Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Gabriel “Banksy” Martin is living the life he has always wanted. A forward for the young hockey team, the Quebec City Nordiques, Gabe stays focused on his job and his team leaving him little time for anything else. And that includes the so so boyfriend he’s been seeing on the sly. Because nothing in his life says that Gabe wants to be the first out hockey player. What Gabe wants is a great season and to win the Stanley Cup…nothing more.
Teammate Dante Baltierra is young in almost every respect. Dante, aka Baller, is careless, reckless… shameless. He’s a known horn dog with a penchant for women and partying. But no one questions his dedication to the sport and Gabe can overlook a lot of young-and-stupid in the name of great hockey. Plus Dante has a superlative ass in a sport filled with superlative asses.
Gabe is determined to keep the attraction he feels building towards Dante buried deep but a jilted boyfriend and fate have other ideas. When a tabloid expose’ threatens not only Gabe’s career but the stability of the team, what happens in the aftermath is something Gabe never expected or could have hoped for…a love that just might last a lifetime.
The writing team of Ashlyn Kane and Morgan James has produced quite a few favorite stories of mine in the past. But it has been a while since I have read any of their novels and the reason escapes me because Winging It is a prime example why I adored their books to begin with. It’s simply terrific storytelling.
I love plots involving hockey players! I love the game (Caps fan here)! And I love the physique that years of playing hockey leaves these players with, heavily muscled legs and the well known “hockey ass”. Combine all that with romance and a fast played exciting game on ice, and well, I just melt. In Winging It, Ashlyn Kane and Morgan James deliver on all fronts.
Winging It is a superb look at the dynamics of a group of young players still trying to find itself as a team and play well. The Quebec City Nordiques actually existed once (and Kane hopes they will again). The Dekes stand out among all the other teams for a number of reasons. Their amazing coach? A woman. Their owner? A woman. Their formidable PR person? A woman. Kane and James brings this team vividly to life and no part of the organization is overlooked or made to feel less important to the plot and the team. I thought all the characters were just so well conceived and fleshed out that I was totally bought into the team and its run for the Stanley Cup.
The characters of Gabe “Banksy” Martin and Dante “Baller” Baltierra feel as real to me as the snow I see just outside my window. Boisterous, lively, intelligent and focused on the game, they never come across as anything less than authentic hockey players having the time of their lives. The authors are careful to include the long hours, the pain and muscle spasms, along with houses and condos that rarely see their owners because of the demands of the sport. We get the camaraderie that’s so important to helping a team gel as well as the conflict that can tear it apart. I mean really you can almost smell the stink of the locker room after a hard game, the descriptions are so on point.
And the romance, if you can call it that, so well done and believable. It did feel more like a hockey player’s idea of a romance and that’s fine by me. Because even the romance has so many aspects to it. It’s not just Gabe being out…it’s Baller looking at his sexuality. It’s not just what exposure means on a huge scale but what it means to have a ‘first meaningful” relationship at all. It’s watching these two navigate typical first love and relationship “stuff”, along with team and family dynamics. All while playing the season of a lifetime. Talk about sizzle!
Kane and Morgan set the bar high for themselves here and made it look easy. The narrative flows, the scenes are exciting and full of suspense, and the outcome for Gabe and Dante’s relationship and every game they play is always in question. We are never sure of anything in this story just as there are no sureties in the sport. Teams and teammates don’t remain the same, injuries happen, and sometimes a team just can’t catch a break. It’s all there, gripping and full of drama and excitement. Trust me when I say your attention is engaged from start to finish, along with your heart! Take all the elements at play here, the crowds, the teamwork, the plays, and the opposition and media, throw in romance and love. Stir vigorously and out flows Winging It, one of my highly recommended reads.
Oh, and be sure to read the forward and afterword by the authors. Its highlight is Kane’s introduction to the game of hockey and a wonderful summary of the teams now playing. I loved that too. Go, Caps! Rock the Red! And may the Nordiques come back, if not an actual team once more, then at least in another story by Ashlyn Kane and Morgan James. Pretty please? With hockey pucks?
Cover art by Paul Richmond. People either love or dislike this type of rough cover. I thought it worked in the sort of stylized way because Im not sure any model could have “stood in” for Gabe or Dante (or their bodies). For examples, check out the Tumblr blog “Hockey Asses”. You’ll thank me.
ebook, 300 pages
Expected publication: February 20th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press