I received this story as an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This was really an interesting story. I didn't know what to expect going into it seeing how Austin acted throughout the rest of the series. I was looking forward to seeing things from his perspective, and I wasn't disappointed.
I was really pleased by what a complicated person Austin turned out to be. It was easy to see him as almost a stereotype in the earlier books, but seeing things from his point of view made me realize exactly what drove his words and actions. I really felt for him and the fear, and self loathing that drove him. I can't imagine how scary his feelings were, and seeing how much he punished himself for his own needs and desires almost broke my heart. He makes so many mistakes, and bad decisions because of this it was hard for me to read in parts.
I was surprised by how much I liked Liam as well. I appreciated how much Liam seems to care for Austin, and how much Austin's self loathing and fear hurts his heart. I loved that Liam wasn't the stereotypical cold, perfect dom. Liam made mistakes, and messed things up like Austin, and it made Liam more human to me, and like him that much more for it.
I love that this series continues to explore a wide array of sexual expression. That the lines are a bit blurred, and it's more than just gay, and straight or even gay, straight, and bi. It makes for such rich characters, and story lines. The relationship between Liam, and Austin might not be traditional, but the feelings and needs that drive it are real, and work for both of them. I appreciated that the Austin and Liam connected not just on a sexual level, but on a personal one as well. I liked that they were friends, and that when real feelings arose it wasn't just based on physical need.
I also appreciated that this book didn't just focus on Austin and Liam's relationship. I liked seeing how Austin and Bobby's interactions change over the course of the story as well. I liked seeing what colored Austin's view of Bobby, and how he learns, and makes a sincere effort to change. Their friendship was really one of the highlights of the story for me. I liked that it wasn't about Liam making Austin accept himself, and how his friends played a role as well. Austin's hockey is well integrated into the story, and I like how big a part it plays. It adds a lot to the story, and seeing Austin interact with the team gave me a better appreciation for his character.
Overall it was a really well told story. Austin frustrated me at times, but I understood where he was coming from. The stress, and the pressure he put on himself, and the terror of discovery that colored all of his actions, and relationships felt honest. I appreciated seeing his growth over the course of the story, and seeing him learn to fully accept himself was wonderful. The ending was well done, and it left me feeling good about where things ended up.