found a home and family with his coach and mentor, Misha Samarin, and he’s looking forward to making a serious run for the Kelly Cup. But things take an interesting turn when Isaac’s archnemesis, Laurent St. Savoy, is traded to the Spitfires. After Laurent’s despicable behavior in the playoffs last year, Isaac wants nothing to do with him – no matter how gorgeous he is. But that changes when Isaac discovers the reason for Laurent’s attitude.
Laurent St. Savoy grew up the only son of a legendary NHL goalie in a household rife with abuse, constantly treated like a disappointment on and off the ice. When a desperate attempt to escape his father’s tyranny sends him to the Spitfires, the last thing Laurent wants is to make friends. But there’s something about Isaac Drake that he can’t resist, and Laurent has an opportunity to explore his sexuality for the first time, but he’s cracking under end-of-the season pressures. When facing the playoffs and a rivalry turned personal vendetta, Isaac’s not sure he’s enough to hold Laurent—or their relationship—together.
Please be advised: This book does contain some non-graphic references to past childhood physical/emotional abuse as well as issues relating to ED (bulimia and restricted eating, disordered thoughts about eating).
Review: The Scoring Chances series is still the only books I’ve read by Avon Gale, but I love the hell out of this series. What is even better, that other than my opinion from book 2 where I rated it 3.5/5, these have all been strong books with interesting and strong characters. The issues raised are also quite wide and varied. Another thing is great about the series so far is that we started with ECHL team the Jacksonville Sea Storm and now onto the Spartanbury Spitfires. I also have a feeling that perhaps, after the resolution of the present book, that there could be potentially 2 stories with the most hated team in the series, the Ravens.
But I get ahead of myself.
Empty Net is the fourth installment in this series. There is probably enough information that it can be a standalone but if you feel you need the background info, you only need to read book 3, as there is only a couple passing mentions of the team from the first 2 books.
Empty Net features the troubled young guy who was made captain of the Spitfires in the previous, Isaac Drake, aka Drake. He’s had a troubled past as a young adult after being rejected by his family for being gay. His character evolution really did start in book 3, Power Play, where we had seen the Spitfires’ new coaches get together and for Coach Misha to take Drake under his wing. And now we get the chance to get to know Drake more, as a now fairly well put together adult and team player. He is a strong personality, with an equally strong psyche – if that’s the right word. Put it this way, he is strong mentally and has grown up since his issues raised in the previous book.
Pairing up with Drake is new trade Laurent St. Savoy from the hated Ravens to the Spitfires. He was only mentioned is passing along with his asshole father who is a champion NHL player and now ECHL coach, Denis St. Savoy. He is the one that everyone loves to hate in the league because he is an all around asshole. But in the world of fiction, that usually means that there is something major going on that is messing with the character. Really he’s a just a reserved person who is always in self-defense mode and you find out quickly that there is a real nice guy underneath all the homophobic slurs and violence.
Since Drake faced a lot of his demons in the previous book, we just get a summary of what has happened to him as Drake attempts to help Laurent, when he realizes that the man is psychologically scarred and needs help. So in many ways, Empty Net is Laurent’s path to redemption, finding out about himself as a human being and not a boy afraid of his father, as well as the possibility of finding someone that makes life worth living and becoming a better man.
As I said in the opening of this review, the ending – Laurent’s ultimate redemption and making things right – opens up the possibility of us possibly seeing a new and improved Ravens that no are hopefully no longer the brutish, homophobic assholes that they have been. I really do hope this is true but I absolutely adore this series and, honestly, can’t get enough of it.
If hot guys and hockey is your MM fix, you’re going to love this book and this series.