To Arizona by Meg Harding (review)

Tagline: Hockey player/otter shifter shipped to the desert deals with a tough captain…
Altnernate: Alphahole turns a tough but smaller hockey player into a buttercup…

To Arizona Book Cover Image

Title: To Arizona 
Author: Meg Harding
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (15k words, 46 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:

My true reaction:   1 star  – I hated it.
My Objective-ish rating:   3.5+  stars (for intriguing shifter ideas and writing)
Summary:  Hockey is my least favorite professional sport, and at times some of the worst aspects of the (in my opinion) over-the-top aggression displayed by hockey players (and not really related to the athletic skill required to play) is front and center here. Readers who love the “rough and tumble” of hockey players’ behavior on the ice are much more likely to find the love interest in this story to be compelling and interesting than I did.
Why I’m reviewing it:
I might have skipped even reading this, but I enjoyed another m/m romance between hockey players so much (Him by Sara Bowen), I thought it was worth a quick read.
One of my favorite author’s once said she’s not happy about a newly released book until she receives her first scathing, 1 or 2 star review.  (She has a good fan base, so I’m guessing her  “excitement” at receiving a bad review means she wrote something compelling and strong enough for somebody out there to be offended or repulsed.)  I’m offering my two cents about this book in that spirit. Since I had such an extremely negative reaction, and since there are plenty of other glowing reviews (so my one honest but negative critique shouldn’t adversely impact a talented author’s sales), I’m mostly posting this in an attempt to complete my reviews of the entire anthology, hence my honestly felt (but perhaps over the top) rant is below.
The writing quality and innovative setting probably rate at least three or more stars (some of the shifter scenes were incredibly cute) but in all I honesty I wish I hadn’t read this.

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.

Synopsis: Otter shifter Dustin gets traded to the professional Arizona hockey team, where the weasel shifter captain Chandler takes him in, shows him the ropes, and tries to make him toe the new line.  Of course, this means the two fight like hell. 

Review:  Chandler struck me as the worst type of example of the obnoxious, domineering Alphaholes from male/female romance (or instead, perhaps more charitably, just acting like a typically rough and tumble hockey player enforcer and captain).  The writing was fine and sometimes very interesting and innovative, especially in the area of cute shifter behavior.  However, at the center of the story were two characters with a potential romantic interest. basically with a larger hockey player going all “emotionally-stunted caveman” on a smaller hockey player’s a**.  This means acting like a possessive, uncommunicative douche, picking fights with him and bashing other players as ways to “court” the new guy.  I know a romance story is not working for me when I’m routing for the two protagonists to not get together.  When Dustin (who I liked) realized the Chandler (who I thought of as “the Alphahole”) was “courting” him and decided to give in (because he liked Chandler’s aggressive dickishness, I guess), I ending up disliking both characters so much I felt they kind of deserved reach other.

On the positive side, the shifter scenes were innovative and absolutely adorable.  Given the adolescent, thuggish, Neanderthal, emotionally stunted behavior of the main love interest, unfortunately there is no way in hell I can find the entire story “cute.”

Recommended for: Hockey fans;  Romance readers who appreciate emotionally stunted domineering men (alpha-wannabe alphaholes) who let their “caring” out in other ways.

Sizzle:
Heat: fire  fire  –  A couple of explicit scenes (hard for me to rate, since I disliked the main love interest so much).
Passion:  No hearts for the humans involved. (Dustin seemed to like muscle-bound dick well enough, but it’s too bad the guy attached to it came across as a  super-douche.)
heart heart – Some passion and chemistry expressed in shifter form.  (Of course, the way Chandler expressed “passion” and “chemistry” and “lust” did not work *at all* for me.)
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (uber-snark with spoilers):
Dustin concludes that Chandler is—in his own backward way—courting him. He suspects if he doesn’t figure out what signal Chandler is looking for specifically, this will continue on for a while and leave both of them nothing but frustrated.”
 My reaction to that line:  How about get the fuck away from me you obnoxious, emotionally stunted, domineering, preening fucktard douchebag?
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