By R.J. Scott and V.L. Locey
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
One scorching summer in each other’s arms could never be enough.
Stanislav “Stan” Lyamin is happy playing for the Railers. The towering goalie is well-loved, respected, and making a home for himself even though that home only contains him, his cat, and his growing Pokemon trading card collection. Stan prefers it that way.
He’d given his heart to a man in a secret affair, and that man walked away, leaving Stan shattered. Now Erik is back in his life, and he has the same tumultuous effect he had on Stan’s heart as before. This time it’s not just a kissable mouth and sweet blond curls that Erik has brought to Harrisburg, there’s a soon-to-be ex-wife and a precious baby.
Despite the vow Stan made to hate Erik forever, he’s now finding it harder and harder to turn away.
Erik Gunnarsson’s dream had always been to play in the NHL, he just never imagined he’d land a contract with the Railers. Who would have thought that fate would put him on the same team as Stanislav Lyamin; the man whose heart he’d callously broken?
Secrets and lies had defined their summer relationship, and the choice that Erik made to end it all haunts him still. In the middle of a messy divorce and with a baby in tow, Erik finds himself back in Stan’s life. Now all he has to do is be the best dad he can be, prove to the team that he deserves the chance to stay on the roster and try his hardest to get Stan to forgive him.
Is it possible to persuade a man who hates you to give love a second chance?
Authors V.L. Locey and R.J.Scott must have had a hoot of a time writing Poke Check, #4 in the Harrisburg Railers series, and the second-chance romance between Russian goalie Stanislav “Stan” Lyamin and Swede Eric Gannarson.
I’ll admit that initially I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy Stan’s story. He played a constant and consistent role in the previous books, but in no way was I expecting a vulnerable, romantic, sincere, and sentimental, caring man. Stan is a lot more than muscle, brawn, and bluster. He’s smart, intense, sensitive; concerned about his mother who still resides in Russia; desires a husband and family to fill the rooms in his house;… and nursing a broken heart.
Enter Eric “Gunner” Gunnarson, the one man Stan doesn’t want to see on his team. After sharing an amazing few months the year previously at summer camp in Helsinki falling in love with the blond, curly-haired Nordic god, he wasn’t prepared for the heartbreak that followed. It was only to be a summer fling, but Stan believed it could have been more, especially after they both professed loving words to one another. But Eric left, and to marry a journalist and have a son, Noah. He’s definitely not happy about having to share a locker room with him.
Little does Stan know that Eric still truly loves Stan – and only Stan – but he had to marry Freja after a one-night stand resulted in pregnancy, and Freja didn’t want to carry the baby to term. Several expensive legal agreements later, Eric is finalizing sole custody of Noah, dissolving the marriage, and hoping that somehow Stan will eventually hear him out and hopefully forgive him.
The story itself is tight, the chemistry genuine and swoon-worthy, the relationship realism sweet and sincere, the dialogue (and Stan’s inner musings) humorous and innocent as only learning a new culture and language can allow. Noah is an added bonus, and Stan’s and Eric’s interactions with him together and independently are seamlessly developed, refreshing, and poignant, something not typically accomplished as well as by these authors. The story simply flowed, and it was bright, hopeful, and romantically sweet. No doubt these two make the perfect pair.
As unsure as I was before starting the book about liking it, I’m even more sure after finishing it that Poke Check is my series favorite, at least so far.
Poke Check can be read as a standalone, but it will be much more satisfying to first read the preceding books in the series to fully appreciate it. Plus, routine appearances by characters introduced earlier in the series will resonate more fully – it adds its own depth and dynamics to the story.
I voluntarily read an Advanced Reader’s Copy and submitted a review.
Review originally posted on Amazon and Goodreads on April 19, 2018.