Title: Coach’s Challenge (Scoring Chances: Book Five)
Author: Avon Gale
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 200 Pages
At a Glance: The dialogue is, as always, so sharp and fast-paced. And, so, so funny. Gale writes these guys so well; I’m pretty convinced she was a male hockey player in another life.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: 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.
Review: Avon Gale’s Scoring Chances series is one of my absolute favorite series. I have reviewed all the books on the blog, and, in fact, picked the first four books as part of my Best of 2016 list. Breakaway will always be my favorite—because Lane—but, I really do love all of them so hard, including the newest addition, Coach’s Challenge. I didn’t go back and read my reviews, as I sometimes do to make sure I don’t repeat myself when I’m reviewing a series or an author I review a lot, so I hope my fangirling and gushing comes across as fresh and sincere! Ha! Even if I do get repetitive with any of my praise, though, it’s absolutely deserved, and always one hundred percent sincere. I enjoy these books so damn much.
Coach’s Challenge has a little less actual game play than some of the other books, but it’s still all hockey all the time. Whether it’s time on the ice, coaches and management discussing personnel, or locker room and post-game banter between players, everything is rooted in hockey. Gales’ obvious knowledge of the game is one of the things that makes this series so great. I always learn something about the game, or about hockey culture in general, and I will never grow tired of lines like this:
“…Also, hey. You used to be a Devil, yeah? Fuck the Devils,” Troy said, because hockey was hockey and, honestly, fuck the fucking Devils
The dialogue is, as always, so sharp and fast-paced. And, so, so funny. Gale writes these guys so well; I’m pretty convinced she was a male hockey player in another life. 😀
I adored both main characters in this book. Troy is an abrasive, loud, opinionated man’s man, who is also a fantastic coach—he turned down an assistant coaching position with the Rangers to take this gig in the ECHL—and may or may not have a pretty hefty puzzle habit. Hint: he does. And, Shane is a thirty-six-year-old veteran player, who has come to Asheville to finish out his career with the Ravens. He’s got a reputation as being extremely aggressive on the ice, though that’s not really who he is or how he wants to be known. But, that’s the image he’s fighting against as soon as he arrives in the Ravens’ locker room, and meets Coach Callahan.
The Asheville Ravens are the league’s most hated team, for good reason. Known as homophobic bullies and sometime hitmen, either blackmailed or paid by former coach Denis St. Savoy, there is a lot of shit to clean up before that reputation can be turned around. But, that’s just what Troy and the new GM, Troy’s best friend and former teammate, Gabriel Bow, are there to do. Troy is no stranger to St. Savoy’s garbage. When he was a young player, he was bullied into giving up his career and he hates that the same thing was possibly being done to others like him. I loved this snippet from one of Cally’s epic locker room speeches:
“I was afraid, so I let that asshole bully me too. And that’s ancient history, but when I found out he was pulling the same shit here, it made me fucking ballistic. That’s a fancy word for mad. So yeah, I have a very personal reason for being here, and you can all bet your fucking collective asses I take this shit seriously. Got it?”
Gabe, or Bowie, as Troy calls him, believes that Shane will be a good influence on the team. Troy thinks hiring Shane was a horrible idea. And, Shane thinks that Troy is a raging asshole. So, right away you know that things are gonna be fun!
Other awesome things about the book…Shane’s relationship with his best friend, Alani, a kickass professional surfer who takes shit from no one. Cally’s relationship with Gabe is so brotastic and amazing. Shane’s evolution throughout the book was certainly awesome. Appearances by series favorites Max and Misha, and also Drake and Saint from Empty Net. And, every single thing about Xavier Matthews. I love his character and absolutely can’t wait for his book.
Go get this one, you guys!! I enjoyed it tons. If you haven’t started the series yet *resists urge to yell ‘What’s wrong with you?!’* then you must. I promise you’ll be glad you did!
You can buy Coach’s Challenge here: