A MelanieM Review: Coach’s Challenge (Scoring Chances #5) by Avon Gale

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

It’s been decades since blackmail forced Troy Callahan to retire from playing professional hockey, and he’s built a successful career behind the bench. When he’s offered the opportunity to coach the Asheville Ravens—the most hated team in the ECHL—he’s convinced that his no-nonsense attitude is just what the team needs to put their focus back on hockey. But Troy is disheartened when he finds out the Ravens have signed Shane North, a player known for his aggression—especially when Shane’s rough good looks have Troy thinking inappropriate thoughts about a player, even if he’s set to retire at the end of the season.

Shane’s career in the majors never quite took off. Wanting to quit on his own terms, Shane agrees to a one-year contract with the Ravens and finds himself playing for a coach who thinks he’s an aging goon, and with a team that doesn’t trust him, Troy, or each other. Despite his determination not to get involved, Shane unwillingly becomes part of the team… and is just as unwillingly drawn to the gruff, out-and-proud coach. As the Ravens struggle to build a new identity, Shane and Troy succumb to the passion that might cost them everything.

I hate coming to the last of the released books in a series I love, especially this one.  Scoring Chances has really grabbed at my heart with the stories of competing teams in the ECHL, whether it’s been the  Jacksonville Sea Storm, Spartanburg Spitfires, and here finally the reviled Asheville Ravens, and the hockey players within those teams that love and fought hard on and off the ice.

What a group its been.  Closeted players, tormented coaches, goalies tossed away by their families and rich kids coming into their own and finding love and themselves on and off the ice.  Avon Gale has captured the essence of this game at its most basic while giving the readers great romance and yes, sexy men.

ECHL is a special place.  Easy Come Hard to Leave as the author has mentioned the East Coast Hockey League is called.  The players come into it not solely by draft, although those lucky enough to be drafted by the NHL are sent there first to learn the ropes and get seasoning.  No, hockey players can just show up and try out, no draft needed.    It lends itself to a special type of player and mentality.  And a camaraderie between the players off the ice after the games are over.  It’s an atmosphere where the pay is miniscule, the hours long, and the passion for the game hot.

We get that in these stories and from these men and couples.  Certainly so here from the man trying to rebuild one of the most hated teams in the ECHL.  That would be the Ashville Ravens. In Coach’s Challenge (Scoring Chances #5) by Avon Gale we finally get an inside look at the team we’ve only seen on the other side of the rink.  Usually its after they’ve tossed slurs at some of our favorite men or even committed crimes against them.   Now we get the flip side as Troy Callahan takes on the unenviable job of coach and rebuilding this team completely after the events of the last story.

Troy has given up the chance to coach in the NHL to rebuild the Ravens and all the reasons why fall out quickly.  Troy’s character is hockey tough, his personal pain still  driving him, and he’s easy to connect to.  So is the man arriving late to training, Shane North, a hockey player in the last year before retirement and looking to go out the right way.

Shane North, older, looking for one last year of hockey, played honorably, is a perfect person to represent a ECHL player.  Someone with years of playing behind them who still wants to play, that one more year.  Who continues to love the game.  He’s human, layered, and so personable that I just fell in love with him.   And his rickety car that barely made it to Ashville.

Between Shane and Troy, the chemistry is immediately hot, the dynamics perfect, and I love the way their relationship plays out  professionally and out of uniform.

There is still fallout from the scandal and NHL proceedings that entwine throughout the story.  The intrigue and suspense just adds to the overall depth and enjoyment.  But the real stars here remain the game and the romance.  The action on the ice, the plays, the excitement! You can almost imagine these teams and players are real.  That goes for the love and romance too.

I just adore this series and hope eventually to see another story release.  There are other players here that need their HEA and story told.   I’ll be waiting for it and them.

Until that happens, I’ll be content to reread this series as is.  Are you new to it?  I highly recommend each and every story but read them in the order they were written to understand the history of the teams, the players, and the Kelley Cup.  It’s a journey you won’t want to miss out on.

