“Too often, we carry around things from our past that hurt us, holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Don't let negative experiences from the past rob your present of a happy future.” ~ Rashida Rowe
After Max Ashford's, of 'Power Play' by Avon Gale, injury, he lost almost everything: his career, his endorsements, his home, and his fiancée. Since Max is a glass-half-full kind of guy, it doesn’t keep him down for long. As with many sports, players who can no longer play often coach; with great anticipation, he's looking forward to imparting his knowledge and experience to other players. What Max is not expecting is to be made a spectacle of by his new general manager, in a commercial for the team capitalizing on his misfortunate accident merely for publicity's sake.
When Max learns that his head coach, the man he will be working with, is Misha Samarin, the player who was involved in his accident, Max's self-confidence plummets. Max even wonders if he would have been hired at all if not for Misha getting the head coach position. Not wanting to give Belsey, the GM, the satisfaction of seeing their shock, both men remain calm and collected, at least on the inside. Max holds no grudge toward Misha; he knows what happened was an accident but Misha doesn't know that. When he realizes that Max has truly gotten over what happened he is stunned. Misha has carried around a lot of guilt for years and it still eats away at him. Max assures Misha that he doesn't hold anything against Misha and makes it clear that he sees no reason why they can't work together effectively and, hopefully, improve their team's standing. Considering they are dead last, it won't be much of a stretch. Besides skills, Max and Misha know that attitude can make or break a team. The coaches get to work on improving the team's morale in spite of the bullying and opposition they receive from Belsey. Instead of relying on foolish commercials or gimmicks such as free food, Max and Misha work with the team to improve their skills and become a solid unit, rather than individual hockey players working on their own.
From the start, the chemistry between Max and Misha is undeniable. Yet, it's a combination of mutual respect as well as a physical attraction. Because Max tells Misha he's only recently discovered that he's bisexual, Misha is hesitant to rush a physical relationship, but when they do finally get to that point, there's little doubt that they are meant to be together. Misha is Max's yin/dark as Max is Misha's yang/light. Although their personalities seem opposed, put together they bring about harmony and balance. Because of Misha's past, even besides his history with Max, Misha is stoic, he believes in suffering, he punishes himself about things he can't change. Max is all about expressing himself; even in bed. It's impossible to be around Max and stay emotionless for long; if nothing else, he will talk to you ad nauseam until you are “infected” with his point of view. Max is like sunshine; his optimistic, yet practical philosophy of life is contagious.
The reference to the Bruins brought back fond memories. Many years ago, I lived outside of Boston, Massachusetts, and attended a Bruins game. Not knowing what was going on most of the time didn't keep me from getting caught up in the excitement and action. Avon has done a great job explaining “Ice Hockey 101” without being overly detailed or didactic, which I greatly appreciated. I also loved the irony involved in the way Max and Misha were brought back together. The universe can definitely be sneaky like that. Both were such strong, admirable characters, not to mention sexy and devastatingly handsome.
I'd recommend this story not only to hockey fans, but even to those who don't think they would enjoy a book about ice hockey. If you let that stop you, I believe you will miss out on a great reading experience; not to mention the great characters, hot sex, and strong messages about loving yourself first, not letting your past keep you down, and, of course, a happy ending. Thanks, Avon, for the great story and especially for introducing me to Max and Misha, who are now on my favorite couples list.