Audiobook Review: Changing Lines (Harrisburg Railers #1) by RJ Scott & V.L. Locey

Can Tennant show Jared that age is just a number, and that love is all that matters?

The Rowe Brothers are famous hockey hotshots, but as the youngest of the trio, Tennant has always had to play against his brothers’ reputations. To get out of their shadows, and against their advice, he accepts a trade to the Harrisburg Railers, where he runs into Jared Madsen. Mads is an old family friend and his brother’s one-time teammate. Mads is Tennant’s new coach. And Mads is the sexiest thing he’s ever laid eyes on.

Jared Madsen’s hockey career was cut short by a fault in his heart, but coaching keeps him close to the game. When Ten is traded to the team, his carefully organized world is thrown into chaos. Nine years his junior and his best friend’s brother, he knows Ten is strictly off-limits, but as soon as he sees Ten’s moves, on and off the ice, he knows that his heart could get him into trouble again.

Listening Length: 5 hrs and 10 mins
Narrator: Sean Crisden

Reviewer: Annery

*4.00 for the AB* // *4.5 for the story*

Baseball is long gone, football season is almost over, and now is the time for hockey. This book will set you right up.

The audio is by Sean Crisden, who I know has legions of fans, and I can see why. I liked the narration very much. The voices for the MCs are clear and distinctly defined, the women are non-campy or cartoonish (which I always fear), in general everything was very pleasant if a bit rushed, and those were my stumbling blocks.

The story is told in a dual P.O.V. style, in alternating chapters. I don’t know if it was inspired by the character of Ten, who’s young, or the writing, but the narration, particularly in the Ten chapters, has a breezy, chit chatty, almost rushed quality, to the point where, at least in the beginning, the emotions seem to be brushed over or elided. I don’t know. However once Ten & Mads become an item things, narration-wise, settle to a better pace IMO. As I said I liked most of the choices Sean Crisden made except for that initial speed, which to me, seemed to dilute or diminish the real upheaval, conflict, or turmoil the characters are going through. My final point on the audio is that to my ears SCs voice is maybe a bit old for Ten, who’s 22, but then again these are hockey players, “fifteen going on thirty” physique-wise, so take that with a grain of salt.

The Book:

Tennant Rowe is the youngest of three hockey playing Rowe brothers. At 22 he’s looking for a way to get out from under the long shadow of his siblings and the opportunity comes when he gets traded to the Harrisburg Railers, an NHL expansion team, with a still untested roster. What he also gets in Harrisburg is Jared Madsen.

Jared “Mads” Madsen is 32, a former defensive player who due to health issues has transitioned into coaching. He still misses playing but has made the best of his options. He’s also the father of Ryker, a 17 year-old hockey prodigy, product of some youthful experimentation. And yep, he’s bi. I like Jared mucho.

Clearly, from the beginning, the authors meant to write a multivolume series and this first book quite nicely sets up a world of friends, family, coworkers, teammates etc. which I won’t mind revisiting. They’ve also cleverly positioned the story within the margins of quite a few tropes: sports, friend of a sibling, coming out, being bi, family dynamics, size difference (a little bit), and age gap. It’s absolutely not May/December because there’s only 10 (ten) years between our MCs and culturally that isn’t much nowadays, regardless of what Mads thinks.

Overall this is a low-angst and, much to Ten’s chagrin, slow-burn romance. The last time they’d seen each other Ten was 12 and clearly there was nothing, however upon meeting once again there’s a spark of lust which in time morphs into something more.

Save for Mads’ quasi ex father-in-law there are no villains or behind the scenes connivers and I think that fits. Whether they’re more cognizant of acceptable mores or have just grown up in a different world, younger people are less likely to be tripped up by someone’s sexuality. As for owners & management of sports teams they know where the political winds blow. This doesn’t mean that the real downside of coming-out in professional sports is glossed over or candy coated. There are just no hysterics. Just the facts ma’am.

Many of the things I liked about this story are will perhaps put others off. The road from lust to love develops at a believable pace. “I love yous” aren’t bandied about at the drop of a hat or after the first week of lustful eyeing. Those who want a play-by-play of every encounter by the MCs might be disappointed. I wasn’t. There’s quite a bit of sport and it’s very well done. The authors know their hockey, locker room culture, game dynamics, players and their psyche. I liked that the relationship developed over a few months, the pre-season to just over Thanksgiving, and there are other things going on in the MCs lives, besides the romance, that are equally addressed. Mads’ relationship with his son, his son’s grandfather, his conflicting emotions about no longer being able to play, his lust, and eventual love for the younger brother of one of his friends are given pretty much equal time because like in RL things overlap. Ten doesn’t suddenly cease wanting to be first line because he’s also lusting and falling in love with Mads; having the hots for a certain defensive coach doesn’t diminish Ten’s competitive drive or desire to be the best, to win. Ten can love hockey, Mads, having Skype piano-playing sessions with his mom, and evolve his Pok√©mon beasties at the same time. Real life.

Worry not those who love the smexy times. We have them. True that at first Mads, for valid reasons, limits their interaction to kissing, heavy petting, and some handjobs or frottage, which are plenty hot. Mads is in control but equally gobsmacked by the wonder of Ten, and I was happy that other than getting his son’s opinion, he wasn’t overly hung up on the age difference. Once they’ve reached the end of their respective tethers things get beyond lust to outright romantic, in a non-cloying way:
”Mads kissed me. I blossomed under his mouth and hands. All this time I’d thought I was so experienced and such a top notch lover, but Mads showed me that making love to someone was vastly different from simply fucking someone.”

*Heart eyes*

I can see going on with this series, because though technically it ends in a HEA, there’s lots more to be covered as to where the relationship goes and how things evolve, careerwise, especially for Ten. I know the other books have different MCs but I’m optimistic that in the mix we get more of Mads & Ten. I like them. They complement each other in the best ways.

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