Cover art: Aaron Anderson.  Again, another great cover that brands the series and the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published June 26th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original Title Coach’s Challenge
ISBN139781635337662
Edition Language English
Series Scoring Chances #5

Reviewer note: arcs purchased directly from Amazon for the entire series.

Scoring Chances Series – add to Goodreads here

Breakaway

Save of the Game

Power Play

Overtime

Empty Net

Coach’s Challenge

A MelanieM Review:Empty Net (Scoring Chances #4) by Avon Gale

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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).

Ah, Belsy. The GM of the Spitfires is always looking for a wild way to promote his team.  If its a bit lurid, so much the better.  As fans and readers of this series know, each story builds upon the other. So Empty Net rests firmly on the foundation of the other stories about the Spitfires, their coaches, and their goalie, Isaac Drake.  We were also afforded a small look at the hated Ravens, their despicable Coach, and his son the goalie Laurent St. Savoy.   Enough to get a feeling that perhaps under all those poisonous words and actions of the Ravens goalie, something deeper lay waiting to be revealed.

As is Avon Gale’s way, the author manages to both focus on the individual, the couple, and the team.  All at the same time, knowing that with hockey, you can’t separate the two, or in this case the three.  Somehow, Avon Gale pulls off a Gordie Howe hat trick of a story.  The author manages to take a character so wounded, so in pain and start to bring him a semblance of healing, love, and the ability to move forward.  For another, Isaac Drake?  More character growth and a depth in personality that’s amazing, to be able to rise and be a winner in aspects he might not have conceived of stories ago. And of course, there’s a fight.  Perhaps, not the one you might expect.  But exceedingly satisfying.

Gale’s characterizations are always exceptional, and Scoring Chances really raises the bar.  In Isaac Drake and Laurent St. “Saint” Savoy, you have two young men damaged by their families, each taking a different path under that emotional and physical abuse.  We have learned much about Drake’s in the past stories.  So in this respect, we get a in depth look at what a father’s hatred can do to a son.  I will mention that if you have a trigger for bulimia or eating disorders, that is an element that is part of Saint’s character and is examined closely here as is his past physical abuse.

His treatment of his son, how the self hatred manifests itself…it is all treated realistically as is getting Saint help.  Your heart will ache for this character and all he’s been through.  And the relationship as Saint learns social skills, not only as a boyfriend,but as a teammate and friend to other players?  Golden moments indeed.  I ended up cherishing this couple, the dialogs, all the scenes.  Some tragic, some remarkable, and yes, some very funny.

All the other teammates are well accounted for as are the two coaches (who I loveO Samarin and Ashford.  Gale never forgets the importance of the team, the place of the players within it, and the teams support of them both.  It’s that rock solid foundation that allows them all to soar.  And Gale to deliver this hat trick!

How I adore this story and series.  A comfort read times 5.  Yes I highly recommend them all.  Read them in the order they were written for the best experience you could wish for.  Another story coming up!

Cover art: Aaron Anderson.  I love these covers, brands the series perfectly and works for each story.

Sales Links: Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published September 2nd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Original Title Empty Net
ISBN 1634775856 (ISBN13: 9781634775854)
Edition Language English

Scoring Chances Series

Breakaway

Save of the Game

Power Play

Overtime

Empty Net

Coach’s Challenge

A MelanieM Review:Overtime (Scoring Chances #3.5) by Avon Gale

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This short story (approximately 4000 words) takes place after the events of Power Play and before Empty Net. It features Spartanburg Spitfires’ goalie Isaac Drake — as well as a few other familiar faces — and is available as a bonus for Avon’s newsletter subscribers.

