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. He took another chance with a story established in the world of ice hockey (Gravity) and not only revisited that same sport, but this time he is telling a new account set in the same “universe” with The Rest Of The Story.
Morgan Elsher is a slightly older professional ice hockey player. He’s a bit jaded with the sport and hasn’t been on a winning team for some time. He’s also gay. He suddenly receives news that he’s being traded to probably the worst team in the NHL, the Rocky Mountain Outlaws. He’s prepared to retire, but his agent assures him that this is for one year only, after which he’ll be a free agent. He reluctantly goes there and meets up with a friend who is also on the team. There, he learns he was “requested” by his friend (one of the veteran members of the team) to help clean house. Morgan meets the team Captain and sees for himself how the rookies are being abused. The next day he observes the Captain assaulting one rookie named Brody, and Morgan opens up a big can of whoop-a** on the Captain. The VP of the team is brought in, and a major housecleaning has begun, starting with Morgan unofficially named as Captain (it does become official later) and a rookie named Shea as the Alternate Captain. An unexpected romance transpires between Morgan and Shea, who is also gay.
While that synopsis may read like a Harlequin Romance novel, it is most certainly not. There is a romance of the type that only the amazing author Tal Bauer can deliver, but this is primarily a book about survival. Bauer has a marvelous talent for getting to the heart of some form of trauma or emotional distress. He eloquently expresses the thoughts in his primary players’ minds, or at the very least, has other characters verbally express the heartache they may be going through. There is nothing sugar-coated in any of what he presents. This book even has a possible trigger warning that it includes themes of survivorship, and for there to be survivorship, there has to be the potential of self-harm. The writing is visceral. It will rip your heart out. There were also moments of unhinged vengeance that had me in tears over the damage and injury committed. And yet, there are moments of pure glory and triumph. As expected, the hockey team rebuilds itself and soars with victories. It may sound too good to be true, but Bauer and his perfect sense of pacing build that momentum, so when the tide turns for the Outlaws, it is done with so much believability that I found myself wanting to become a season-ticket subscriber!!!
At the heart of everything Bauer writes, his characters breathe life into the story. In the past, Bauer has alternated between multiple characters being the focus from one chapter to the next. However, Bauer chose to use Morgan Elsher as the singular voice in telling The Rest Of The Story. We hear his thoughts as he draws close to Shea and his heartbreak when that love is almost taken from him. We also feel Morgan’s despair when the character of Brody is brought to his lowest point. Again, Bauer takes characters on a written page and brings them to life. After reading only a few chapters, I realized that I was no longer reading a book but instead had become a silent observer of everything going on with Morgan and the rest who made up the Outlaws. I cheered with them as I saw them win and grieved with them when an act of unimaginable hatred and violence was perpetrated against them. However, the book doesn’t end in darkness. This is a story of survival, and it ends in a pool of tears from healing and love.
Whenever I read a book from Bauer, I am reminded that he is one of the best writers of the same-sex male romance genre. He can write thrillers, dramas, and even horror stories. Bauer is incapable of writing anything that isn’t superb. Instead, each book he writes transcends itself from being merely a novel into an extraordinary reading experience.
Given that The Rest Of The Story 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 The Rest Of The Story 5 out of 5 Hockey Pucks!