Cover Image: Game Misconduct

Game Misconduct

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Member Reviews

Audiobook Review:
Overall – 4
Performance – 5
Story – 3

I enjoyed the audiobook.

My understanding is that this book is a debut novel for Ari Baran and I thought it was pretty good but I don't think it was really the right book for me. I loved Cooper North's audio performance and that's probably what allowed me to finish it.

I'll read just about anything – and I didn't hate this at all – but this book has a lot more sadistic/masochistic elements to it than I really want to be reading. The love story was nice and I did feel a connection between Mike and Danny I just don't quite understand the kind of dynamic they had where they like to beat each other up.

I have an ARC of the next book in this series so I'm going to give this author another try.

A review copy of the ebook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley but this did not influence my opinion or rating of the book.

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This book was under-cooked with unrealistic characters and scenarios that were farfetched. I wouldn't recommend this book but I will give the sequel a go, hopefully Ari's writing has grown by then because I enjoyed their novella

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DNF'ed @ 40%

Definitely a case of me and not the book, this was just slightly darker than I had been anticipating and wasn't something I wanted to get further into. However I did think the writing was good, very engaging, and I will definitely check out other things this author writes in the future!

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This is a dark M/M hockey romance, with the two main characters, Mike and Danny, having reputations as fighters or enforcers in the league. But as the two rivals get to know each other, they discover more that they have in common, in addition to an attraction that won't go away. This book deals with serious issues but in the end, chemistry and love win out.

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All the best elements of hockey romance with an inclusive cast of characters. Excellent progression of adversaries to lovers with complicated characters that you root for nonetheless.

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how do I put into words that I am not overwhelmed, I am not underwhelmed, I am simply whelmed.
There was a melancholic undertone throughout most of the story I really enjoyed. This tackles some heavy subject matters and looks at some of the more questionable hockey practices. Yet it never fully won me over, not in the romance (there is a lot of tension and connection and sex but I missed the part where this turned into more, something I could root for). The writing was also not for me, too casual, very modern and simple, the word "dude" used at some very inconvenient times.

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Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.


I’ve seen great things about Game Misconduct by Ari Baran & I was so excited to read it. I decided to DNF though, not because of the writing style, which is great & seems like something I could easily love, but simply because I couldn’t/didn’t want to read the leads treat each other so violently off the ice. I could read any violence like that as part of a hockey game, but for me it was really disconcerting to see how they go at each other when the game is over. I’m assuming there are deeper issues at play but after the second occasion I felt too uncomfortable to want to continue. I will likely try another book by the author after reading the content warnings.

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I'll start with Ari did not disappoint with this read. I've read many sports themed romances but nothing like this. The representation of people of color was perfect. There was inclusion, but there was still that adversity of people wanting hockey to be pure. The side characters were just as important as the 2 main characters Mike and Danny.

The energy and growth that is seen between Mike and Danny were unlike anything I have ever read before. This is a deeper enemies to lovers. Danny and Mike are rough on themselves as well as each other, but oddly balance each other out.

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Game Misconduct is a standout rivals-to-lovers hockey romance. The highlight of the book is the character development of the two mcs. The way Mike and Danny grow and change is so beautiful to see. Their relationship is so hostile and mean at the start, but it's obvious that even when they're still "enemies," they make each other better and challenge each other in a really positive way. They both have that edge of desperation for connection, and if either of them had come to the other from a place of empathy and kindness, I doubt either of them would have been able to receive it; so really the antagonism of their interactions is the only way they could be open with each other.

The topics are heavy and it's always hard to see richly developed and sympathetic characters make bad choices, but the way it all comes together is all the more touching for how difficult the process is. Mind the trigger warnings and prepare for more than a little meanness, but it's ultimately such a gorgeous and powerful read.

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There are good romance novels, and then there's Game Misconduct. In my mind, it's truly in a league of its own, and the fact that it's a debut makes me extremely excited for the future. (I read it twice in the span of ten days, surely that tells you all you need to know.)

But before we properly start, so that we can fully understand each other, let me just say what I look for in a romance novel: palpable character development & a believable love story (i.e. chemistry!). Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk.

Mike and Danny are very different, and that shows both in their actions but also in the way their POV is written. They have distinct voices, which isn't often seen in romances. Interestingly, the way they talk, the vocabulary they use, changes a bit as they grow (& learn each other better), but always stays clearly them.

Of course the dialogues aren't the only thing that changes: it's all of them. The character development is uncanny. They've known each other for a while, but their first proper encounter was a perfect catalyst for all that's to come. They mature together, they learn to love life again. Mike's journey is beautiful to behold - at the beginning of the novel he just yells 'I hate you!' at Danny, and yet he ends it being able to talk about his feelings at length (and initiating those conversations). Danny, on the other hand, gets some of that youthful enthusiasm from Mike; he starts seeing life as precious once more.

It's not that love fixes them - there's an actual therapist along the way & a lot of talk about the power of therapy in general - but it makes them want to be better. That romantic love is the motor for change, yes, but simultaneously the novel underlines the importance of support from friends and family. Even if those relationships are strained, need work, they can still be a crucial step towards healing.

