Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Victor Kalinski and his husband, Dan Arou, are living the dream. Married for over a year now, the couple have settled into life in Cayuga surrounded by friends, family, and a team that’s poised to make another championship run. Each man is enjoying professional success as well as personal bliss. Who knew life in the suburbs with a spouse and a child could be so darn satisfying? Not Vic. K, that’s for sure.
The happy times are about to turn rough, though. The Cougars have picked up a new player, Sander March, a brash young center whose sass, skill, and attitude can rival Victor’s. When it’s revealed that this new player and Dan have history, tensions begin to rise between the newlyweds. As Victor and Dan work on those issues, the one person Victor never thought he would meet arrives in the small New York hamlet and proceeds to flip everything in Vic’s life upside down.
Can Victor and Dan’s marriage withstand what life is about to drop on it, or will the challenges be too much for them to handle?
Out of all of the three books in this terrific series by V.L. Locey, Coach’s Challenge (Cayuga Cougars #3) is by far the best. It’s just superb in every way. From the excellent writing to the nuanced characters to multiple elements the author uses in this story, Coach’s Challenge just continued to surprise me with it’s depth, it’s ability to swing between emotions and subjects without feeling abrupt or jarring, or losing it’s powerful edge.
Most of that is due to the complex, tormented man Victor Kalinski, the Coach of Coach’s Challenge. Married to hockey player Dan Arou, their lives are centered around the AHL team Cayuga Cougars, but his personal demons are driving him constantly. With a back history being abandoned by his father, then left to be raised alone with a unbalanced, drug crazed mother who physically, mentally and emotionally tortured him since he was a baby? Yes, anger , self worth, and trust issues abound, even though he’s finally found happiness with Dan.
The reader is given a front row seat to the inner turmoil and fire that’s the mind and heart of Victor Kalinski. It’s doesn’t matter whether we are at the hockey ring watching the goalie in his “butterfly defense” posture (and having Locey easily sliding in an explanation of what that is for hockey neophytes) or sitting in his therapist’s office for one of their gut wrenching sessions. Oh those sessions! As Victor fights against the questions she’s asking him, the dialog runs from outright hilarity to breakdown sobbing that has you reaching for the tissues as well. If I could reach out to the author for all the dialog and just for this man alone, I would be hugging her and giving her a writing award.
And while we are glued to the incredible passion and drama that is Victor Kalinski, that means we are bound also to those around him. Dan Arou, who’s love for Vic, means he has to navigate the emotionally troubled times, the anger, self hate, and in this case, jealousy of Dan’s past love life, that comes with being with Victor, both as a Coach and as a husband. Watching the interplay and relationship dynamics, so grownup, between these men, is such a pleasure. They actually talk things through, working out issues as grownups should. They talk about his sessions with his therapist, how it affects them, more issues to be discussed, very aware that’s nothing is resolved or can be when you are dealing with years of abuse such as Victor’s. His scars are deep, not just the ones you see on the surface.
Every character here is a pleasure to meet. I loved his therapist, the hockey players we have come to know and love in the prior stories, his son and baby mama (Victor is bi), everyone here is given the Locey treatment. By that I mean, each one feels alive, fully dimensional, and able to shoulder an entire story on their own because their personalities and lives have foundation and are real to me.
I love hockey (go Caps) so having a series and this story where the author’s exuberance for the sport and its players flows over every word and page is such a joy to read. Combine that with outstanding storylines and characters so memorable that you want to stay in their lives a little longer? Well, if I could give this story more than 5 stars I would. And I can’t wait to see where this series goes next.
I highly recommend Coach’s Challenge (Cayuga Cougars #3) by V.L. Locey. Excellent in every way.
Cover Design: Rêverie Design & Formatting. I wish that black and white scene was a little more well defined. I like the overall composition but it’s grayed out too much and it’s hard to see. Plus the model in the back is way too young for the men n the story.