REVIEW: Tough Guy (Game Changers #3) by Rachel Reid
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.
Dear Rachel Reid,
Ever since I read “Heated Rivalry” I have been interested in reading your next book. I liked it a lot, but I was also surprised in a good way. I have not read (and not planning to) the first book in this series, but “Heated Rivalry” and this one are very different stories. I am pleased that these series are not basically the same stories with different characters in each book.
I mean hockey features prominently in both books (as a setting, not as actual games – there was very little actual game time shown in this book), but otherwise the books are very different. I am not going to do a point by point comparison, I will just note that there is less actual sex in this book than in “Heated Rivalry”.
Having said that, I tagged both books as erotic romances because sex is so often on Ryan’s mind even if in first part of the book it is either because he has various issues with sexual performance or because he starts to imagine things. Let’s just put it this way: Fabian is no less attracted and he has no issues with self – doubt or sexual performance, quite the opposite.
And when both men finally end up in bed somewhere in the middle of the book, Ryan does not suddenly become a Sex God, but he gets better at it and more importantly sex is bringing him joy again. I wanted to quote this bit of silliness. See Fabian’s friend who works in the sex shop wanted him to review some toys. And that’s what he and Ryan did here.
““More. Deeper.” When the dildo was all the way in, Fabian’s eyes rolled back. “Oh Jesus. That’s good. Is the bendy part that sticks out touching my perineum?” “That’s, like, your taint, right?” “Yes, cutie.” “Yup. It’s there.” “Okay. So, I read the manual before you came over. It vibrates at five different speeds, and it also thrusts at three different speeds. So let’s start by going through the vibrator settings, and then we’ll get to thrusting.” Ryan pressed the vibration button, and a very low-grade buzz tickled Fabian’s ass. “Okay. Go higher. That feels like nothing.” “How about now?” “Did you press the button?”
“Yes.” “Press it again. Feels the same.” Fabian drummed his fingers on the mattress, waiting. “Ryan?” “I pressed it.” Fabian let out an exasperated sigh. “This sucks. Press it again. And I swear to god if—aaah!” Fabian arched off the bed as the toy suddenly rattled like a busted washing machine inside him. “Turn it off! What the fuck! Turn it off!” Ryan turned it off, and Fabian could see that he was trying not to laugh. Fabian glared at him. “Next time I’m going to stick weird toys in your ass, Giggles.” “Seems to go from zero to a hundred in a hurry, huh?” He huffed. “I’m almost scared to suggest this, but I suppose we should try the thrusting feature.” “You sure?” “Yes. But lowest setting only!” Ryan nodded, still biting his lip to hold back laughter, and pressed the bottom button. “Ow! Fuck! Stop! Take it out!” Ryan removed the toy as fast as he could without hurting Fabian. “What did it do?”
“God, it was, like, pinching the inside of my ass. It was not a good feeling.” Ryan frowned at the toy as if he was thinking about punching it, which made Fabian laugh. “Just throw it in the sink.” Ryan darted to the bathroom, where he presumably dropped the terrible toy into the sink, and returned to the bed. “So it’s not getting a good review?” They both cracked up, laughing until they became tangled in each other on the bed. “Oh god,” Fabian wheezed, “this was supposed to be such a sexy evening.” “It’s still sexy,” Ryan assured him, and kissed Fabian’s hair. “Sorry that toy didn’t work right, because I loved watching you take it.” “Did you?””
I liked both men a lot. Ryan is a sweetheart of the guy who plays the hockey because he is good at it, but especially in the last years he has not enjoyed it much. One of the reasons is that Ryan has a pretty severe anxiety and flying is hard for him and being part of the hockey team he has to fly a lot.
Being a gay man and a hockey player is also not easy, even though Ryan does comment on how it became a bit easier after the main character of the first book of the series (which I have not read) came out, but of course it has not became a norm. Ryan is out – he does not hide it, but he does not scream about it on every corner either. At least once he has to say it pretty loudly though.
Fabian is an out and proud talented musician and composer. On the surface he is a complete opposite of Ryan. He is full of confidence in himself and his body, but he has his own issues (mostly not fully dealing with his parents’ attitude towards him in his youth).
As the blurb tells you, Ryan and Fabian met when they were seventeen when Ryan was staying in Fabian’s parents’ house, because they housed young hockey players who needed a place to stay since they came from different cities. As it turns out. they both had a crush on each other, but besides becoming friends neither of them acted on it back then. Now they reconnected by accident thirteen years later and slowly but surely they start dating.
I just really really liked their interactions. Somehow I felt that it was both a slow burn romance and rekindling of old crush and usually I have very little patience for “I was burning for you for thirteen years , my first and only love” and did not live my life at all. I did not think this is how it was done in this book though. I guess if I were to choose one word how this relationship was written I would say “nuanced”