On the Ice

by Amy Aislin

On the Ice - Amy Aislin
Part of the Stick Side series:
  • On the Ice
Editions:KindleePubPaperback
Pages: 348

For college sophomore Mitch Greyson, determination and persistence are the name of the game if he wants to make it as a professional hockey player. A busy schedule of practices, games, classes, homework, two part-time jobs—and now, working with a tutor to help him pass the class he’s failing so that he can keep his scholarship—shouldn’t leave him with enough time to flirt with the NHL player in town. But that doesn’t stop him.

Placed on the injured reserve list until his broken arm heals, NHL defenseman Alex Dean is using the time off to be with his ailing grandfather and get a head start on the book he’s been commissioned to write. He doesn’t expect to get roped into a tutoring gig, especially not for cocky, smart-ass Mitch.

But Alex soon discovers that there’s more to Mitch than meets the eye...and he really likes what he sees. Only Alex doesn’t dare risk his NHL career by coming out, and a relationship between them would jeopardize Mitch’s chances with the organization too.

It looks impossible. Then again, the best things usually do...

On the Ice is an m/m contemporary romance featuring a flirty college hockey player who meets his match in a demisexual NHL player.

This book is on:
  • 2 To Be Read lists
  • 2 Read lists
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Genres:
Tags:
Pairings: MM
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Demisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Age Difference, Coming Out / Closeted, Famous / Not Famous, First Time, Friends to Lovers, Slow Burning Love
Word Count: 87500
Setting: Vermont, Florida, and Toronto
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Excerpt:

The nine-to-five stint on Sundays was Mitch’s only shift at the long-term care facility in Montpelier, and since it was about as interesting as reading the phone book, he inevitably left the place every weekend tired and grumpy. Combined with the head-banging math tutoring session with his freshmen this morning, he was ready for dinner and a nap—not necessarily in that order—before hunkering down with the reading for tomorrow’s biomechanics lecture.

Finding a dejected pro hockey player in the facility’s parking lot wasn’t part of his evening plans, but Mitch didn’t mind, especially when that hockey player was Alex Dean. Mitch’s heart leapt, and then crashed when Alex’s slumped shoulders registered.

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Alex sat on the trunk of his car, his feet on the bumper, elbows on his knees, with one hand buried in his hair. He stared at the ground and was so lost in thought, he didn’t react when Mitch stopped in front of him and cleared his throat. Mitch shifted on his feet and cleared his throat again. He wanted to reach out and run his fingers through Alex’s beard, but resisted the urge. Alex would probably slap his hands away.

Bending at the knees, Mitch peered up at Alex’s face until he caught Alex’s eyes.

“Jesus!” Alex jerked up, hand on his chest. “Where the fuck did you come from?”

A witty reply was on the tip of Mitch’s tongue, but he resisted that urge too. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “I work here.”

“You…” Alex’s brow furrowed. “Doing what?”

“Office stuff. Filing, returning phone calls, inventory, ordering supplies, restocking, that sort of thing.”

“Sounds…fun?”

“It’s about as much fun as my creative writing class.”

Alex laughed, and Mitch mentally patted himself on the back for putting a little bit of light back into his friend’s dark eyes.

“What are you doing here?” Mitch said.

Alex lost his smile, and his shoulders slumped further, if that was possible. “I was here to visit someone, but the nurses said he’s not having a good day and I should come back tomorrow.”

Questions raced through Mitch’s head. Who are you visiting? How long’ve they been here? What does ‘not a good day’ mean? How long have you been sitting here?

Can I touch your beard?

Stop that!

Mitch shook his head to scatter his wayward thoughts. Dropping his backpack next to the car, he hopped up to sit on the trunk next to Alex. “What are you up to now, then?”

Alex shrugged those massive shoulders and squinted against the setting sun. “Dunno. I was going to go home, but…”

Mitch waited, but Alex never finished his sentence. Instead, he stared off into space, unmoving, looking so hopeless that Mitch had to bank the desire to reach out and put his arm around him.

