“You carried your demons with you everywhere, the way you carried your shadow.” ― Lauren Oliver
Author: Teegan Loy
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 254 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Rising men’s figure skating star, Justin Corrin, is coming home to train for the upcoming season and face his demons. The last thing Justin needs is to fall in love with a hockey player. Instead of getting rid of his demons, Justin is collecting more. He tries desperately to control his growing feelings for CJ Daly, but finds being with CJ keeps his nightmares away.
Justin isn’t the only one with problems, and hidden fears and secrets threaten to separate the two. With the pressure mounting, CJ starts to pull away, and Justin doesn’t know why. His skating suffers, and he decides to stop wasting his time on love and focus on winning the nationals.
If Justin can destroy his demons, he might have a chance for happiness on and off the ice. But if the demons win, Justin’s life could be ruined.
Review: I’ve read Echos of Us by this author and absolutely loved it. I found myself jumping to grab this one. I was not disappointed.
Justin is going home to practice for the upcoming figure skating season. Waiting for him is an estranged family, an ex boyfriend, and a best friend. The story is told through Justin’s POV, so we know he’s not looking forward to seeing anyone. We also get a glimpse of why, and I would have to say he had good reasons for staying away.
Right away we see Justin’s family trying to right past mistakes. I was a little frustrated with Justin because while refusing to let go of the past, he couldn’t see the efforts being made by the people around him. Then again, Justin was dealing with demons that have plagued him for years, forgiveness wasn’t going to happen overnight. I loved the way the author portrayed these demons. When we read about a character with some lingering baggage, we get the doubts and fears they are carrying around with them. This author takes that idea and literally brings it front and center. Not only does Justin see and feel his demons, the reader does too. It was cleverly done and put a little humor into an otherwise heavy storyline.
I really felt for Justin. It seems as though the three years he spent away from home hasn’t diminished the hurt and rejection he feels, made even worse because his father, who is also a hockey coach, is disappointed in him for choosing figure skating over hockey. He’s not close to his brother and sister. And there’s Danny, the closeted hockey player who broke his heart.
As I was reading more of the story, it became abundantly clear that this was a little more than just a romance with a sports theme. Yes, there is a little hockey thrown in along with Justin’s figure skating routines, but this was ultimately about a family that is healing and trying to deal with a great loss. Losing ones mother/wife is devastating beyond words. The ones left behind are reeling in their grief, blaming themselves, moving, in motion without emotion. When communication breaks down, it will slowly rip a family apart. And while everyone is dealing with the loss in their own way, I think Justin felt he was all alone without his mother; him against them. His mother was his number one supporter and losing her left him spiraling without direction. So yes, Justin coming home was very difficult for him but in doing so, over the little time he was there, it was definitely a good thing.
Back to the romance. Oh Danny, I wanted to punch you in the face every time you opened your mouth. He was so concerned with what his fellow teammates would think of him if they found out he was gay. Privately he was sweet and loving towards Justin, in public he was a bully, plain and simple. I could understand Justin’s roller coaster feeling for this guy. He knows the other side of him, but oh my god, he needed to just stay away from him for his own sanity. We do see a turn around in Danny by the end of the story. I believe the author handled it very well, and realistically. We see growth and maturity from Danny. Through Justin’s flashbacks we saw their relationship from the past, then we see what it is now with hints to how it will probably be in the future. No strings were left dangling.
And then we get to meet CJ. He’s transferred from another college mid-season under mysterious circumstances. Even though Justin swore off hockey players, CJ was different. For one, he wasn’t in the closet, a major plus. With his own demons to deal with, he was not an open book. He pretty much kept everything to himself. It wasn’t until everything came to a head that he finally opened up and told Justin about what was going on. I really wished he would’ve come out and just told Justin everything from the beginning. I think it would have been easier on him to have someone talk to, someone to lean on instead of going it alone. I won’t go into details about his situation, but it leads to some intense and scary scenes during the story. And we also get a chance to see things from CJ’s perspective, an understanding on why he chose not to get Justin involved. I really liked how the author played this storyline without dragging it along forever. I was happy to see Justin go back on his word about never getting tangled up with another hockey player, he would have been missing out on something great.
With all the secondary characters in the story, my favorite by far was Justin’s best friend Eli. What a great character he was. He never let go of Justin, even when Justin was gone and they didn’t talk for a while. Eli was a constant fixture. He was funny, loyal and just a ball of energy; he really added the light to this story. He also has a big secret he needs to share with Justin, and the outcome leads to some hysterical moments. I’m hoping we see more of him, maybe a book of his own one day.
Overall, this was a great to read. Some heavy storylines to get through with a happy ending and an understanding of what family and friends truly are.