Title: Winter Ball
Author: Amy Lane
Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Run Time: 5 hours and 35 minutes
Category: Contemporary, Holiday Romance
At a Glance: This is just a really good friends-to-lovers story that I loved hearing Nick Russo perform, continuing in a series of great performances.
Reviewed By: Sadonna
Blurb: Through a miserable adolescence and a lonely adulthood, Skipper Keith has dreamed of nothing but family. The closest he gets is the rec league soccer team he coaches after work—and his star player and best friend, Richie Scoggins.
One brisk night in late October, a post-practice convo in Richie’s car turns into a sexual encounter neither of them expected—nor want to forget. Soon Skip and Richie are living for the weekends and their winter league soccer games—and the games they enjoy off the field. Through broken noses, holiday decorating, and the killer flu, they learn more about each other than they ever dreamed possible. Every new discovery takes them further beyond the boundaries of the soccer field and into the infinite possibilities of the best relationship of Skipper’s life.
Skipper can’t dream of a better family than Richie—but Richie’s got real family entanglements he can’t shake off. Skipper needs to convince Richie to stay with him beyond winter ball so the relationship they started on the field might become their happy future in real life!
Review: Richie and Skipper are friends, have been friends for six years, since Tech school. Skipper has a job he doesn’t hate, a small house he’s slowly fixing up, a car, some nice coworkers, and the friends on his rec league soccer team. Richie has a lousy family—his father, stepmother, stepbrothers—a shitty apartment above his dad’s garage, and a job that pays pennies at his dad’s business. But he has the soccer team and Skipper as his best friend, so it’s not all bad.
One night after soccer, everything changes. Richie and Skipper get real about how their lives are going, and it turns out they can’t seem to get off the dime with the girls they’ve dated. But hey, maybe it’s not the girls. Maybe Richie and Skipper have just been trying to make something work with the wrong people. And maybe the right person has been in front of them all along.
At first Richie and Skipper are a little bit nervous, but damn, everything just feels so right. They really can’t seem to be just “friends” after they sleep together. Neither has ever been with a man before, but they can’t help feeling that this is the way things are supposed to be. Sure, there are issues that crop up, but it seems like Richie and Skipper are just going to have to figure out a way to deal with them, because there is no way they can give each other up.
I loved the way Skipper wanted to protect Richie from his rotten family. It’s not like Skipper has had a great life either, and he understands Richie’s reluctance to give up on his family—or, at least his dad—but at some point, he can’t just stand by and watch Richie get taken advantage of anymore either.
There are also some great supporting characters in this story, particularly Mason and Carpenter, from Skipper’s work. The soccer team is a bunch of good guys as well. This “family” that Skipper and Richie have made turns out to be the best, and they all look out for each other.
This was a lovely holiday read for me back in December, and getting to hear Nick Russo perform the audio is just icing on the cake. He’s done a great job on all the audios I’ve listened to so far, and I look forward to more. His choice of voice characterizations for Richie and Skipper and the other guys I thought was spot on. I can’t wait to see what he does with Summer Lessons, if indeed he records that. Highly recommended, particularly for those who are fans of a really good friends-to-lovers story from a very skilled narrator.
You can buy Winter Ball here: