Off the Ice (Crabbypatty’s Review)

Title: Off the Ice (Hat Trick #1) (Re-issue)
Author: Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: March 25, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary Sports Romance
Page Count: ~70,000 Words
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5


(Previously published; newly refreshed by the authors)

He’s hot for teacher

NHL star Tristan Holt may be at the top of his game, but he’s already thinking one play ahead. Hitting the books in the off-season means he’ll have a business degree to fall back on when it’s time to hang up his hockey skates.

But his straightforward plan is complicated by his undeniable attraction to his sexy sociology professor, Sebastian Cruz.

Impressed by Tristan’s brain as well as his brawn, Sebastian can’t help lusting after the gorgeous jock. With tenure on the line, Sebastian won’t break the rules by becoming involved with one of his students—at least, not until the end of term. Once final grades are posted, though, their naughty mutual fantasies can become reality.

Tristan’s not sure he’s up for being the poster boy for openly gay hockey players, but Sebastian’s never been the type of man to keep his sexuality—or his relationships—in the closet. For Tristan, being with Sebastian might mean risking more than just his heart.

Note: Carina Press is re-issuing “Hat Trick” on March 25, 2019 with a great new cover and it has been “newly refreshed by the authors.”

My initial review of “Hat Trick” is shown below with a rating of 4 stars. Upon re-reading the book, I realized just how much I enjoyed this story of two men who has an incredibly steamy kinky relationship coupled with a deep connection of love and respect. I appreciated once again their careful negotiations on coming out.

While I’m not sure exactly how the story was “refreshed,” the secondary characters seem more integrated and the flow and pacing of the story feels more crisp. I’m revising my rating to 4.5 stars and giving “Hat Trick” a Recommended Read AND I’m looking forward to the second book in the series – “Goalie Interference” – featuring the Venom goalie, Ryu Mori.

Original Review:

Tristan, a defenseman with the Atlanta Venom, knows hockey is not forever and is working on finishing his business degree. Taking Sociology 3201: Wealth, Power, and Inequality from Professor Sebastian Cruz, Tristan – tall, blonde, Wisconsin farm boy, rocking sweatpants and a Grateful Dead t-shirt – doesn’t exactly fit into the hipster vibe of the other students. But then Professor Cruz – “tall and whipcord lean with warm golden-brown skin and wavy raven-black hair” – isn’t what Tristan expected either.

Sebastian is out and proud while Tristan remains closeted, but they soon navigate a relationship that is hot, dirty and sexy with a side of dominance / humiliation kink that totally works for both men:

Tristan learned what it meant when someone like Sebastian Cruz said, Your ass is mine. He spent almost as much time nude—in bed, or bent over tables, or down on all fours—as he did dressed.[…] They couldn’t stay away from each other, or keep their hands and mouths off each other. Tristan was so obsessed with how amazing Sebastian made him feel, it might have scared him if Sebastian didn’t seem equally enthralled.

We get both POVs throughout and I loved how Tris and Sebastian’s relationship is free of manufactured angst and strong on conflict resolution as they work their way through Tris coming out to his parents and his team. My only niggles were that at times the pace of the story felt slow, and the abrupt and somehow ….clumsy … introduction of potential MCs for additional books in the series

In the matter of a few pages, we abruptly learn that team captain Bellize is getting a divorce and goalie Ryu is gay and looking for someone like Tristan.

I give Off the Ice 4.25 stars, rounded to 4 stars.

Hat Trick series

Amazon Amazon Global Avon Gale Piper Vaughn GoodReads More Avon Gale Reviews More Piper Vaughn Reviews

Advanced Review Copy

Galley copy of Off The Ice provided by Carina Press via NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.


Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.  Frederick Douglas I distinctly remember that day in school when, all of a sudden, those squiggles on the page made sense and I could read. It has changed my life in ways I still cannot comprehend. My favorite M/M tropes are friends-to-lovers, murder/mysteries, amnesia, hurt/healing and historicals. Shifters, vampires, paranormal? Meh ... not in my wheelhouse, but I'm a sucker for a well-written well-plotted book, no matter the genre. Favorite authors includes Brandon Witt, Rick R. Reed, Abigail Roux, Jay Northcote, JL Merrow, KJ Charles, Lane Hayes, Marshall Thornton and so many more. A few "badges" from NetGalley: 100 Book Reviews Reviews Published Professional Reader
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