You can access the story in three different formats here: http://www.instafreebie.com/free/2jdBs

And! Check out a bonus audio version, also free, here:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/kn5rwgj93cg…

 

Overtime is a short story that bridges Power Play and Empty Net.  It’s an important one because it features Isaac Drake, the Spitfires goalie.  He’s been an important character in this series, especially in his almost father/son dynamic that has evolved with his  coach, Misha Samarin.  Their stories and backgrounds so similar despite the differences in countries.  And the readers have been able to watch his character grow and his personality strengthen under Misha’s tutelage and support.

Here, we get another important step in the Spitfires overal team definition as it evolved towards its goal as a champion team and Isaac’s barriers that they have faced and may face again.  It also shows, yet again, another facet to their GM Belsy.

I am so addicted to this series and characters.  I just can’t get enough.  Well written, explosive ..on and off the ice ..by an author who knows the game and loves the men who plays it.

May this series never end.

Cover art: Aaron Anderson. Perfection.  Brands the series, works for the story.  Just outstanding.

Sales Links: Free

Book Details:

ebook, 13 pages
Published July 2016
Edition Language English
Series Scoring Chances #3.5

Scoring Chances Series

Breakaway

Save of the Game

Power Play

Overtime

Empty Net

Coach’s Challenge

A MelanieM Review: Power Play (Scoring Chances #3) by Avon Gale

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A freak accident during the Stanley Cup Playoffs put an end to Max Ashford’s hockey career. Despite everything, Max gets back into the game he loves—only this time, behind the bench as an assistant coach of the Spartanburg Spitfires, the worst team in the entire league. But nothing prepares him for the shock when he learns the new head coach is Misha Samarin, the man who caused Max’s accident.

After spending years guilt ridden for his part in Max’s accident, Russian native Misha Samarin has no idea what to do when he’s confronted with Max’s presence. Max’s optimism plays havoc with Misha’s equilibrium—as does the fierce attraction that springs up between them.

Not only must they navigate Misha’s remorse and a past he’s spent a lifetime trying to forget, but also a sleazy GM who is determined to use their history as a marketing hook. But when an unwelcome visitor targets a player, Misha revisits his darkest days, and that might cost him and Max the beginning they’ve worked so hard to build.

With each new novel in the Scoring Chances series I’m finding myself saying “oh, this is now my favorite story and couple”.  Because this series just keeps getting better and better.

Power Play (Scoring Chances #3) by Avon Gale switches the focus of the series over to the hapless Spartanburg Spitfires, previously mentioned as the worst team in the ECHL, the one you didn’t want to be traded to.  Now it’s undergoing a radical change with a new coach and assistant coach team brought in by it’s owner and GM Max to light a fire and shake things up.  What better way then to team two men to coach together that were featured in one of the most notorious hockey injuries in recent memory?

However, under that powderkeg of a idea and storyline, lies a layered duo and a terrific plot. Misha Samarin, the demonized player (unfairly) in this scenario has since then logged many years both as a NHL player and minor league coach.  He’s earned this spot and respect.  The many dimensions to his personalities that will be plumbed during this story, not only through his interactions with Max and their shared accident and growing romance, but also through a player in the Spitfire team with a shared background.  I really connected with Misha and adored this man utterly.   He’s complex, intelligent, and amazing.  Then Gale pairs him with Max, who’s career as a player was finished by their shared accident on ice while Misha’s continued.  Max has had to rebuild and retool, his goals, his life…and the result is unexpectedly optimistic and charming.  While others might be bitter, Max is forward thinking and positive in his outlook, something that astonishes the Russian, who doesn’t expect forgiveness.

The dynamics and the chemistry between Max and Misha is electrifying.  For that alone, buy this book.  Then comes the hockey and this sad sack bunch that becomes a real cohesive hockey team under the guidance and leadership of these two men. It feels real, and authentic, and wow, do you start to cheer for them all.  Trust me, you’ll be picturing these games in your head and screaming and cheering them on…go Spitfires go.  Even that smarmy Belsy of a GM turns out to have layers….

Then there’s s Isaac Drake, goalie of the Spitfires.  He will win your heart too.  Just a complex character (ok he’s a goalie) and he is getting his own story too.  So worthy of it.

