Pucking Around is an MM holiday hockey anthology with eight short stories by authors such as K.C. Kassidy, Amy Aislin, Hope Irving and others. As in all anthologies there are stories you enjoy more than others, but all were really sweet, fun and festive and certainly added to the holiday spirit with their holiday hookups and hot queer hockey players! My favorites were Unwrapping the Truth by Victoria Denault, Shut Out by Amy Aislin and Snowball’s Chance by Brigham Vaughn but I will do a short review of each story below.
Delayed for the Holidays by Kimberly Knight and Rachel Lyn Adams is about a chance meeting at the airport between the New York Ranges goalie Baylor and the Wall Street day trader Micah. When a storm hits and all flights are cancelled, they spend the night together. A brief encounter that neither of them can forget… This was a sweet and heartwarming story, but too cheesy and insta lovey for my personal taste. It was also a bit repetitive with the two POVs that were overlapping. I like to get into the head of both main characters but it’s not necessary to replay every single scene from them both. (2.5 stars rounding up to 3)
Taking A Shot At Love by Jeff Adams is about the two childhood friends and former hockey teammates now rivals, Cole and Miles, who gets to spend a few days together after a holiday travel mishap. It was a light and sweet read, but I didn’t really root for the main characters unfortunately. They were supposed to be in their thirties but felt like teenagers and the way Miles overreacted was just silly. Furthermore, it didn’t make any sense that they’d never told or showed each other how they truly felt until now, but at the same time I couldn’t really feel the chemistry so maybe that’s why… (2 stars)
The Holi-gay Breakaway by K.C. Kassidy is about editor Hudson, who just lost his job and is invited by his friend to a Holi-gay Jingle and Mingle Shinding to cheer him up. On the way he’s pranked by his roommate to be, hockey player Beckett, in a way that definitely makes his gloomy thoughts vanish… So, this was perhaps not really a ‘hockey romance’ to be honest, but it was so fun and steamy I don’t mind. Not at all actually… (3.5 stars rounding up to 4)
Snowball’s Chance by Brigham Vaughn is about an unexpected reunion between pro-hockey player Shane and his former tutor, now hockey analytics professional, Noel. This was a really cute second chance nerd-athlete romance. So sweet and adorable! And a true hockey romance compared to the other stories! I’ve never read anything by Brigham Vaughn before, but I’ll definitely check out her hockey romance series from now on! (4 stars)
From the First by Susan Scott Shelley and Chantal Mer is about a chance meeting that, literally, makes theater producer Kingston fall head over heals for hockey player Malcom. When Malcom agrees to help out to save the fate of Kingston’s Nutcracker performance sparks start to fly… This was a meet cute story that honestly didn’t have much to do about hockey. But it was nevertheless a sweet story with adorable main characters, just a little uneventful somehow. (3 stars)
Unwrapping the Truth by Victoria Denault is (finally…) a real hockey romance! It’s about hockey player Noah who has been low-key obsessed with his brother’s best friend, Luke, since he walked in on Luke hooking up with a guy one Christmas. Years later they’re bort professional hockey players, but have barely spoken since that awkward moment. Until Noah clears the air and let’s Luke know that they might be on the same team, in more ways than one. This was such an adorable story with so many great tropes - brother’s friend, sexual awakening, first time – and a sweet plot about Noah having to deal with the person who got him questioning his sexuality (and who’d been in his wet dreams ever since) now being his team captain. Amazing chemistry and first time sweetness! A wonderful mm hockey holiday romance! I think I’ve found a new favorite author with books to devour! (5 stars)
Shut Out by Amy Aislin is a sweet second chance story about two teenage BFFs who never admitted their feelings for one another but who end up at a New Year’s Party single and unprepared for the old feelings to resurface. Amy Aisling is already one of my favorite authors, and the reason why I wanted to read this anthology in the first place. And she certainly didn’t disappoint with this sweet and heartwarming second chance childhood friends romance with two gorgeous hockey players. I loved how vulnerable they were, and how committed they were to make it work when they finally realized they both felt the same way for each other. Also amazing side characters as always in Amy Aislin’s stories. (4.5 stars rounding up to 5)
The Prodigy’s Playbook by Hope Irving is a story about Joshua and Jules and about obsession. Joshua has trained all his life dreaming of facing Jules on the ice, but the one game they met as rivals changes his life forever. Now, Joshua tries to persuade him to face his past for a Christmas-themed charity even, but end up finding out how Jules’s secrets might be the most life-changing gift of all. So, I’m sorry, but I just didn’t get this story. Everything about it just felt weird and off. The prologue was supposed to be from a time when the main character was very young, but the tone was still very adult which made it difficult to understand the premise. And from there it just continued with a lot of confusing events. Not my cup of tea, sadly. (2 stars)
Thank you so much to author Amy Aislin for the free copy, which I have voluntarily reviewed!
This was such a fun and addictive m/m romance with a burning chemistry between the two main characters. It was so fast-paced that I read it all in just a few hours!
This or That is about the rising DJ and bartender Troy Hunter and former business lawyer and fashion designer Michael Clayton, who get into a fight in a Parisian bar, when a drunk Mike steals a sloppy kiss from Troy’s bartender colleague. To teach him a lesson, Troy gives him a taste of his own medicine, but that kiss sets something in motion in a way a blow to the head wouldn’t have. When the two of them meet up again at a cruise ship, the fight between them turns on a burning desire they both try their best to deny. Especially Mike who’s never doubted being straight.
I loved the enemies-to-lovers trope, and the hot banter between Troy and Mike! It was such a fun and addictive story. I do wish that the enemies-part could have lasted a bit longer though. Now it went by a little too fast, almost turning into instalove. I also have some issues with the way Mike initially behaved, it could have been made clearer by the author that that kind of behavior is never okay.
But all in all, it was a great and entertaining read! I really enjoyed the writing style with the banter between Troy and Mike, the sweet romance, Mike’s supportive mother and friends and the message to stay true to who you are. Even if that turned out to be something you never expected… I also really appreciated the vulnerability and the slow way in which Mike was allowed to explore his sexuality without Troy putting any pressure on him. It might not be a story that will stay on your mind for long, but it certainly gives you good entertainment for the moment. So much that I promise that you will not be able to put it down until you’ve read it all!
Thank you so much to Gay Book Promotions for the ARC! All opinions are my own and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
3.5 stars rounding up to 4
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abby Kaitz Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alice Winn Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira Amanda Woody A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Ban Gilmartin Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cait Nary Cale Dietrich Cara Dee Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare Cat Sebastian C.F. White C.G. Drews Charlie Adhara Charli Meadows Chasten Buttigieg Chris Bedell Christina Lauren Christina Lee Ciara Smyth Claerie Kavanaugh Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Courtney Kae Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Dallas Smith Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton D.N. Bryn Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E.L. Massey E. Lockhart Emery Lee Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens F.T. Lukens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hannah Grace Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving H.S. Valley Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacob Gelman Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kathy Anderson K.A. Tucker KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Lauren Shippen Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Lex Croucher Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr M.A. Wardell Melanie Munton Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nathaniel Shea Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Nyla K. Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rachel Reid Racquel Marie Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Taylor Jenkins Reid Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Tucker Shaw Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez