REVIEW: Power Play (Scoring Chances #3) by Avon Gale
a-scoring-chances-novel A Scoring Chances Novel
A freak accident during the Stanley Cup Playoffs put an end to Max Ashford’s hockey career. Despite everything, Max gets back into the game he loves—only this time, behind the bench as an assistant coach of the Spartanburg Spitfires, the worst team in the entire league. But nothing prepares him for the shock when he learns the new head coach is Misha Samarin, the man who caused Max’s accident.
After spending years guilt-ridden for his part in Max’s accident, Russian native Misha Samarin has no idea what to do when he’s confronted with Max’s presence. Max’s optimism plays havoc with Misha’s equilibrium—as does the fierce attraction that springs up between them.
Not only must they navigate Misha’s remorse and a past he’s spent a lifetime trying to forget, but also a sleazy GM who is determined to use their history as a marketing hook. But when an unwelcome visitor targets a player, Misha revisits his darkest days, and that might cost him and Max the beginning they’ve worked so hard to build.
Dear Avon Gale, I enjoy sport themed romances in general and even though I am a very casual hockey fan, I have enjoyed hockey themed books in the past. In the beginning of the book you describe how minor leagues in American hockey work (I will take your word for it) and the action in this series takes place in one of those leagues. I believe the team from the higher league can call players up from this one and there is no draft, and players make significantly less money than NHL players, but they also have a cup they compete for. However, if mistakes in the settings were made I would not know about that.
I read this book for the first time several months ago. This is book three in a series, but books one and two featured different hockey team and different couples, so you can easily read this book as stand-alone. I did and was not confused at all.
As the blurb states, Misha and Max had a past from when they both played in different NHL teams – their altercation on the ice caused Max to be seriously injured, to the point that he had to end his playing career. His injury did not stop him from becoming a coach, however, and now both he and Misha have been hired to coach the same team, with Misha as the head coach and Max as an assistant coach. The team’s owner knows about their shared past and does not mind using it as an extra advertisement for the team (using the melodrama to attract paying public, especially since the team is not doing particularly well). Both Misha and Max express their displeasure about their past being used this way, but the owner tells them to make the team better so the fans would go to actually see the games. The owner seems like an “all means are good to achieve the ends” kind of person, but really it is not like he does anything except one stupid commercial anyway.
Misha has been feeling guilty about the accident all these years despite the fact that his hit was perfectly legal and Max hit his head on his stick during his fall – this is what caused the injury and additional problems with his peripheral vision. I have to be honest, when I read the blurb for this book I expected angst and more angst, but the book got good reviews from my reading buddies and figured I would try anyway.
There was definitely some angst – on Misha’s side. But there was also Max. I have to admit, I think Max was author’s biggest accomplishment in this story. If you told me that I would love his character before I read the book, I would have not believed it. Max is so charming and kind and so full of life and happiness – all the qualities I admire in any human being, guy or gal. However, Max is also very ignorant of history, geography and so many other things. In itself ignorance is not a problem for me – I am ignorant of many things, but I feel that a person should want to become less ignorant, especially if they are made aware of it, not wear it loud and proud on their sleeve. Max wears it loud and proud, but I still loved him. I guess his love of life and desire to make everybody around him as happy as he was won me over.
“Well, that sounded pathetic. His mother didn’t seem to think so. “You’ve always been a bit like me that way. Extroverted. It was one reason why you were always such a good teammate, and I imagine, why your players like you so much. You make people happy.” She smiled. “And people make you happy. And you always see the best in everyone, so that’s why I always thought whatever it was that you loved about Emma, maybe I’d eventually see it.”
When they meet, both Misha and Max are determined to be professionals, put the past behind the,, and do the best for their team. Misha still feels guilty, and he probably would have continued feeling guilty if had Max let him, but Max was having none of it.
“Max expelled a breath. He reached out, took the remote, and turned off YouTube. “And don’t ever read the fucking comments on here. I didn’t know people were still so mad about Communists. Most of them weren’t even fucking born when there were any. There aren’t any Communists. Right? Or are there?” Max scowled. “I suck at history. But we’re clear. Right? We’re going to get over this? We’re over it? Both of us?” There was nothing Misha could do but agree. “Da. Yes. Will you excuse me?” Misha asked and stood up. His legs were shaking and his equilibrium was blown. It was the migraine.”
“Misha shrugged. He did that very elegantly. It looked very European. Were Russians European? Max was fucking terrible at geography. “Maybe they should be. And sometimes I have seen it. Roberto Luongo, when he played for the Canucks. He was a captain.”
So slowly but surely (not so slowly actually, but I did not mind), both men figured out that they not only liked each other, but that they were falling for each other.
“Max was very American. Misha wished he could be that way, but years of living in the US had never given him the breathtaking optimism Americans seemed to inherit from the cradle. Max greeted Misha every day with “Good morning,” whether he meant it or not. Max didn’t accuse or yell or stare balefully at him as Misha deserved. Max smiled at him and did his job, and maybe that was because he didn’t know what Misha thought about at night in his bed.”
I keep singing praises to Max, but I really liked Misha too. I get so few likeable Russian characters (and when I say Russians I mean those who grew up in that culture, I am Ukrainian Jewish and I grew up in that culture too) in romances that I cherish every single one. True, there are some stereotypes in Misha’s portrayal too (we are Russians so we angst), but some stereotypes are based on truth and while I know I am generalizing a lot – in my experiences it is true often enough. Or maybe I can just relate to that part of Misha’s character so well that I am eager to defend him or something.
Honestly though, the guy was decent, smart, honorable and kind (educated too) – what’s not to like? That he liked to brood? Well, he now has Max to keep him in line about that.
Their building relationship aside, we also get to observe Max and Misha actually doing their jobs, shaping up their team, and helping the players when they have problems on and off the ice. I enjoyed those parts as well, but once again – hockey is something I like but don’t know much about, so any possible mistakes flew off my radar. I did think it was entertaining, that much I can tell you.
I also liked the humor in the story. I giggled several times while reading and smiled a lot.
““SO TELL me, gentlemen,” Belsey said. “What song should I use for the commercial featuring our new highlights? ‘Eye of the Tiger’? ‘One Night in Bangkok’?” “How about Tupac’s ‘Hit ’Em Up’?” Max suggested. He cleared his throat. “I’m just wondering why you’re so determined to use songs from the 80’ s when there’s so many other decades to choose from. Also why the song about Bangkok? Toledo is in Ohio, not China.”