Back to Center, Mohegan U Hockey, Book 2 By: Ryan Taylor, Joshua Harwood Narrated by: Alexander Cendese - Review, Excerpt and Giveaway



Back to Center is a second chance story that pointed out how much friends mean. Eckie gets a second chance to play hockey and finds the real meaning of friends.

From the blurb:

Eckie:

There are ways to get ahead in college hockey, but having a meltdown, trying to get rid of your coach, and stalking his boyfriend isn’t one of them. Is it really a surprise that I wound up in a hospital facing my demons instead of getting ready to play for the pros and taking care of my baby? I needed the world’s biggest redo, but the probability of a second chance was about the same as….

Jack Rogan walking through the door. But there he was! Jack was one of my coaches, and I was pretty sure he was straight. His easy laugh and sympathetic ear put a smile on my face. He made me believe I could turn my life around. But as much as I liked him, I knew I had to put my fantasies aside. With obligations to meet and amends to make, I didn’t have time to obsess about a guy who was out of my reach.

So why did I say yes when he offered me a place to stay while I got on my feet?

Jack:

I was done with relationships. A fractured heart had made sure my walls were high, and my shields were strong. There wasn’t a man I couldn’t resist—until Eckie.

After driving everyone away in an avalanche of self-destruction, he was getting much needed help, and I wondered if I should go see him. A single visit turned into the best part of every day, and I was hooked. When I was with Eckie, the world made sense again. There were only two years separating us, but since I was one of his coaches, spending time together was dangerous. If we kept it up, who knew what I might do?

Maybe something brilliant, like asking him to stay with me when he left the hospital. I knew it was risky, and I told myself I was only being a friend. But the truth was, I liked feeling things again.Eckie was seeking redemption; Jack was trying to do the right thing. Neither planned on anything beyond friendship. Will following their hearts leave them worse than before, or will they find what they’ve needed all along?



Laora's Review:

Audiobook review: 

Narrator: Alexander CendeseBack to Center did a marvelous job in setting an excellent pace for his narration. I would listen at 1 speed and that felt just right for me. Alexander gave Eckie and Jack and the side characters a wonderful 'coloring' of character and to me, they felt just right.

Rating: 5 Stars



Tatted_book_freak's Review:

Oh, I absolutely loved Jack and Eckie’s story!! I was kind of hesitant about Josh and Ryan tackling such a unique redemption story, but I will never doubt their skills again! They went above and beyond your typical redemption. Adding Levi in the mix was an additional bonus. 

Eckie turned himself completely around, successfully completing a 180 in his therapeutic journey, familial relationship, and hockey career. Absolutely loved Josh’s role in his redemption, as he was his biggest supporter. 

Back to Center was my first audio with Alexander Cendese as the narrator and did he deliver! Vocals play a primitive role in an audiobook and some just don’t have what it takes to bring the characters to life, but Alexander added an additional layer to this wonderful masterpiece! 

Rating: 5 Stars



Reedkaye's Review:

I’m reviewing the audio edition. This is the second in the series and the path the relationship between Jack and Eckie takes is so heartwarming.  

Eckie has a bad family background due to his parents believe being gay is totally wrong, and it’s possible for Eckie to decide what he wants to be. They had even interfered when he was young and he ended up being a dad. As a dad, he is great, but as for relationships, he is gay. He has behaved so badly that his chances of remaining in hockey and keeping his scholarship are questionable.  

Jack is a coach at Eckie’s school and when Eckie ends up in the hospital, Jack visits him daily. They become friends. Then, as Eckie leaves the hospital, he is faced with being homeless. Jack lets him move into the extra bedroom and the path Eckie’s hockey career takes and the relationship path that Eckie and Jack take held my interest till the very end.  

The narration by Alexander Cendese was perfect for these characters.

