Title : Offside Pass
Author : Stephani Hecht
Series : Blue Line Hockey Series, Book 1
Publisher : eXtasy Books (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary
Length : 90 pages (e-book)
Published : January 1, 2011
At one time Devon Canton and his two brothers were the talk of the NHL. Set to become the next superstars of the sport, they had lucrative contracts and numerous endorsements within their reach. Then the bottom fell out of their world and everything changed. Now struggling to make ends meet, they have been reduced to playing in the minor leagues. To make matters worse, they all end up playing for the same dead-end team, the Battle Creek Hawks. Not only hasn’t that team won a game in three years, but their arena is falling down around them and is in danger of being condemned. Then Devon and his brothers hit a new low when they get thrown out of their first game for getting into a brawl… with each other.
Battle Creek Times sports reporter Saul Davis knows the instant he see the three brothers beating the snot out of each other that he has a story. It only takes a little digging to find out how far the once promising hockey players have fallen. Intrigued, Saul tries to pin down Devon for an interview, only to be rudely rebuked. Unfortunately for Devon, that only makes Saul more determined to get to the bottom of the story.
Then Saul uncovers something about the brooding hockey player that could not only destroy the man’s reputation, but also ruin any chance of him every playing on the professional level again. Saul knows he should go ahead and run the story, but as he finds himself growing closer to Devon, he realizes that his feelings for the other man are too strong to ignore. When a rival reporter also discovers Devon’s secret, Saul recognizes that he may have to make the most painful decision of all – his own journalism career or Devon.
When Devon and his brothers pull up to the run down arena that is the home of their latest hockey team, the Battle Creek Hawks, they know it’s their last opportunity to keep doing the only thing they know how to do – play hockey. The brothers had been poised on the brink of sports superstardom but with the death of, first their father five years previously, and then their mother a year ago, their antics and on ice brawling landed them in the bottom of the barrel minor league team that hadn’t won a game in three years. And no wonder with a team that was more interested in playing as individuals and an ineffectual and apathetic coach who had lost all control of his team.
Devon, as the oldest of the three brothers (even if it was only by nine minutes), tries to reign in his twin, Chad, and youngest brother, Trey, but more often than not ended up joining in. When they start brawling with each at their very first game, before banding together against a member of the opposing team when he makes homophobic slurs towards the gay brothers, Devon and Trey, you just know these boys are going to be trouble with a capital T! Saul is the new sports reporter for the local newspaper. A job he lied his way into knowing nothing at all about sport, but when he lays eyes on Devon, his interest, amongst other things, definitely perks up. Devon feels the same intense attraction, but he’s wary of reporters. Very wary. With Devon’s strong rebuff, Saul’s reporter senses tell him the brothers are hiding something and he’s determined to find out what it is.
I really liked the banter between Devon and Saul in their first couple of encounters. There was some good humour in the beginning that promised to make for an entertaining read. I loved the premise and the chemistry of the MCs, unfortunately what could have been a great story didn’t end up realising its full potential and fell short of the mark. It was too short, leaving both the plot and the characters underdeveloped. Most of the problems could have been sorted with some good editing. There were a lot of editing/proofreading issues with missing words, typos, misused words and grammatical errors like misplaced commas. The timeline of the plot and the relationship of the main characters are completely out of sync. Statements like “It’s not like he owed Devon anything either. Just the opposite given the way Devon had rebuffed him so many times.” At this stage they had met, briefly, twice. “All the while, he had to keep a straight expression on his face because reporters were supposed to be impartial. They sure as hell weren’t supposed to get angry, sad and devastated because a guy they were pretty sure they were falling for had it rough as a kid.” Again, they’d only met twice and hadn’t spent any time together outside of those brief encounters at all. “He cursed under his breath as he realised that he’d long ago stopped being impartial when it came to Devon.” Long ago? He’d only known of Devon’s existence for three days.
While there was good chemistry between the MCs, the romance was far too rushed and jumped from zero to ten with no build up in between. And it’s not just the MC’s relationship that suffers from this. After a fairly hostile initial meeting with the team’s captain, three weeks later and Devon has “grown to admire and like the guy as time passed.” Three weeks into the brothers’ tenure at their new hockey club and they’ve won eight out of ten games and possibly looking at making it to the playoffs. That’s a hell of a turn around, considering the supposed incompetency of both the rest of the team and the coach. The story jumps from point to point with no transition; sometimes literally from scene to scene, making the change very jarring. The big reveal of the brothers’ secret was heartbreaking, however plot holes and implausible elements prevented it having the impact it could have had.
I would love to see the author coming back to this story one day and giving it the full attention it deserves, expanding and fleshing out the characters and plot and tidying up the editing issues and plot holes. Because I really did like the characters a lot, both the MCs and the other Canton brothers, and the concept itself is a great one.
Rated 3 stars by BookSmitten