Burning Up the Ice by T.A. Chase and Devon Rhodes lives up to its name in a few ways. This book not only deals in hockey, but there’s also curling! To ice sports meet up in one book—SCORE! There’s a wonderful, melt-the-ice hot romance in play. I dare say by the time you’re done with the book that you may never look at a Zamboni the same way again.
I need to give a disclaimer upfront. I’m friends with T.A. and Devon and my husband and I have a nod in the book’s dedication and we even make a brief cameo on page 79 (which we didn’t know about until I bought the book and started reading it). Trust me when I say this is no way skews my opinion of the book. If you’re collecting a shelf of gay hockey romances like I am, you need this book on that shelf because this is a great one.
Burning Up The Ice starts simple enough. NHL’er, and Norris Trophy winning defenseman, Olivier St. Pierre is back home in small town Canada to rehab from an injury. Unfortunately, one of his home rinks has shut down and he’s having a hard time finding ice time that’s away from the prying eyes of the media who are eager to get the real story about his injury (because, yes, there’s a story there). He ends up at a rink run by someone who watched Olivier grow up and escape their small town. Ethan Campbell hasn’t been treated well by the sport, having been told he was too small to play. As an adult, he was much happier in the world of curling. Olivier doesn’t do anything to make Ethan like hockey more since, on his first visit to Ethan’s rink, he manages to insult Ethan’s family and curling.
So how do these two end up together?
Thankfully, T.A. and Devon wrote a nice, slow build for these guys. They start out prickly towards each other, grow into something closer to friends and eventually figure out there’s much more there. It’s one of my favorite build-ups in the books I’ve been reading for PuckBuddys. Ethan and Olivier are so tentative, it’s fun to watch them get a little further along each time they’re together. Plus, there’s how they talk about the other when they’re with other family and friends that’s also wonderful.
Not only does a relationship start, but Olivier reignites Ethan’s love of hockey. It happens slowly, but surely as Olivier goes through his rehab. These two end up healing each other in certain ways and it’s a nice addition to the budding romantic side of their relationship. Among the best scenes highlighting this is the shoot out the two end up doing to help settle a disagreement.
It was great that T.A. and Devon didn’t use Olivier’s rehab has just a device to bring the guys together. It works into the fabric of the story in every way. A favorite scene happens between Olivier and his cousin, Julienne, when he goes out to the pond where his love of hockey started. Olivier and Julienne skate around, talk, it’s a lovely family moment, taking place outside, just playing the game. In fact there are a several tangents to the main romance that give this book a great depth.
Of course, it’s not all easy sailing, eventually Olivier’s rehab will finish and he’ll rejoin his team in Chicago. What does that mean for this new love? As always, I offer no spoilers, except to say the ending was every bit as satisfying as the rest of the book.
I can’t say enough good things about Burning Up the Ice with the swoon-inducing romance, the hockey and curling action, a sizzling dose of sex (especially on the Zamboni) and excellent characters with Olivier, Ethan and their friends and family.
Jeff: Now let’s shift gears and welcome T.A. Chase and Devon Rhodes for the interview section of this post!
T.A.: First of all, thank you so much for having us here! 🙂
Jeff: I’m glad we were finally made this work. We’ve been trying to talk about this fun book for a few months.
Before we go in depth on Burning Up the Ice, what was the inspiration behind the International Men of Sports series?
T.A.: We were sitting around our hotel room in Albuquerque for GRL (the GayRomLit retreat) and got talking about different countries and the sports that are considered national sports for them. We came up with six to start with, and during the almost two years since, we’ve chosen many more.
Devon: Both of us love sports in general, and writing athletic guys is a lot of fun. They tend to have characteristics that really lend themselves towards being ‘heroes’—dedication, focus, drive…and of course, pretty prime bodies! J And sports are something that cross cultural boundaries—every culture has some form of athletics people play and cheer for, that brings people together.
Jeff: What’s the process to pick the sports you’ve used in the eight books that are now available?
T.A.: Well, the eighth came out in October and it’s about tennis (An Ice in the Tiebreak). We were talking about countries that weren’t often seen in romance books and India was the first one we thought of. Then it was simply a matter of thinking of which sport was most popular in India—cricket—and there aren’t that many books about cricket out there.
Devon: So then we went along listing what sports really fit with each country we were looking at. We agreed on every one until Canada, lol! But we’ll talk about how we worked that out below. 🙂
Jeff: What’s your favorite in the series? Which was the easiest to write? Which the most difficult? And, why?
Devon: Oh, hard questions! Um, I think my favorite would have to be At First Touch. I love the whole cast of characters (and there are a lot of them!), and the way they are their own little family. The easiest to write for me was probably A Grand Prix Romance, because we already knew Paolo and his friends from AFT, so his character was very clear to me. The hardest had to be A Sticky Wicket in Bollywood. Not sure if it was because it was our first book together, or because the culture is one I was very unfamiliar with.
T.A.: Favorite in the series? Hmm…it’s so hard to choose, but I think I’d have to say Blindsided. There’s just something about Liam and Matty that sticks with me. The easiest for me to write was Burning Up the Ice, simply because I love hockey and it’s one of the sports I know the most about. Far and away, the hardest for me was A Sticky Wicket in Bollywood. I knew nothing about cricket and had to do a ton of research, and I have to admit I still don’t understand it. Lol!
