My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
This one focuses on an ex-ice hockey player who never quite made success stick, even when he reached the professional leagues, and who’s now 55 and a washout coaching at a school when the story opens.
As it goes on, it becomes ever more easy to sympathise with Carl. He’s got demons buried deep into his soul, along with his closeted fears about being gay.
He’s not in a good place, but he’s also got no reason to change either, when he’s rocked by the death of his first teenage love Mike.
Returning home sets him on a path that sees all the feels as he battles with his conniving inner voice, which constantly tells him having a drink isn’t so bad.
He finds it hard to think of himself as an alcoholic, but it’s pretty clear that’s exactly what path he’s living, and at times it’s both heartbreaking and frustrating to see him fall again.
With consummate skill, the story begins to bring in little slivers of hope.
After Carl hits rock bottom, I very much appreciated that it was his ex-wife and her new boyfriend (who happens to be Carl’s school’s athletics director) who helps him take his first steps out of the mire.
And of course there is Tigh. Who is almost 30 years his junior and, while he behaves like someone just hitting his mid-20s, he’s also a bit of an old soul imho.
He’s seen his own share of traumatic events and he’s doing his best to move on, and he’s very sure about his attraction to Carl.
It’s not an overly angsty narrative but there are stumbles along the way. There’s also a wonderful bunch of secondary characters, including Carl’s dad, who is the most awesome senior and adds his unwavering love and support.
Steam is swoony rather than scorching but there are a couple of scenes which were full of emotion and feels when Carl finally gets to just be himself – sexually confident gay man.
All in all, another excellent addition to the series.
#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.