Review: Tough Guy (Game Changers #3) by Rachel Reid

They have nothing in common—so why does Ryan feel most like himself whenever he’s with Fabian?

Pro hockey star Ryan Price may be an enforcer, but off the ice he struggles with anxiety. Recently traded to the Toronto Guardians, he’s determined to make a fresh start in the city’s dynamic LGBTQ Village. The last thing he expects to stumble upon in his new neighborhood is a blast from his past in the fabulous form of Fabian Salah.

Aspiring musician Fabian loathes hockey. But that doesn’t stop him from being attracted to a certain burly, ginger-bearded defenseman. He hasn’t forgotten the kiss they almost shared back in high school, and it’s clear the chemistry between them has only intensified.

Fabian is more than happy to be Ryan’s guide to the gay scene in Toronto. Between dance clubs and art exhibits—and the most amazing sex—Ryan’s starting to feel something he hasn’t experienced in a long time: joy. But playing the role of the heavy on the ice has taken its toll on his body and mind, and a future with Fabian may mean hanging up his skates for good.

Honestly, I intended to wait to read this until closer to its release but I am currently muddled in a reading desert complete with tumbleweeds and the occasional snake so... I needed a slam dunk.

AND that's what Reid delivered in the third of the Game Changers series which, by the way, was completely different in tone to its predecessors. I found myself impressed with Reid's range and ability to straddle the line between sweet and meaty. Let it be known, I'm not averse to closeted characters and Ryan is in no way wearing Pride boxers in the locker room but it was a nice change of pace to have a hockey player who doesn't morph into a closet monster at the drop of a hat.

"You're a giant, orange teddy bear with deep pockets!"

Tough Guy features a ginger gentle giant that will pull on the heartstrings of even the most callous of readers. Ryan struggles with anxiety and body image issues both of which run deep. My heart broke for him more than once and I appreciated that the magic peen panacea wasn't trotted out. All his life he's found it difficult to connect with people both personally and professionally which has landed him on the trading block multiple times.

Was it possible for your heart to hold on to a ridiculous crush for thirteen years?

Which is how he lands in Toronto and with a little help from the serendipity gods has a chance run in with his high school crush, Fabian, or should I say a second chance run in? Full disclosure, I'm kind of a sucker for the unrequited love being requited trope especially when both parties were moony over each other.

"There's always been something about you. I've always been drawn to you. Is that weird?"
Ryan considered it. "I don't know. But I feel the same way." 

Fabian is Ryan's polar opposite: femme, confident, extroverted and loves the spotlight. He's an emerging local singer/songwriter who at one point was chosen for the Toronto Symphony. In short, super talented, super adorable, gives zero fucks what anyone thinks of him and, needless to say, has to carry the bulk of the lets get reacquainted portion of the relationship early on for obvious reasons. The scales do balance with Ryan treating Fabian like he's the center of the universe and Fabian's almost preternatural ability to temper Ryan's mental health issues which is a must for me as a romance reader with a squishy marshmallow center.

The relationship evolves realistically and Ryan's angst was offset by Fabian's easy-breeziness coupled with their obvious chemistry. However, while they are enamored of each other Tough Guy is considerably less sexy than the other books in the series. It's more of a quiet sexiness with one BAJANGAJANG scene that was worthy of a reread. For science. Which proved my hypothesis that jazz hands and some primal... vocalizations really enhance the experience. True story.

Also, Tough Guy's secondary characters were on point! All of them. They were fantastic and fun including a certain Russian who makes a couple of appearances which you know I was 100% on board with. #1-FAN

If you're a fan of the series, sports romance, opposites attract, second chances or someone who can appreciate a significant size difference in their reads then give Tough Guy a whirl. I, for one, am hoping these two turn up again as the series continues.

p.s. It can probably be read as a standalone, though I would never recommend that. Because Ilya.

p.p.s. Sorry. I talked a lot about a Rachel Reid book. Again.

An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

No comments:

Post a Comment