‘Poke Check’ is the fourth book in the ‘Harrisburg Railers’ series by R.J. Scott & V. L. Locey and without a doubt it’s my favorite book in the series and I’m not even going to say ‘so far’ because this one has totally won a special spot in my heart.
I’ve been a fan of the Railers’ big, dorky, adorable Russian goalie from the start. Honestly, he’s just too sweet to resist. My only concern going into this one was that sometimes in our minds we build things up, we give them so much hype that no matter how hard the poor author(s) try we’ve doomed them to failure and as you can tell by my 5-star rating that was not the case in this story…not even close.
Stanislov ‘Stan’ Lyamin is the Railers goalie and throughout the previous books we’ve seen glimpses of him as he befriended his team-mates giving them help and caring advice when needed. For me, Stan was one of those characters that just worked, from the minute they enter the story you like them and want to read more about them. Previous stories haven’t given us a lot about Stan’s past but there has been a subtle hint or two that Stan’s had some heartbreak in his life, but those stories weren’t Stan’s.
Stan grew up in small village in Russia and he learned really fast that being a gay man in Russia was something that you kept to yourself if you valued your safety…even your life. So he worked hard at what he was good at…at what would hopefully help him escape Russia so he could live a life that allowed him to have his dreams and one of those dreams was to be a goalie in the NHL…this was the dream to that brought him to safety but there are still things that Stan wants…he’s got the big house in a nice neighbourhood and his cat, Lucy and his sister Galina is coming to visit now if he could just have the last two things on that list…his mother, Arina living in his beautiful big home with him and a man that he could love and build a life with, but first he’s going to have to come to terms with that fact that the man that he loves, the man who broke his heart is now one of his teammates.
Erik Gunnarsson’s finally made it…he’s been called from the AHL to play on an NHL team…his dream come true, but of all the teams out there did it have to be the Railers. Walking away from Stan at the end of the summer three years ago was the hardest thing he’d ever done. Not only did it break Stan’s heart but it broke Erik’s heart as well. For Erik it was the only choice to make once he discovered that he was going to be a father. Three years later he finds that even though his priorities have changed, and Noah is his world it hasn’t changed the love that he feels for Stan.
I knew going into this story that I loved Stan and I have to admit I was all set to be angry with Erik but it never happened, from the start with all his insecurities, doubts and the sincerity of his efforts to do right by his son, Noah and give him the best life he could, to earn Stan’s forgiveness and to play hockey…good hockey so that the Railers would want to keep him. I just couldn’t not like him. Erik was a good guy trying to deal with some crappy circumstances the best way that he knew how to.
Stan and Erik’s second chance doesn’t happen over night and it takes time and effort for them to find their way back to each other. From their first tentative conversations to that moment when Stan finally understands and forgives Erik for doing what he felt he had to do and as they get to know each other again reigniting the passion they shared I was totally and absolutely enchanted with this story.
As well as just loving this story in general there were things in specific that added to my overall enjoyment of the story. I loved reading Stan’s POV and his Russian/English translations were at times incredibly humorous adding a light touch to the story. The banter between Stan and Erik just worked it felt right and natural and the other thing that really stuck out in my mind was how the author’s portrayed Freja, Noah’s mother. So often in books we see women portrayed in a less than favorable light because they choose not to have children and I really liked how Freja was portrayed it was different and refreshing. Obviously as a mother myself it wasn’t my choice but it’s nice to read a story that reminds us we have choices and different choices don’t have to be good or bad they can be just what they are different.
While I really loved this story and I can’t imagine enjoying whatever comes next more. I’m definitely on board to see if the authors can prove me wrong.
An ARC of Poke Check was graciously provided by the authors in exchange for an honest review.