ARC Review by Jude: Off the Ice by Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn


Tristan Holt is nothing if not pragmatic. Despite a flourishing career as a defenseman for the Atlanta Venom, Tristan knows he can’t play hockey forever. One day he’ll retire—if an injury doesn’t force him to hang up his skates first. His backup plan? Finishing his business degree. But he doesn’t count on a very inappropriate attraction to his standoffish sociology professor, Sebastian Cruz.

Sebastian is on the bottom rung of the Sociology Department at Georgia State. He has his sights set on tenure, and he can’t afford to be distracted, especially not by a sexy student with a body straight out of Sebastian’s dreams. No matter how much Tristan tempts him, that’s one line Sebastian won’t cross. At least not until summer classes end. After that, everything is fair game.

But Sebastian lives loud and proud, and Tristan is terrified of being the first out player in the NHL. Neither of them can afford to risk their hearts when they can’t imagine a happily ever after. The problem is, unlike hockey, when it comes to love, there are no rules.

Riptide Publishing / Amazon
Release Date: October 30th


*I received a free copy from the authors

4 Stars

This book is a great example of a blend of instant and great chemistry between characters who seem like an unlikely match. It also features a lovely slide from sex to romance, which isn’t always the order we get in novels. Often this feels forced or jerky. Gale and Vaughn did a great job in making that transition feel natural and seamless.

The characters were well drawn and consistent. I’ll be honest, I really connected with Tristan: with his sweetness, his uncertainty, his love of hockey and commitment to school and having a well-rounded plan.

The authors did a great job handling their dynamic; how it fit naturally into their encounters. It was both really sexy and also cathartic and necessary in a way. I really love that in a book that involves this kind of dominant/submissive play or relationship (even if they don’t classify it as such). There is a scene where Sebastian realizes Tristan needs a particular thing (don’t want to spoil you); it was really well done, because it’s not over-written. It took us just to where Tristan needed to be and gave him exactly what he did, which had the double benefit of showing us their deepening intimacy and understanding, trust and connection.

The pacing of the book was a little off: the beginning was a “can’t put this down” chunk. About the time that Sebastian and Tristan finally get together the pace really slowed down for me. Perhaps because the driving tension of the book thus far had been them getting together and then there was an extended period of them having admittedly hot sex. Perhaps I was wondering where the story could go next?

However, once I got through that section, the pace picked back up and got even better. I loved their uncertainty, I loved that they both had to work to understand what they could accept in a relationship and how to come to compromise together. I loved watching them fall in love and learn to communicate. I find that in a lot of stories that involve coming out vs. not, there’s an all or nothing mentality, or an all or nothing set up. In romance novels, this usually ends with the MC coming out regardless of cost or acceptance (and hey, we all like HEA so usually it’s acceptance). I like those stories when they’re written well. But they don’t always ring true. What I loved about this one is that there weren’t, ultimately, absolutes in how much Tristan had to come out. Perhaps Sebastian saw it as such initially, but what they worked out together worked. As a reader, I appreciated the authors approaching the situation in the shades of gray inherently there. That was refreshing.

I highly recommend this book and cannot wait for more in this series.


Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal Midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert, and will never say no to candy.

At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, sci-fi, she loves them all (and has an over-two-thousand-book library to prove it!). She’s an avid tea drinker, a hockey fanatic, a vintage typewriter collector, and loves to travel so much she has “wanderlust” tattooed on her ankle and dozens of countries on her bucket list. Recently, she discovered the world of nail art and realized she’s pretty handy with a paintbrush—as long as it’s a miniature one.

As a bisexual and Latinx person, Piper takes great pride in her heritage. She grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood and strives to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. She currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, son, and a cat that has Piper wrapped around her little paw. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life … even if it’s only in a book.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Genre: Contemporary Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Riptide Publishing Review Tag: Age-Gap Tag: Part of a series Tag: PoC Tag: Sports

Jude Sierra View All →

Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007.

Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for Queer Books Unbound. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary queer romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018. Shadows you Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.

Twitter: @JudeSierra
Instagram: /judemsierra/

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