Author: Avon Gale
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages
At a Glance: Thank you for this fabulous, fun, swoon-filled series, Ms. Gale. I’m so in love.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: 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.
Review: When I initially read the first chapter of Power Play, which was at the end of Save of the Game, I was immediately stoked for this book. How cool that Avon Gale was going to take us off the ice for a coaches’ story. How intriguing that the two MCs were former…what? Arch rivals? Talk about piqued interest! It was an absolutely perfect teaser. As it turned out, the story wasn’t entirely what I thought it would be—it was so much more. And, it completely outshined my expectations.
Misha and Max weren’t arch rivals. In reality, they had never even spoken to each other prior to Max showing up for his first day on the job as assistant coach under Misha Samarin, the man who had inadvertently caused the on-ice accident that put an end to Max’s professional hockey career. The accident changed everything for both men. In fact, it ended Misha’s career as well, since he suddenly retired at the end of that season after serving a fifteen game suspension.
That night was five years ago now, though, and Max has found a way to move past it. Even though he can’t play, he is still able to stay in the game he loves by way of coaching. Misha, on the other hand, has not found a way to get past what happened. Even though Max forgave him long ago, for what truly was an accident, Misha has been unable to forgive himself. He continually punishes himself in myriad ways: from not wearing the Stanley Cup ring he feels he didn’t earn and doesn’t deserve, to not taking his migraine medication because he doesn’t feel he deserves relief from the pain.
“The forgiveness Max had given him was absolute and overwhelming, and he didn’t want it. He couldn’t have it. It made things too confusing and it took away the simplicity of his suffering.”
Misha broke my heart so many times. His stoicism killed me. Before Max arrives, Misha’s life seemed pretty much devoid of any significant pleasures. But, while Max does begin to bring some light back into his world, he still struggles with so much self-loathing—and Max is just one more thing he doesn’t deserve. Avon Gale did such a great job writing Misha’s story. The puzzle pieces of his background were revealed in perfect increments, showing us who he is bit by bit. We find out how he ended up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, coaching the worst team in the ECHL; and we also learn that the accident is not the only thing in his past he’s unable to forget. Dun dun dunnnn. Such good stuff.
As much as I loved Misha, I also loved Max so much. Max was all positive energy and sunshine, just what Misha needed. He’s also hilarious. Misha got a lot of mileage out of teasing Max about his awful geography skills, among other things. And, where Misha still felt so much buried shame and uncertainty regarding his sexuality—he had always known he was gay, but it obviously wasn’t accepted in Russia—Max has zero problem exploring his bisexuality and figuring things out with Misha. I adored how both their romance and their coaching relationship played out. These two were fantastic together.
Power Play had a slightly heavier feel than the previous two books in the series. It’s still playful and light throughout much of the narrative, but with darker backstories for Misha and one of the Spitfire’s players, it definitely had a more serious tone. Don’t get me wrong…it’s still very funny at times, and there is still that epic banter we have grown to love with all of these guys. I LOVE how funny these books are! But, this one felt a little deeper and more serious at times, and I liked that, too.
Once again there was a ton to love here. Misha and Max…the team and all the rest of the supporting characters (including some fabulous cameos from other Scoring Chances peeps that are so fun)…so much humor and love, and so many feels…and, the hockey. Always the hockey. I love how each book takes us through a season with one of the teams. The players have become so real to me. I root for these guys, man! I want my Sea Storm gear, and my Spitfires gear! I can’t wait to see who’s going to win the Kelly Cup in the next book. 🙂
Speaking of which—you will die when you read the excerpt from the next book, Empty Net!! Now I can’t wait for that one. Thank you for this fabulous, fun, swoon-filled series, Ms. Gale. I’m so in love.
You can buy Power Play here: