Title: Picks & Pucks
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
Rising men’s figure skating star, Justin Corrin, is coming home to train for the upcoming season and face his demons. The last thing Justin needs is to fall in love with a hockey player. Instead of getting rid of his demons, Justin is collecting more. He tries desperately to control his growing feelings for CJ Daly, but finds being with CJ keeps his nightmares away.
Justin isn’t the only one with problems, and hidden fears and secrets threaten to separate the two. With the pressure mounting, CJ starts to pull away, and Justin doesn’t know why. His skating suffers, and he decides to stop wasting his time on love and focus on winning the nationals.
If Justin can destroy his demons, he might have a chance for happiness on and off the ice. But if the demons win, Justin’s life could be ruined
Angst, fear, family, mistakes and possibly love…
I like what are the basically four main characters: Justin, Danny, Eli and CJ. Don’t get any idears, there are no threesomes or foursomes. 😉 The writing style matches young guys in their early to mid-20’s: blunt, sometimes shy, sometimes sweet, and definitely trying to figure out what the hell is going on with life. They each have their own characteristics that both make it easy to keep track of them all, but more importantly, they’re each given a role to play that adds to the larger theme of the story.
Justin is deeply insecure and yet confident, both of which are deftly supported within the story. He’s essentially the main character. It’s his story, his point of view from which we experience it. He knows the other characters well enough so that we get some of their emotions, some of what’s important to each of them. We get pieces of their hearts, too.
Danny is basically closeted, except to Justin. He can be an asshole when he’s around his friends and other people, but then he’s extremely gentle and caring and quietly submissive to Justin when it’s just the two of them. Yeah, that. Frustrating.
Eli is Justin’s best friend, and awesome friend at that, and is always there with humor and support and love. He’s on his own road of discovery, that he is probably bisexual and is gaga over a guy he’s just met. This is one of my favorite side dishes in this book.
CJ has a quiet command about him. He’s loving and smart, but like Justin, is in a lot of pain. He’s struggling to deal with it all. I like his arrival in the story and he definitely adds a major emotional component.
The author must have at least some knowledge of ice skating and hockey. Details are well described without being overdone. Yup, we’re in the land of rink lovers, folks. It’s one I like.
The story itself is a little thin but this shortcoming is more than made up for by the strong characters and their interactions, even if they wander into Miscommunicators Anonymous sometimes. Things are at their best when any combination of these guys are sharing page time. We lose some of that when it’s just Justin in his own head. Which leads me to…
By far the largest distraction is the depiction of Justin’s “demons”, as if they’re actual creatures always (well, nearly always) around him. They’re fully animated: sitting, scowling, cackling, hissing, flying, misting about, and Justin sees them, murmurs at them, curses them. They are mentioned a lot. Either it’s the very obvious meaning behind them – I mean, demons, that’s the word used to describe them – or something that I just did not get at all. I simply couldn’t decide because they are that obvious, that literal in their implementation within the story. Simply an overly eager way of giving representation to Justin’s issues or something so far flung, so far out there, I couldn’t see where the puck landed. Like I said, distracting. It was well into the read before they stopped jerking me out of the story and I simply accepted them and read right over them. Picture gremlins or furbies and you get the idea. Only, ethereal, translucent is how I imagined them.
Once you can get past that, there are some really good things about this book. There are gentle, sweet scenes that were just that and made me sigh in the best way. The sex scenes were well done and unique to each of these guys. Additionally, the conversations between Eli and Justin when Eli is asking how it feels to be with a guy (since he’s been with only women until now) are honest and fun. The writing is good and the first sex scene is hot, tender and unexpected in its implications. This did give me a good idea of what was to come as far as the quality of writing and I enjoyed it.
Will Justin be able to overcome his past? Will CJ? Will Danny be able to get out of his own way and allow himself to be who he really is, to be happy? Will any of them?
We do have family in this story, mostly Justin’s, and they play the sort of typical roles in the book.
Since some of their page time is limited, the overly simplified dialogue and the quick leaps to resolution don’t really add much to the story, not in terms of Justin trying to overcome everything and get to where he wants to be. The only exception may be Justin’s sister and the memory of she and Justin’s mother. Otherwise, the small interactions between Justin and his dad, Justin and his brother, etc., only provide one scene each that truly added emotional heft and importance.
In the end, this story swings wildly from the almost ridiculous to the incredibly sweet and moving. At the literal end of the book, I had tears. That doesn’t happen to me in many stories I read but it did here. I would say this book is in the mixed bag category for me.
I would like to thank Dreamspinner Press for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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