Friday, August 20, 2021

Rachel Reid - Tough Guy

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.

Comment: This is the third installment in the Game Changers series, which has been quite well liked by many readers. I also really loved the previous installment but only now managed to get to this one. I'll try to read the ones after in the following months.

In this third story we have  Ryan, he is a big man, with a ferocious look but in reality he is a teddy bear, he suffers from anxiety, had a public meltdown and has been traded often. He feels lonely and miserable and the fact he is now in a new team in Toronto means he will have to try all over again to be a team player. However, he now makes a friend in the team, he reconnects with someone he used to know as a boy, Fabien, and their friendship seems to help him a lot. Still, he realizes his feelings for that old boy - now a grown up and an attractive one - are changing but can he try to be more when he still feels his issues are too difficult to overcome?

I'd say this is a classic opposites attract rope because Ryan is big and looks tough and Fabien is shorter and looks androgynous, which makes them quite a pair. Still, I was happy with the way their reconnection and relationship progressed, especially because they did seem to be perfect for one another.

It has been interesting to notice how the author has thought about a diverse cast of characters. I like her way of writing so even with characters one might not really expect to enjoy, the story flows and things become intriguing. I especially liked how the characters were complex, well defined, but it wasn't difficult to imagine them as real people.  

Ryan is a very compelling character. I can see why some people think he is too quiet but I could understand his shy and more introverted nature. He also has anxiety, to the point he sees a therapist and takes medication. There were scenes/moments I could almost feel his loneliness so I could very easily sympathize with him. It was a good moment when he made a friend in the team, someone he could trust, and also when he saw Fabien again and even his small group of friends provided much needed interaction for Ryan.

Fabien is a more confident person and he assumes his more femme side but I ended up liking him more than what I normally do when it comes to characters who act overconfident because the author has managed to give Fabien his own insecurities and it was difficult to not commiserate when he felt he had nothing to lose by being loud and proud since his parents were already disappointed he wasn't dedicated to sports. Not even the fact he is very talented in music overcomes what his parents felt was something lacking in him.

The relationship between these two is slow building, respecting boundaries, and we can see how they fall in love by little things, small gestures and moments. Of course there other moments when things seem to not go as well, there's some conflict over what they both want to endure and at some point there's the issue of Ryan's career being based on using his skills in hockey for something he doesn't really like to do. I think there are enough subjects mentioned here, to please different kinds of readers, but for me, I was glad there's was some depth into all those themes.

I wouldn't say this is a perfect novel, certainly doesn't fit all the boxes as easily as the previous book did, but I liked meeting more people in this "universe" and will continue doing so.
Grade: 8/10

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