Someone on Twitter recommended a hockey-set romance trilogy, and the blurb was interesting, so I one-clicked. The writer’s voice/style worked really well for me, and I read the first book and then the second in a couple of days. But by the time I hit the third book, I hit a wall and started noticing all of the shortcomings I’d sort of skipped over and let slide in the earlier books, in part because I did not care for the love interest at all in the third book. (He was a selfish, judgmental jerk, and I DNF’d because I couldn’t imagine him adjusting his attitude or believe any HEA involving him with the hero without the hero reshaping himself in an unhealthy way to get his approval.)
What shortcomings, you wonder? Well, they were little things that accumulated. The books are set in a league that lifts all of the teams and rivalries from the NHL, but renames them, presumably for trademark reasons. But then does things that are inconsistent with the league. For example: road roommates are governed by the CBA and are for players on ELCs; a seven plus year veteran would not have one, and using that as a plot point seemed really forced. Second: moving a player from Boston to Ottawa to diminish a rivalry with Montreal is…not realistic. Beyond that, there’s a lot of not quite right hockey. Defensemen play in pairs, not lines. Pure enforcers are gone from the game. And so on. It felt sometimes like someone mainlined a lot of fan-fiction before writing these without actually watching much hockey.
Substantively, I felt like the books addressed toxic masculinity in hockey with respect to gay men in a shallow/surface way, but ignored racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and a lot of other problematic aspects of North American Hockey Culture. An opportunity to address mental illness and addiction was more or less ignored.
The first two books weren’t terrible; if you don’t know about hockey, you may not be as irked by their missteps as I was. But frankly, there’s a lot better gay hockey romance out there on AO3 (let me plug Superstition, original hockey fic) and from former RPF writers who now write/publish original fiction (see Taylor Fitzpatrick‘s alternate hockey universe/league, which is partially on AO3 and partially self-published).
On a happier note, I really enjoyed the new Peter Grant book, False Value. It reads as a re-set for the series, and the beginning of a new story arc for Peter and the Folly.
I’m back from vacation. Went to Ilha Terceira in the Azores (or Açores, more properly). Loved it. Planning on going back, although probably I’ll visit São Miguel or a couple of the other islands first. Really like how neighborly everyone was. The food was amazing – seafood, local dairy and beef, a lot of local produce thanks to micro climates that permit growth of all kinds of things ranging from coffee and bananas to pineapples and potatoes. The landscape is gorgeous – so green – and there are a fair number of (easy) hikes and walks. Visited Algar do Carvão, an extinct volcano chimney with a rain forest interior and lake at the bottom; it felt like a lost world.