ARC Review: Empty Net by Avon Gale

Blurb:

Empty_Net_FINALSpartanburg Spitfires’ goalie and captain Isaac Drake ended last season with an unexpected trip to the playoffs. He’s found a home and family with his coach and mentor, Misha Samarin, and he’s looking forward to making a serious run for the Kelly Cup. But things take an interesting turn when Isaac’s archnemesis, Laurent St. Savoy, is traded to the Spitfires. After Laurent’s despicable behavior in the playoffs last year, Isaac wants nothing to do with him – no matter how gorgeous he is. But that changes when Isaac discovers the reason for Laurent’s attitude.

Laurent St. Savoy grew up the only son of a legendary NHL goalie in a household rife with abuse, constantly treated like a disappointment on and off the ice. When a desperate attempt to escape his father’s tyranny sends him to the Spitfires, the last thing Laurent wants is to make friends. But there’s something about Isaac Drake that he can’t resist, and Laurent has an opportunity to explore his sexuality for the first time, but he’s cracking under end-of-the season pressures. When facing the playoffs and a rivalry turned personal vendetta, Isaac’s not sure he’s enough to hold Laurent—or their relationship—together.

This book does contain some non-graphic references to past childhood physical/emotional abuse as well as issues relating to ED (bulimia and restricted eating, disordered thoughts about eating).

Add it on Goodreads.
Pre-order at Dreamspinner Press / Amazon 
Release Date: September 2nd

annie

*I was a beta reader for this book so my review is not completely unbiased*

If you’re looking for a coherent and eloquent review you probably won’t find this here because when it comes to this book and the characters I fall into fangirl mode so fast. And I just can’t stop myself.
I absolutely LOVE this book and Isaac Drake is my patronus. Because this book. OMG this book!
I’ve read it four times already (it’s not even out yet! lol) and I know there’s many more rereads to come. Because some books just click with you, maybe because you can especially relate to the characters, because you love the story or the author’s writing style just pulls you in.

For me it’s a mix of all three. This book resonated so much with me and I feel like whatever I say it won’t do it justice. If you follow me on twitter you know that I absolutely adore Avon Gale because she’s an amazing human being but also writes such fantastic stories and well, Isaac is one of my absolute favourite characters. I love this blue-haired, outspoken and charismatic goalie so much. And I was so happy for him to get his own book. Although this book is as much about Laurent as it is about Isaac.
This series has gotten better and better, and with each book I fell more in love with that hockey-“world” Avon describes.

I fell in love with Isaac pretty much the first time he was mentioned in Save of the Game:

“But they were the absolute worst team in the league, and their goalie, Isaac Drake, spent most of the game yelling. At his own team.”

That short sentence made him stand out and I wanted to know more about him. And then in Power Play I was an absolute goner. If I ever have to decide on just one favourite character, it’s him! I adore his loyalty, his fierceness and a the way he’s just so Isaac. (btw. I mentioned that this is not going to be eloquent, right? 😉 )

And Laurent.. where should I begin? I didn’t really like him in Power Play. He was an absolute ass but it only took the first chapter of Empty Net and I couldn’t hate him anymore. By chapter two I was probably halfway to “I love him” instead of “I don’t hate him anymore”. I could relate to him so much for personal reasons I won’t go into here, but yeah I understood him and his reasons for closing himself off.

“Telling him firmly to be quiet was one of them. Strange that someone who had been silenced his whole life would like that so much.”

Isaac and Laurent as a couple might not seem like they’d fit together at first glance but they do. I wouldn’t say they’d be perfect for each other because I’m not sure that the “perfect” partner exists. But I’d say these two come pretty darn close. Isaac instinctually knows what Laurent needs. When he finds him sobbing in the showers after the training he can’t just turn around although he has every reason to. But that’s just not who Isaac is. He sees that Laurent is hiding behind this mean-persona and I LOVE how Isaac is not afraid to tell Laurent that he has a problem. Or that he needs to get help.
I loved how their relationship evolved. I mean at the end of Power Play Laurent spit in Isaacs face. And Isaac has every reason to be mad at Laurent, and be like “I don’t give a damn!”. But then again he wouldn’t really be Isaac. He grew so much as a character from Power Play to Empty Net and in this book he really shines. He knows when to push Laurent but also when he needs to give Laurent his space. Another aspect I really enjoyed was how they communicated with each other. Not always verbally, sometimes it’s just a look or a gesture and they know what the other one needs.

“It was the nickname, Laurent figured, as he followed Isaac down the stairs. It made him feel like a different person, like someone who could maybe not be a disappointment. And oh fuck. Who was he kidding? It was going to end badly, just like everything else.”

And to see Laurent slowly open up after what his father did.. I just want to squeeze hug him so hard! (But because I know he wouldn’t like it I will refrain.) Of course it’s not right what he did, and there’s no excuse but then again he had to suffer years of physical and psychological abuse from his dad and just wanted to get his approval. I think that leads to stupid decisions in the moment.

Of course it was also great to see more of Misha and Max a couple of months into their relationship. They’re so domestic! And don’t get me started on the whole Misha – Isaac relationship. ❤

Empty Net deals with a few heavier themes than the previous books and Avon handled each of them excellently. I’d say I’m sad that his story is finished now but you know Isaac.. he just won’t stay quiet and I know this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him.

To finish this gushing thing called review I can only recommend you to read these books. They have it all, great hockey, humour and adorable characters but also heartfelt moments and such beautiful relationships. Not just the romantic ones but also those between the teammates or the father son relationship between Misha and Isaac.
Seriously, if you haven’t read these books, do it. You won’t regret it.

Genre: Contemporary Orientation: Asexual (+ace-spec) Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Review Tag: Enemies to Lovers Tag: Part of a series Tag: Sports

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