Rating: 5 Stars



Jacqueleen the Reading Queen's Review:

Narration: This was pretty on par with book 1. I didn't have to speed it up a ton like I tend to do with a few others. The pacing and voices were enjoyable. They fit the MCs and nothing beats when they get all breathless during the steam. ;)

Review: I honestly didn't know how to feel when I heard that the next book in the Mohegan U Hockey series was going to be about Eckie. I finished listening to Cracks in the Ice really disliking him. This is not surprising since Eckie was an asshole and, quite frankly, a bully throughout that book. He even went so far as to locking Cole in a room with him, terrifying the guy. It was no wonder Benny pulled Eckie from the hockey team, which in turn furthered his mental health decline. Thankfully, I think that was the push Eckie needed to take some control of his spiraling by checking himself into the hospital for treatment.

While getting treatment at the hospital over the Summer, Jack, the assistant coach of the Mohegan hockey team, pays him a visit. Surprised by the complete 180 in attitude, Jack continues his visits almost daily. The two get to know one another and become incredibly close. Jack is Eckie's first true friend. He sees something in him. He believes in him so much that when Eckie gets discharged and has no place to go, Jack sweetly offers his spare room to help Eckie get on his feet. However, it doesn't stay in his room for long because it turns out there's more to their feelings than friendship.

I applaud the authors for their mental health rep. Depression is no joke, and it often gets swept under the rug as something less than other mental health issues. I was happy to see it get the respect and spotlight it deserved. This book had a lot of talking about feelings and emotions, as that is something Eckie was taught by his doctors to help him mentally. I do have to admit that there is a fair amount of crying that occurs. Doesn't matter if it's a happy or upsetting occasion, tears are flowing more than what I'm used to in a sports romance. I guess I've just been more exposed to the toxic masculinity environment that can be seen in male dominated sports. Despite the tears, this one ends on a lovely HEA, giving both men their dreams and each other. Exactly the way a romance should end, if you ask me.

Rating: 4 Stars


Lesetiger's Review:

Back to Center is the second volume in the Mohegan U Hockey Series, which I was really looking forward to. When I saw that this volume was about Eckie, I was curious, because in the previous volume Eckie sometimes had a rather gruff manner, which did not make it easy for me to like him. 

Both authors Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood pleasantly surprised me. Wow, I am absolutely thrilled! Eckie has been in the hospital for a long time because he has depression. I really liked how open both authors were with the subject and didn't sugarcoat anything either. The assistant coach Jack visits Eckie regularly in the hospital and the two become friends. But can the two become something more?

Eckie gets a second chance - on the hockey team and in his private life. I was impressed by Eckie's development and that in a positive sense. He has matured and become stronger and he knows about mistakes from the past.

What is also a plus is the development of Eckie and Mary's relationship. Eckie's son Levi is an absolute sunshine who I immediately took to my heart.

The characters are very likable, whether it's Jack, Eckie, Levi, Mary or most of the team.

What I also really like that are the scenes when the team plays hockey. Alexander Cendese has captured the atmosphere on the ice really well.

The story is entertaining, heartwarming, fantastically told with a serious theme and then towards the end it gets really suspenseful!

Back to Center is one of those audiobooks that I will certainly listen to a second time. Alexander Cendese did a fantastic job. I like his pleasant voice and he has a great pace. He gave each character a voice to match, bringing the book to life! 

­čÄžAudiobook Review­čÄž
Overall: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Performance: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Story: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



Lori C's Review:

I wanted this book so bad!! I wanted to see Eckie redeemed. I just knew that there was something so good in him. To know that Jack Rogan, his former Coach, took an interest when no one did and gave him a safe place to call home was beautiful. To see their friendship growing into something more was fabulous. 

I personally loved seeing another book that had a focus on mental health. I enjoyed seeing the way Eckie corrected his negative self talk and used mantras to help soothe himself and put him in a good frame of mind. The way he interacted with Mary and Levi and his teammates showed just how much he had changed and it was so nice to see the progression of his character from the last book to this wonderful man, father, friend, and teammate. To watch him stand up to father, with the help of those teammates, took my breath away. 

