Title: Tough Guy
Series: Game Changers: Book Three
Author: Rachel Reid
Publisher: Carina Press
Length: 262 Pages
Category: Contemporary Romance
At a Glance: There were so many things that made me love this book. I enjoyed Reid’s storytelling style, and she definitely knows her hockey. If you love hockey romance, or are just looking for a good, solid read, absolutely put this on your list.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: They have nothing in common—so why does Ryan feel most like himself whenever he’s with Fabian?
Pro hockey star Ryan Price may be an enforcer, but off the ice he struggles with anxiety. Recently traded to the Toronto Guardians, he’s determined to make a fresh start in the city’s dynamic LGBTQ Village. The last thing he expects to stumble upon in his new neighborhood is a blast from his past in the fabulous form of Fabian Salah.
Aspiring musician Fabian loathes hockey. But that doesn’t stop him from being attracted to a certain burly, ginger-bearded defenseman. He hasn’t forgotten the kiss they almost shared back in high school, and it’s clear the chemistry between them has only intensified.
Fabian is more than happy to be Ryan’s guide to the gay scene in Toronto. Between dance clubs and art exhibits—and the most amazing sex—Ryan’s starting to feel something he hasn’t experienced in a long time: joy. But playing the role of the heavy on the ice has taken its toll on his body and mind, and a future with Fabian may mean hanging up his skates for good.
Review: Ryan Price is the dictionary definition of a gentle giant. As one of the NHL’s biggest, burliest, most well-known enforcers, he certainly has a reputation. But that reputation isn’t at all the real person. The real Ryan Price is shy, socially awkward, clinically anxious, and hates fighting. Ryan doesn’t want to be an enforcer. He wants to be a hockey player. But, even the extra training in the off-season, and showing up in Toronto in the best shape of his career in the hopes of actually getting to be a defenseman, instead of a glorified boxer, didn’t make a difference. This passage from a conversation with his new coach in the prologue was heartbreaking:
“Well, you know why you’re here. I don’t have to tell you what kind of player you are, and what we expect from you. You get what I’m saying I’m sure.” He stopped smiling and fixed a very pointed look at Ryan.
Ryan got what he was saying all right. It was the same thing that every coach he’d had since he was seventeen had told him: we need you to beat the shit out of opponents who threaten our real players.
Tough Guy is a tough read at times because of the heartache you feel for Ryan. Reid does an excellent job of setting the tone and immediately getting the reader into his head. Nine teams in a little more than ten years and being forced to be a thug on the ice has taken every last ounce of joy out of a game Ryan used to love. He feels stuck, unhappy, scared, and unstable. After a very public breakdown while with his last team, he did get himself into therapy, and started taking medication, but things still aren’t great. He also has a good support system in his family—mainly his sister, who is awesome—and a routine to get him through flights without having a massive panic attack, but what he really, desperately needs is a change.
Fabian Salah is an amazing, up-and-coming musician, who is right on the brink of breaking out of Toronto’s local music scene. He’s out and proud, and unabashedly himself. Fabian hasn’t always been so comfortable in his own skin, however. As a teenager, his family didn’t understand or support him. His father was a hockey coach, and every year his family hosted a junior hockey player, which in Fabian’s mind was his parents’ way of bringing in the son they always wanted. As a result, Fabian HATES hockey, and hockey players. There was that one, though… Ryan Price was the only hockey player who never made Fabian feel uncomfortable. Ryan was different. And, at seventeen they had had a moment. A moment where Fabian had thought Ryan was going to kiss him. But that had been thirteen years ago. So long ago that they both wondered if it had even actually happened. So, imagine Fabian’s surprise when Ryan Price walks into the drugstore he works part-time at in Toronto’s LGBTQ Village.
There were so many things that made me love this book. I adored Ryan. I pretty much instantly fell in love with him when he pulled out a worn copy of Anne of Green Gables on the plane as his comfort item. And, I loved Fabian and Ryan’s history so much, and that neither one had forgotten that connection from when they were teens. Also, Fabian has some fantastic friends who were a big part of the story. I especially loved his friendship with Vanessa. And, Ryan’s teammate Wyatt was so kickass and was literally my favorite. He had so many great moments and was one of the few people who was there for Ryan. There were also a couple of great cameos by Ilya Rozanov, who was one of the MCs in the second book in the series.
Fun fact: I actually haven’t read the first two books in this series—but, boy do I want to now! No need to worry though, Tough Guy can be read as a standalone. Just be prepared to also want to snap up the other books if you haven’t read them. 😊 I enjoyed Reid’s storytelling style, and she definitely knows her hockey. If you love hockey romance, or are just looking for a good, solid read, absolutely put this on your list. In the meantime, I’ll just be over here digging in to Ilya and Shane’s story. 😊
You can buy Tough Guy here:
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