But I can’t help that it’s the Russians that continue to capture my heart.   Here it’s Mikhail ‘Misha’ Samarin who takes the honors.  With that haunted past, reserved manner, intelligence, and yes, humor, I’m addicted to him.  It doesn’t take long,  It didn’t for Max.  And it won’t for anyone picking up this story.

Love contemporary romance?  Whether you love hockey or not, this one is for you. Power Play (Scoring Chances #3) by Avon Gale is well written, beautifully plotted, full of amazing characters and with a sexy, hot romance and great action on ice to boot.  Grab this and the entire series up for a reading experience guaranteed to stay with you!

Cover art: Aaron Anderson.  What that cover might surprise some people, those who love hockey know that the coaches wear suits as do the players coming into the area.  They look sharp and that suit projects the right powerful image i would expect of Misha Samarin.  excellent all around.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published May 9th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Original Title Power Play
ISBN 163477244X (ISBN13: 9781634772440)
Edition Language English
Series Scoring Chances #3
setting South Carolina (United States)

Scoring Chances Series

Breakaway

Save of the Game

Power Play

Overtime

Empty Net

Coach’s Challenge

An Ali Release Day Review: Coach’s Challenge (Scoring Chances #5) by Avon Gale

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
It’s been decades since blackmail forced Troy Callahan to retire from playing professional hockey, and he’s built a successful career behind the bench. When he’s offered the opportunity to coach the Asheville Ravens—the most hated team in the ECHL—he’s convinced that his no-nonsense attitude is just what the team needs to put their focus back on hockey. But Troy is disheartened when he finds out the Ravens have signed Shane North, a player known for his aggression—especially when Shane’s rough good looks have Troy thinking inappropriate thoughts about a player, even if he’s set to retire at the end of the season.

Shane’s career in the majors never quite took off. Wanting to quit on his own terms, Shane agrees to a one-year contract with the Ravens and finds himself playing for a coach who thinks he’s an aging goon, and with a team that doesn’t trust him, Troy, or each other. Despite his determination not to get involved, Shane unwillingly becomes part of the team… and is just as unwillingly drawn to the gruff, out-and-proud coach. As the Ravens struggle to build a new identity, Shane and Troy succumb to the passion that might cost them everything.
This was a really fun and entertaining read.  It was a lighter installment than the last two books in the series and it was nice to get back to the easy flow of the first books.  Troy and Shane are a bit older and their relationship is different in that it’s a coach/player dynamic.  Fortunately the way it was done didn’t leave any creepy power imbalance vibes.  Shane was older and close to retiring so he seemed like an equal to Troy.  They were both also snarky and funny and I think I laughed out loud more in this book than any of the others.  If you are a hockey fan you will really appreciate some of the remarks (& if not you’ll still be entertained).
I enjoyed the humor and the easy way they came together.  It’s nice to find romance books without all the angst and drama sometimes.  My only complaint though was that these two were so snarky and teasing with each other that I didn’t feel a strong connection.  I know that was their personalities but I wanted to see some sweet or loving or romantic declarations during their intimate times but we didn’t really get that.  I new really felt a love match between them.  A great friendship and some smexy times yes, but I wasn’t feeling the love even by the end.
This can be read as a standalone.  There are some cameos by Isaac/Laurent and Misha/Max (which is always a treat) but this storyline works just fine on it’s own.  We get to know a few other teammates a bit better and hopefully we’ll be seeing some of them getting their own books down the road. 
If you’re a fan of the series I think you will enjoy this.  If you are knew to this series, this one wasn’t my favorite, but it was still really enjoyable and I would recommend it.
Cover:  This cover was done by Aaron Anderson.  I loved this cover and I think that this series has some of the best covers in the genre.  They are artistically striking but they also really represent not only the plot of the books but of the sport itself.  Every one has been fresh and different but equally good.
Book Details:
ebook, 200 pages
Published June 26th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781635337662
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesScoring Chances #5

Love Gets a Sporting Chance with ‘Save of the Game’ by Avon Gale (guest interview, excerpt and giveaway)

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SaveoftheGameFS

Save of the Game by Avon Gale
Release Date: January 29, 2016

Goodreads Link
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

Today Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Avon Gale with us. Avon Gale is the author of Save of the Game, a story in her Scoring Chances series. Avon, would you share 10 things 10 things we didn’t know about you with our readers.