I enjoyed listening to Alexander Cendese voice this story. This was my second Mohegan book with him as a narrator and it was a lot easier to sink into his voice patterns this time. He has such a good range of pitch might be the right word. I felt like there were so many different voices in this story and we even heard Benny and Cole again. He even voiced Levi! I was able to just sit and listen and visualize the story as it unfolded. Alexander Cendese is definitely a pleasure to listen to. 

Rating: 5 Stars



Alyssagp's Review:

Back to Center by: Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood was a great addition to Mohegan U Hockey series. After listening and reading the last book, I was already introduced to Eckie. I did not expect to like Eckie at all, but as he redeemed himself I liked him a lot. 

The authors wrote a warm endearing story with redemption, and the hardships of life. Even if one screws up there is always a way to turn one’s life around. Jack and Eckie were a perfect match for each other. This was a great love story in a sports setting. 

The narrator, Alexander Cendese, did a great job bringing this story to life.

Rating: 4.25 Stars

Back to Center is available to buy from Audible and is Whispersynced.




Excerpt

Mary texted on Tuesday night to say she and Levi were back home and ask if I wanted to see him the next day. I tried to convince her to let me come right away, but she said he was already asleep. We agreed that I’d come on Wednesday at seven p.m., which was so exciting I did a happy dance all by myself. 

Later, Jack FaceTimed to let me know he’d gotten to Cleveland safely. His face and broad shoulders filled the screen, and a light sheen of sweat made him look hot as blazes. 

It would be so damn sexy licking that sweat off his throat. 

I pushed the thought away and asked, “Was the drive okay?”

“Yeah, and it was a beautiful day for it. How was work?”

“Great. I stood in line at the courthouse for over an hour, but the office brought in lunch for everyone, so that made up for it. Which makes me think—thanks again for the food you left here. I grilled some chicken for dinner.”

His eyes widened. “The recipe with lemon and thyme?”

“That’s the one.”

“Damn, I love that.”

I couldn’t help grinning. “Wish you’d been here to share it.”

“Me too. Mm.”

The throaty hum made my dirty mind go wild. “I’ll make it again when you get back.”

“Can’t wait. Tim and I ordered pizza, and it was pretty good.”

“You guys going out tonight?”

“We’ll probably just hang out. He showed me a few sights this afternoon, and I’m tired after the drive from Winscombe.”

He looked so good it took me a minute to reply. “I miss you, big guy. Glad you’re getting to see your friend, though.”

“Miss you, too.” His voice was soft. “I’ll be back soon.”

“You better be.” I’d been so happy to hear from Jack, I’d forgotten to tell him about the visit with Levi. “Guess what?”

When I shared the news, he was excited for me, and we spent the rest of the call talking about it. Jack’s smiles got brighter by the minute, and I loved the way his eyes sparkled. By the time we hung up, I was a jumble of feelings—excited about seeing Levi, missing Jack, and ridiculously turned on.

Back to Center. Copyright © 2023 Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood. All rights reserved.




About the Authors:
Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood write gay romance with heat and heart. With thirteen books and eight audiobooks to their credit, they have earned high praise for their exciting, sweet, steamy, and (mostly) low-angst stories. The Bethesda Barracudas Hockey series is a hit with readers and listeners, and their most recent series, Mohegan U Hockey, has been even more popular. The MUH books are emotional reads, sweet and steamy with some angst. All of Ryan and Josh’s books are carefully crafted to be read as standalones, even when they are part of a series.
Ryan and Josh were married in 2017. They began writing to celebrate their own romance and are passionate about telling authentic stories about gay men who fall wildly in love and find their own “happily ever afters.”

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To celebrate the release of Back to Center in audio, Ryan and Josh are giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card! The giveaway starts on 02/23 and ends on 03/06. 



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