They sat quietly for a few minutes, breathing in the chilly evening air. Mitch shivered in his long-sleeved T-shirt, but didn’t get up to fish the hoodie out of his backpack, afraid any sudden movements would ruin the comfortable silence they’d settled into.

The facility was built on the outskirts of Montpelier, nestled between a hill with trees that were slowly losing their leaves to winter, and a stretch of flat land that led downtown. Away from the relative hustle and bustle of State and Main Streets, it was peaceful and still, and it smelled like wet grass. Mitch felt the stress that was a constant weight on his shoulders release.

Alex turned to him with narrowed eyes. After a few seconds of yet more silence, Mitch looked down at himself, but didn’t note any stains. Was Alex looking at something behind him? Mitch turned to check, making Alex laugh.

“What?”

Alex shook his head, lips quirked. “Nothing. I’m hungry. Let’s get dinner in town.” He hopped off the trunk, making Mitch bounce in place as the car adjusted to the sudden loss of over two hundred pounds, and headed for the driver’s side door.

“Actually,” Mitch said. “I have a better idea.”

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Jess on Love Bytes Reviews wrote:

I haven’t read a sports romance that delves this deep into each character in a very long time. By the end of this book, Alex and Mitch felt like such real people that ending their story was heartbreaking! You know you’ve read an excellent, effective, provocative book when you get sad towards the finish line.

After reading the first few chapters, I was still warming up to Mitch as our main character. He was a little pushy, a little bratty. I kept wondering how someone like Alex, who is older, more professional, and way more grounded, could fall for someone like flirty, too-bold Mitch. But when the layers of Mitch’s character started peeling back (all starting with Alex’s comment about how Mitch “lacks substance”), it wasn’t hard to really fall for Mitch and sympathize with him on every level. He ended up being one of my very favorite M/M protagonists of 2018 so far.

Because Alex is demisexual (he only feels romantic attraction towards someone he knows very well emotionally), his relationship with Mitch simmers beautifully over time, allowing us to know both men inside out before they even share their first kiss. These two characters are perfect for each other in every way. Mitch is all about keeping up a façade—the party boy, the effortless flirt, the guy who can do it all without breaking a sweat. He bases his hookups on the idea that no one ever really knows him, knows his struggle and pain, so he can easily keep it all hidden. But he falls so fast for Alex that when he founds out Alex is demisexual, he has no choice but to let it ride out and see if Alex really likes him for him. Alex, by nature, cannot love someone he doesn’t know. Mitch never stood a chance.

In terms of a sports romance, this is a hockey-heavy story that still views athletes as humans first and players second. A lot of sports romances are popular because of the idea that athletic men are fit and sexy so they make good romantic partners, but then the author seems to forget that sports take a huge mental and physical toll on players that isn’t broadcasted on ESPN. Aislin really did her research and didn’t shy away from the less-glamorous aspects of college and professional hockey. We see how the sport weighs differently on Mitch and Alex and how it affects their budding relationship. In fact, that toll that sports takes on players ends up being a huge plot point for Alex’s career and Mitch’s development.

I gave this book an easy five-out-of-five review, but there are of course some elements that won’t work for every reader. The ending in particular may strike a sour note for some, especially in terms of coming out and possible homophobia within professional sports. As a gay person myself, I found it extremely realistic, but it definitely didn’t strike every box on the typical happily-ever-after checklist.

I’m still floored by this book. It’s well-written, atmospheric, often funny, often heartbreaking, and devastatingly romantic. The main characters are excellent and the supporting cast (especially Cody and all the parents) are carefully-crafted. This is the first time I’ve read Amy Aislin and it certainly won’t be my last!


About the Author

I started writing on a rainy day in fourth grade when my class was forced to stay inside for recess. Tales of adventures with my classmates quickly morphed into tales of adventures with the characters in my head. Based in the suburbs of Toronto, I'm a marketer at a large environmental non-profit in Toronto by day, and a writer by night. Book enthusiast, animal lover and (very) amateur photographer, my interests are many and varied, including travelling, astronomy, ecology, and baking.


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