  • I have a master’s degree in ancient history, and studied Spartan military history.
  • I spent ten years after grad school working in fundraising for non-profits, including women’s liberal arts education and public radio.
  • I have a black belt in Taekwondo.
  • I have 11 tattoos.
  • I’m an only child.
  • I always seem to hate movies that everyone loves, like “A Christmas Story”, “Pretty Woman,” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
  • 90% of the movies I watch are horror films (which might explain #6!)
  • My favorite TV show of all times is Mystery Science Theatre 3000
  • I was in a sorority in college.
  • I am physically incapable of snapping my fingers.

Thanks, Avon.  MST3K just happens to be one of my all time favorites as well.  Now more about Save of the Game.

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Blurb

After last season’s heartbreaking loss to his hockey team’s archrival, Jacksonville Sea Storm goalie Riley Hunter is ready to let go of the past and focus on a winning season. His new roommate, Ethan Kennedy, is a loud New Yorker with a passion for social justice that matches his role as the team’s enforcer. The quieter Riley is attracted to Ethan and has no idea what to do about it.

Ethan has no hesitations. As fearless as his position demands, he rushes into things without much thought for the consequences. Though they eventually warm to their passionate new bond, it doesn’t come without complications. While trying to financially help Ethan, Riley must hide his family’s wealth so as not to hurt Ethan’s immense pride. For their relationship to work, Ethan will need to learn when to keep the gloves on and let someone help him—and Riley will have to learn it’s okay to let someone past his defenses.

 

Pages or Words: 200 pages
Categories: Bisexual, Contemporary, Fiction, Gay Fiction, Sports, Hockey

Series: Scoring Chances
This book is a ‘Scoring Chances’ novel. It can be read as a standalone.

 

Excerpt

His phone beeped, alerting him that he had a new text message. It was from Ethan Kennedy, the defenseman the Storm had acquired before the trade deadline last spring. The rowdy Kennedy, who had a heavy New York accent and was a huge fan of the New York Rangers—a team Riley hated, by virtue of being a New Jersey Devils fan—had bunked with him for a few weeks during the finals. He’d gone back to New York after the Storm lost in the playoffs. Riley hadn’t been sure if he was coming back or not, but the text message indicated he’d just gotten back to town, and would Riley mind picking him up from the airport?

And oh, he got a cheaper rate by flying into Tampa, which was three hours away. Was that a problem? And one last thing. Riley didn’t need a roommate by any chance. Did he?

Riley looked around his apartment, which was nice and clean and quiet. Just like it always was, except for those few weeks last spring when Ethan was there. He was loud and messy and always in Riley’s space, left half-full cans of Pepsi everywhere, drank whiskeys with dubious-sounding names, and smoked like a chimney.

be there in 3 hrs, Riley texted and grabbed a few boxes of coconut water out of his fridge. The idea of coming home alone after games reminded him of those car rides in Wyoming, and he was getting tired of the silence.

Buy the book

Dreamspinner eBook | Amazon | ARe | Kobo

 

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Meet the Author

Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and when she’s not writing you can find her at the salon, making her clients look and feel fabulous. She never gets tired of people and their stories — either real or the ones she makes up in her head.

 

Where to find the author:

 


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4-Feb

The Novel Approach, Boys on the Brink Reviews, Three Books Over The Rainbow, Carly’s Book Reviews, The Hat Party

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Giveaway

Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: 2 copies of ‘Save of the Game’ by Avon Gale.  Link and prizes provided by the author and Pride Promotions.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

 

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