Jeff: Let’s talk specifically on Burning Up the Ice. We’ve seen hockey players crop up in m/m romance from time to time, but I think it’s the first time curling has come up. How did you develop the plot for this book and decide what sports to give to Ethan and Olivier?
T.A.: Coming up with the sports for Ice was easy. We knew we were going to set the story in Canada and what are the two national sports of Canada? Hockey and curling. So we decided to feature both sports instead of focusing on one.
Devon: Yes! It was pretty funny, actually. We were going along, saying, “India? Cricket. France? Cycling.” Etcetera. Then when we said, “Canada,” I said “Curling” and T.A. said “Hockey” simultaneously. We looked at each other for a few minutes, then I said, “How about we do a hockey player and a curler fighting for ice time?” And we took off from there. 🙂
Jeff: I love that you show both hockey and curling in action. How well did you know the sports before you started writing the book? What kind of research did you have to do?
T.A.: We both knew hockey. It’s one of the sports I’ll watch, no matter who is playing (though I’m a huge Detroit Red Wings fan). But I still double-checked terms and positions while writing to do my best to get them right. I knew nothing at all about curling, so I let Devon take that one. Lol!
Devon: LOL! Yes, well my dad grew up in Rhode Island, so of course he played hockey. But I also knew about curling. My grandmother has a pond on her property where kids would come down and skate when it would freeze over. And I remember them having curling stones. They’d take a penny and freeze it into the ice for the ‘button’ and go from there. Very informal, but then would I would see it on The Wide World of Sports or the Olympics, at least I had a frame of reference. I also DVRd curling matches during the Olympics and watched them for inspiration and terminology…and because it was fun to imagine my characters doing it!
Jeff: This is the first book I’ve reviewed on PuckBuddys with co-authors. Can you discuss your writing process and how you split up the work for this story?
T.A.: Once we know the general plot of the story, we decide which character is going to start the first chapter. We’ll have already decided which character we’re taking. I’ve been doing the athletes for the most part, but Devon had Ethan and she does Robin, the tennis player, in our latest, An Ace in the Tiebreak. With the word count the same for each book, we know how much each character needs to have in his pov. Of course, it doesn’t come out perfectly even each time.
Devon: That’s true, and we also occasionally cross over and write for the other person. We write in a shared Google Doc, so we can be in the manuscript at the same time, and many times we write dialogue in real time together, where I’ll type my character’s line, then T.A. will respond with her character, etc. It keeps the guys true to how we imagine them, and takes the conversations off in directions that one of us would never come up with on our own—just like in real life.
Jeff: The scenes between Ethan and Olivier on the Zamboni could change the way people view this ice rink staple. Did you know that was always going to be part of the story?
T.A.: (laughing) Oh yeah. I think the moment we chose hockey, we knew there had to be a Zamboni scene. It’s one of the most iconic images of hockey. How could we not put a scene like that in there? Lol!
Devon: Especially with Ethan owning the rink so they’d have the opportunity and privacy. I figured any guys who grew up around rinks probably imagined something naughty happening on or near the ice, and as T.A. said, it’s an iconic feature of ice sports. I tell ya—I never looked at a Zamboni the same way again, and that was pretty funny during the Olympics when they had a lot of commercials featuring them!
Jeff: What are your favorite moments in the book?
T.A.: Aside from the Zamboni scene…one of mine would have to be the scene where Olivier is reading while he skates. I actually stole that from Jackie Nacht, who was telling me about this guy she knew who used to read while he ran. When I heard that, I knew I had to put that in a book and Olivier was the perfect character to have do that.
Devon: I was thrilled when Ethan started shooting again and then of course the shoot-out to settle the argument was a lot of fun for everyone.
Jeff: Do you see any future stories for Ethan and Olivier? Or other hockey players?
T.A.: I’m not going to say there won’t be more stories for Ethan and Olivier, but there aren’t any planned at the moment. The same with hockey in general. Never know when a plot bunny will hop in and scream ‘hockey’ at us.
Devon: I think we’ll see the guys again. We have two stories planned for people they know, so I’m sure they’ll be around. Who knows what point in their lives they’ll be in then? I know that we’ve also talked about doing some short stories, maybe holiday type stories, featuring our guys. Sort of depends on the feedback we get from readers!
Jeff: Well the feedback from this reader is, yes! Holiday stories or other shorts, please!
Meanwhile, what’s next for you guys, individually and as a team? And what’s the future for International Men of Sports?
T.A.: As mentioned earlier, An Ace in the Tiebreak, book eight in the series, just came out this month. We’re taking a small break from the Sports series at the moment, but there will definitely be more in the future. Heck, I think we have another eight ideas at least. Individually, I’m working my last book in my Rags to Riches series. Walking in the Rain, book five, is out for early download at Totally Bound. I’m also working on some books for Amber Allure and MLR Press.
Devon: We’ll definitely get back to the Men of Sports series after the New Year. We also have some other co-writing planned for the next year besides this series. As for me, I’ve started a new series called Grad School Guys that will be coming out starting this winter at Totally Bound. I’m also working on wrapping up a few series at Totally Bound and Dreamspinner Press, so I can concentrate on my newer ones!
Jeff: Here’s where you can keep up with T.A. and Devon online:
Jeff: You can see more about Burning Up The Ice as well.
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 fall in love during high school. Hat Trick 2: Playing the Rebound was published in July and he’s at work on the third installment. Another hockey romance short story, Rivals, will be out from JMS Books this holiday season. You can follow him on Twitter at @hockeyguynyc.