PuckBuddys introduced readers to Cassandra Carr last August with her book See the Light, which followed the budding romance between an Olympic hockey player and one of his coaches.
An avid hockey fan, it’s not surprising that Carr has more hockey romance available with a touching, and hot, short story in the new Campus Cravings anthology, which is just out this week, as well as a See the Light sequel called Hiding in Plain Sight. Before catching up with Cassandra, here’s a review of her two new gay hockey offerings.
The Eloquent Jock, the short story in Campus Cravings, is a great coming out story meshed with an angsty romance. Brendan (named in honor of Brendan Burke) is a college hockey player whose senior-year work-study assignment is to be a TA to Scott, a creative writing professor.
Sparks fly with these two from their first meeting. However, Brendan is out to no one. Scott, meanwhile, is well aware of the trouble he could get in for hooking up with a student, especially one working for him. The point of view shifts scene to scene so we’re able to get Brendan and Scott’s internal dialogue and that’s great stuff as they debate how much they want the other with the consequences that are possible.
I loved the push and pull between these characters as they maneuver around each other—getting super close, pulling away, apologizing and doing it over again. There’s just the right amount of frustration on the page, and you end of feeling for both men. I’m not going to spoil the end of the story, but suffice to say the two have some sizzling hot times as the story progresses (their time in the park was particularly hot) and their ultimate solution is a good one.
In Hiding in Plain Sight, we find an unlikely main character in Vlad. Vlad is the Russian player who hurled slurs at the U.S. hockey team in See the Light. Now he’s back in the U.S. and playing for Pittsburgh. It hasn’t been quite the same for him since the Olympics because no one can understand why he did what he did. After Vald goes into a Pittsburgh gay sports bar and is recognized by Joe, a former Special Ops solider, both men’s lives end up on a new path.
You might’ve guessed it, Vlad’s gay and no one knows. He’s scared what the Russian mafia might do to his family if he comes out, even though he lives and plays in the U.S. now. For Joe, he’s been out a long time and while he’s attracted to Vlad, he’s not sure he wants to start anything more than a friendship with someone so deep in the closet.
Cassandra weaves a great story here as Joe slowly gets Vlad to open up to him about what happened at the Olympics and why he’s so scared even in this age of You Can Play. Getting Vlad out of his shell is compelling reading. He’s a complex character with a lot on his mind, not the least of which is that he finds Joe to be hot, and possibly boyfriend material. Watching them go from uneasy friends to far more than that is also some of the sweetest—and hottest—reading around this summer.
It was nice that Cassandra dropped in cameos from Jason and Patrick from See the Light. They get to play the mentor role here to very nice effect.
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I recently got to chat with Cassandra about both of these new stories.
JA: “The Eloquent Jock” is dedicated to the late Brendan Burke. What’s the story behind this story?
CC: Brendan, the hockey player, was named after Brendan Burke. I’ve followed the You Can Play project since its inception and wanted to highlight it. I’ve done so in pretty much every m/m hockey story I’ve done so far. The NHL has always been a staunch supporter of the You Can Play project, and I hope that someday gay men can feel comfortable to be themselves in the league without fear of repercussions.
JA: Something I liked a lot in this story was that both Scott and Brendan want the other, but are both scared of the consequences. What was it like to write so much romance and angst in the same scenes?
CC: A challenge, certainly. I can’t even imagine what it would be like in their situation. Both have so much to lose, and I wanted to convey that as best I could. I hope I succeeded!
JA: You conveyed it perfectly, I think.
How real world do you think this story is in terms of how Brendan and Scott are received by the other characters in the story? Were you looking to reflect now or a future?
CC: I think it can be like that. I hope it can be like that. I would like to think that the hockey world is a little more accepting of gay men and women, they certainly seem to be with their support (at least the NHL’s) of the You Can Play project. I’ve seen a lot of college teams showing similar support.
JA: Meanwhile, with Hiding In Plain Sight, did you always see Vlad being the hook for See The Light’s sequel? What was the inspiration for the rest of Vlad’s story and him meeting up with Joe?
CC: When I wrote See the Light, Vlad was a means to an end. But then, when I started thinking about book two, I thought it would be interesting to turn things around and make him a closeted gay man. From there the title, Hiding In Plain Sight, seemed obvious. I wanted to show the struggle of a man coming to terms to his sexuality, and to bring to the forefront the prejudice gay men in Russia are facing.
JA: Is Plain Sight more Vlad’s story or Joe’s? They both go through a fair bit over the course of the story.
CC: I’d say it’s more Vlad’s story than Joe’s. I think he has the larger character makeover/transformation than Joe. After all, Joe already knows he’s gay, he’s got some experience. Yes, his life has fallen apart since his accident, but at least he knows who he is. Vlad has to make the bigger life change.
JA: What’s your favorite part of Plain Sight?
CC: When Vlad comes out right at the end, with Joey backing him up. Oh, and I also like the part where he tells him teammates and Joey is there to back him up then too. The whole “Yeah, my boyfriend is a badass” thing that Vlad thinks is kind of funny considering he’s a hockey player.
JA: What message do you want people to come away with when they’re done with the book?
CC: That sometimes figuring out who you are isn’t a catastrophic thing. Sometimes it’s okay.
JA: And, lastly, what’s coming up for you? Do you expect another installment in the Safe Harbor series? Or some other m/m hockey in another story?
CC: I may do another installment in the Safe Harbor series. I don’t have time right now, but maybe in 2015. I do have a continuation of The Eloquent Jock coming out this holiday season. It’s called The Key.
I will also be doing a continuation of the m/f hockey novella I released called Scorin’ on the Fourth of July. I’d like to continue the story of Mikael and Terri. Both of those stories are novellas in my Buffalo Storm m/f hockey series. After that, I’m not sure, but I also have a m/m military story coming out in a bundle titled Unconditional Surrender. It releases on October 13th. I expect to release more m/m stories next year, too.
Thanks for having me! I appreciate it and I hope everyone likes the stories!
Jeff’s regular PuckBuddys beat includes the Red Wings and reviewing fiction that features gay hockey players. In addition, he’s the author of the Hat Trick series, which chronicles the romance of Simon & Alex, two hockey players who fell in love during high school. Hat Trick 2: Playing the Rebound was published in July and he’s at work on the third installment. You can follow him on Twitter at @hockeyguynyc.