Tal Bauer is one of those authors whose works continue to surprise me. When he puts out a new book, I will stop whatever I’m doing to give it my undivided attention. That was easy when I first started reading his stories which also served as rather intense thrillers. He has also visited the world of high school football (You & Me) and told it so that readers who grew up in and around high school football could find something relatable. So now, he is taking readers on another unique journey by exploring the world of professional ice hockey in Gravity.
Hunter Lacey is an average ice hockey player for the pro NHL team Carolina Kitty Hawks. Some feel he could be a fantastic player if he had teammates who could support him; instead, he is languishing with a team that only sees losing streaks and never stands a chance of making it to the playoffs for the Stanley Cup.
Bryce Michel plays for the Montréal Etoiles. He is a superstar in the world of ice hockey. He is also the reason Hunter became interested in the game. Since he was a teenager, Hunter has idolized Bryce as a player. What Hunter doesn’t know is that Bryce is harboring a very deep secret. The secret is so strong that it almost gives Bryce panic attacks. That is all about to change when both Hunter and Bryce are selected to represent their division at the All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas.
Hunter keeps to himself while watching the media and other hockey players surround Bryce. Suddenly, Bryce notices Hunter and makes his way to him. It turns out Bryce knows who Hunter is and is giving him his compliments for being a good player. Later, during an exhibition game, Hunter and Bryce (on the same team) lock into each other’s playing styles to the point where they almost seem to read each other’s minds. The power plays they come up with has the sports media falling over themselves with excitement with what they’re seeing. Now, even Hunter’s name is being talked about. However, as quickly as the All-Star Weekend has come, it is now over. But Bryce wants to spend just a little more of his free time with Hunter. And that is when everything starts to change.
I never believed for a moment that the world of ice hockey would enchant me. I’m not demeaning the sport in any way, but it’s not something that has me interested. Then, along comes Tal Bauer, and this sport suddenly becomes interesting. This is due to the powerful way Bauer has of describing the world where his stories take place. He has a delicately balanced approach to providing the perfect amount of information about this world without ever resorting to an info dump. We don’t learn about the world simultaneously as his characters do because they’re already fully invested in it. Instead, he has to strike the right balance between world-building, plot, and character development, so the reader can be taken along for the ride without ever being jolted out of the reading experience. As the race for the Stanley Cup builds, so did my sense of excitement, as if I was watching my favorite team gunning for a championship. I became immersed in the world of ice hockey. Bauer made it visceral by describing the injuries and the struggles each player experiences. We crawl inside the minds of both Bryce and Hunter as they fight with all that they have (and more) for that goal. The writing was so strong that I no longer felt like a spectator but could actually see me on the ice.
However, as strong as Bauer is with his world-building and storytelling, his works would not be complete without equally compelling characters to drive the story. Despite both being hockey players, the personalities of Bryce and Hunter are remarkably different. With all of Bryce’s fame and glory as a hockey superstar, he is gnawed at by self-doubt and insecurities. His fear of what would happen to him if his deep and dark secret was ever revealed practically paralyzes him after the All-Star Weekend. On the other hand, Hunter finds himself with little to lose, so he puts himself out there and does more than provide words of encouragement and support to Bryce. The result is two main characters who are so fully realized that you stop thinking of them as mere characters on a page. I subconsciously started thinking of Gravity as a biography.
That is the power of Bauer’s writing. But it doesn’t stop there. When a devastating accident happens, the entire emotional tone of the book is turned on its head. These characters’ emotions were so detailed that I was brought to tears more than once. Feelings of worry and concern became so strong that I could not put the book down. I needed to learn what would happen because I had grown to care about them. This is writing at its finest—pure theater of the mind. Gravity ends with a beautiful and heartfelt epilogue that again left me with tears. Bauer delivered the perfect ending with a tone that felt intimately personal. He took me from an adrenalin-filled high and brought me back down to Earth, which left me with a contented sigh.
Given that Gravity is a same-sex male romance story, it would only be fair to say that there are plenty of scenes of an explicitly sexual nature that should be read by those 18 years and over.
For its exciting and fully immersive storytelling, I give Gravity 5 out of 5 Stanley Cups!
Gravity is available on Amazon in both print and for the Kindle. Tal Bauer also has the website, Tal Bauer.