by Sawyer Bennett
Release Date: January 11, 2022
Publisher: Big Dog Books, LLC
Book #1 in the Pittsburgh Titans series
Number of pages: 364
Source: Amazon Pre-Order
Ages 17 and up
CW: mugging, plane crash
After suffering a horrific injury that threatens to end his career, Baden Oulett is about to learn that sometimes a fresh start is just what the doctor ordered.
I worked my whole life to achieve one goal—play professional hockey. As part of the defending Cup champion Arizona Vengeance, I was living my dream until one split second decision destroyed it all. Instead of lacing up my skates and hitting the ice, I’ve spent my days in rehab and physical therapy just so I could walk again. When a coaching opportunity with the Pittsburgh Titans is presented to me, I find myself with a career I had never considered but which allows me to continue being part of the sport that I love.
While my injuries are physical, the same can’t be said for the woman I rescued. Suffering from wounds that can’t be seen, Sophie Winters has withdrawn from the world in fear and guilt. I didn’t know Sophie before that fateful night and have only met her once since, but I refuse to let her face her demons alone. Determined to be a friend, I support Sophie in the only way I know how… by simply being there.
Through our shared trauma, Sophie and I begin to find peace within one another. As we grow closer, what started as friendship becomes more intimate until our broken pieces become one. But can a love born of anguish endure, or will the pain of our past prove too much to overcome?
There is so much I want to say about this book. First, is it just me or do other people feel like they’re getting an extra special gift when a book from a favorite author is released on their birthday? I had decided to take my birthday off of work so was able to devour the whole story in one day, too! I mean, is there any fan of the Arizona Vengeance series that hasn’t been waiting for Baden to find his HEA?
The author starts this book, the first of a new series in her hockey world, with a note to the reader. Let me tell you, I really appreciate that she did. I’m not going to go over the whole thing, but she talks about having to make creative decisions that maybe aren’t technically correct when it comes to a city or sport or recovery from injury. My brain gets caught on small, seemingly insignificant details. It’s just how I’m wired. I’ve always appreciated Sawyer Bennett’s obvious research when it comes to hockey because there have been plenty of other authors that get it so wrong. And I feel that even more strongly when it comes to how long and hard the road truly is when someone has injuries to the extent Baden does.
On to the story! Baden is amazing. As if I didn’t already know this. His interactions with Riggs in the last Arizona Vengeance book solidified my love for this man. In this story, he shows us that he doesn’t just give great advice to his buddies. He also follows his own advice. He’s so wonderful with Sophie. At first, it has a lot to do with them having gone through a traumatic experience together. But he quickly picks up on her strengths and encourages her to hold onto those strengths while pushing her to overcome her fears. And he doesn’t just push her out of the nest, so to speak. He is right here with her, walking the walk. The connection Sophie and Baden share may have come out of a terrible situation, but it grows into so much more because they are both such caring and strong people. One of the notes I made about 1/3 of the way into this book was “I can’t stop smiling at how cute they are with each other!” In a romance with some heavy issues, this is high praise. The author still found the joy to give the characters and the reader.
While the things Baden and Sophie deal with in their personal lives are stirring, my tears came when in the scenes that dealt with the Titans as a team. My heart breaks for so many of these characters and I’m so looking forward to them all finding happiness. I feel as though the pain will make their HEAs that much more joyous in the end.
P.S. The next book is out on March 1, my husband’s birthday. I don’t think I’ll be able to get away with snuggling up with a hockey-playing book boyfriend all day when it’s my hockey-playing real life boyfriend’s special day. 😉
Note: While you do not have to read the Arizona Vengeance series in order to jump into this spin-off series, I highly recommend that you do. It’s full of wonderful stories, strong and sassy characters, and lifelong friendships.