Back in August, the first books I reviewed for Hockey Pages were two of Stephani Hecht’s–Offside Pass and Between the Pipes, the first two books in her Blue Line Hockey series. I’ve now read the third, Cup Check, and also got to sit down with Stephani to find out more about her, her love of the game and fierce support for the LGBT community.
First, let’s talk about the excellent Cup Check. Hawks captain Kip and teammate Sergei, who were introduced in the previous two books are at the center of this story (although you don’t need to have read the first two books, I highly recommend you do because they are very good).
From the previous books we know that, after a rough start due to the Canton brothers reputation, Kip and the brothers formed an tight alliance once it was clear how much the trio could help the Hawks. Sergei, meanwhile, was taken under the brother’s collective wing when he came to the team and appeared in a magazine article with goalie Trey about gay athletes.
While Sergei is out and proud, Kip is deep in the closet. The Cantons have suspected Kip’s gay, but they haven’t approached him on it. Kip and Sergei, however, have huge, secret, crushes on each other. Sergei doesn’t act on his because he doesn’t run to ruin his friendship with his “straight” captain. Kip stays quiet because he’s got a family that wouldn’t tolerate it and, since he aspires to the NHL, he doesn’t want to make waves.
As the book opens, the Hawks are headed for the playoffs and the last game of the regular season is against the nasty Cougars, Sergei’s former team. It’s a rough game and Cougars want to hurt Sergei as they are not as accepting as the Hawks. After the game, Sergei and Kip both skip the team hangout…and both end up at a gay bar where they thought no one would recognize them.
Sergei is hurt. Not only did he not know Kip was gay, but he sees this as Kip’s rejection of him. Kip is terrified he was found out. The shock of it all doesn’t keep them from having insanely hot sex in the rain with Sergei pinned to the hood of Kip’s car. Yes, their first time happens in a parking lot, on a stormy night, there’s a touch of dominant/submissive action… and it’s a scene that sizzles off the page. Sergei and Kip end up in a proper bed later and that scene is also a steamy read.
It’s not happily ever after immediately after these two discover their crushes. If anything the chasm between them is wider than ever. But with the Hawks meeting the Cougars in the first round of the playoffs, the two figure out their relationship situation faster than they ever expected. Speaking of playoffs, the two sequences of game play in this story are great. With the NHL not playing currently, at least you can read some good on ice action.
Stephani continues to construct excellent stories with this chapter in the series. Sergei and Kip are such wonderful characters and it’s great getting to know them better here. There’s a lot of great story here too since Sergei is struggling to be confident with his choice to be out and Kip struggling to come out. For both characters this extra layer enhances the story of them falling in love.
The dramatic conclusion of this story is one of the most emotional that I’ve read from Stephani so far. I read the last bit of the book during my evening commute on the subway and I was occasionally blinking back tears.
The Cantons do take a back seat in this outing, but both Trey and Devon have strong supporting roles here. Stephani deftly brought Sergei and Kip to the forefront while still giving fans of the series a dose of the guys who started it all.
After the jump, an interview with the author -
An interview the author…
I met up with Stephani during the GayRomLit retreat in Albuquerque back in mid-October and we talked about the Blue Line Hockey books, the Red Wings and her love of hockey and her support for the LGBT community.
“I just love hockey,” she says when asked where the inspiration for the Blue Line Hockey books comes from. “From watching Ravens games I know a lot. I spent 12 years in the stands and I know how that works.”
Her hockey passion goes back to growing up in Michigan when she was a fan of Steve Yzerman even before he became the very popular, and long serving, Red Wings captain. “I had one of those eggs you had to take care of in grade school and I pretended that Yzerman was its dad.”
Hockey is big in her family too. Her father played pond hockey. Stephani’s son, Cody, also played the game, although he left the sport at age 14 and decided to take up skiing because he was tired of being beat up on as a goalie.
Since her son’s a goalie, it should be no surprise that one of her favorite character creations is Trey Canton, the goalie and youngest of the Canton brothers trio that is featured in the Blue Line Hockey series books.
Stephani is a passionate campaigner for LGBT rights, especially when it comes to teens and young people. “I knew Cody was struggling to come out,” she said. “I was looking for a way to talk to him and once he was out to me I let him practice saying it to me.”
Since then, Stephani and Cody have posed for a NOH8 campaign photo and participate in LGBT evens in Michigan. Of course, she’s also a supporter of You Can Play. “We need to start education with the young kids,” she said. “It’s so great straight allies are coming out now to show support, especially in hockey. It’s such a rough and tumble sport and we need to teach that hate speech wont be tolerated.”
The Blue Line Hockey books, like the rest of the books Stephani writes, are always done by the seat of her pants. She gets an idea, what she calls a plot bunny, and just makes it up as she goes. It’s all rooted in reality though. The older, dilapidated rinks, such as the arena the Cantons call home in the series, are places that hockey players and fans know well if they’ve been around the sport for anytime at all. The idea for the goalie coaching in Between the Pipes was based partially on the camp run by Steve McKichan, a former Maple Leafs goalie coach.
The most important thing in Stephani’s writing is to portray the characters honestly. “I treat the men like anybody else in a relationship–love is love and people are people,” she said. “I try to not slip into stereotypes.”
Will there be more for the Blue Line Hockey? Maybe…
“I always say the most recent book is the last book, but then another plot bunny pops up. Besides, I’d like to have a couple NHL players show up in a story, so there may be more.”
Whether or not there’s more to come in the Blue Line Hockey series, you can be sure Stephani will keep writing (she’s got more than 100 books and stories in print), cheering on the Red Wings (if they ever get back on the ice) and supporting the LGBT community.