Another interesting aspect of Game Misconduct is that, unlike a lot of sports romance novels, it never pushes Mike & Danny to publicly come out. In fact, they never even talk about it. It's simply not something they consider - not because they're scared, but because they don't need it. The people who matter to them know and that's enough. They simply want to have a life together.

(It might also be tied with Mike's best friend being a Black woman player in the league. There's a lot of emphasis on how slow and painful her acclimatisation into the league was. Which is to say a lot of emphasis on the league being racist & misogynistic. So it's not that big of a stretch to assume the guys weren't considering coming out because they knew the league couldn't handle it.)

Every part of Game Misconduct is thought through and makes perfect sense for the characters. The way Mike and Danny's romantic relationship starts, the things they argue about, the things they fight for. It's a testament to the strength of the character development that there's no unnecessary break up at any point - their love story is allowed to run its true course. And they're all the better for it.

Game Misconduct is an outstanding romance novel, and we can only look forward to more great things from Baran. They clearly know how to make characters fell like real people and fall in love with each other, and the readers fall in love with said characters.

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Heat Factor: So, um, these guys have some stuff to work out, and pain is part of that whole situation
Character Chemistry: For two guys who are absolutely mean to each other, they are shockingly tender
Plot: Two defensemen, one at the beginning of his career and the other at the end, fight their way into a very intense relationship
Overall: If you like unlikeable heroes and super-dee-duper messy characters, do I have a book for you!

I honestly had to wonder how Baran was going to convince me that Mike and Danny should be together, because the beginning of this book is a lot. How do we overcome absolutely brutal fist-fights on the ice and copious verbal insults? Maybe the hate-sex (with absolute loads of under-negotiated impact play) helps, but I wasn’t convinced.

But you know what? It totally worked. Are Mike and Danny still hot messes at the end of the book? You bet they are. But they’re slightly better off because the development of their relationship strengthened not only themselves and each other, but also their relationships with those around them.

That said, if you’re looking for a butterflies and rainbows kind of happy ending for this book, you have come to the wrong place. The ending was really great given the material we had to work with and the unbelievable emotional disasters these guys are, but ride off into the sunset with not a care in the world these guys do not. If you’re a hockey romance reader, think about your emotional state reading Thrown off the Ice or The Understatement of the Year or maybe even Empty Net, not like Egotistical Puckboy (or, like, anything by Eden Finley). Not even like my beloved security read, Heated Rivalry. Mike and Danny are not kind to each other, even as they begin to take care of each other. This is a legit enemies to lovers book. (That’s some toxic masculinity in professional sports for ya!)

For an example of the emotional journey of at least Mike, we begin with:
Why did everyone expect the worst of him? It was insulting, first Bee, and now Coach. Worse than insulting. It hurt all two of his feelings.

And grow into:
Mike had felt much more self-conscious about what and why he was drinking since Danny, and even though it kinda sucked to like, have to deal with emotions all of the time, he was starting to get used to being uncomfortable. It was pretty fucking weird, but that was life now.

It’s kind of entertaining, but also like, oof, right? Poor Mike is really having some difficult emotional growth. And some of that emotional growth translates to extremely physically taxing professional growth. Meanwhile, Danny is working his absolute hardest to be as numb (emotionally and physically) as possible, because his body is absolutely shot, he’s facing the end of his career, and he can’t handle it. His preferred aids to deal with this struggle are Percocet and hard liquor. Mostly at the same time.

If you’ve gotten this far, my point is that this book—these characters—are not going to be for everyone. But here’s the thing: if you’re willing to envision the characters as human people who are seriously messed up from a whole bunch of stuff life threw at them, then it’s not so hard to hope for the best for them, to sympathize when they struggle and feel good when they succeed. This is not a book about almost-perfect people with easy-but-relatable problems and easy-to-understand personalities finding their perfect love. This story is about love giving people strength, both for themselves and in support of each other, even when it’s hard, or it feels selfish, or they feel unworthy. If you want to feel like everyone deserves a chance to be loved, it’s an extremely compelling read.

(I think I covered most of the difficult stuff these guys are dealing with in this review, but if this review threw up any flags for you, definitely check the content notes provided by the publisher.)

(Oh, also, Danny finds a kitten in the trash can, and it’s adorable.)

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

This review is also available at The Smut Report.

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Game Misconduct is a hockey romance, that delves into the more serious aspects of being a professional athlete. We follow Michael Sato, a defenseman that is trying to find his place in the NHL, and Daniel Garcia, a bruised veteran struggling to finish the season.

Since Mike's debut, they sparked a rivalry and fight every game. They unexpectedly run into each other and spark an unlikely partnership. Although they had a violent beginning in their relationship, I liked the moments that we see Danny and Mike visiting each other during the season, especially when they allowed themselves to have vulnerable conversations with each other.

I think the romance would've benefited from more of the conversations and interactions as Mike and Danny are getting to know each other excluding their sexual relationship. The mental health issues and alcohol addiction could've been handled more in-depth. I thought the formatting of the epilogue was nice.

Thank you to NetGalley and Carina Press for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review for: "Game Misconduct" by Ari Baran
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Score: 3/5 stars

The book "Game Misconduct" follows Mike and Danny as they fight as rivals on the ice and are lovers off the ice..

The book is an "enemies" to lovers story that integrates a season of hockey and tells a love story between two hockey enforcers who struggle with different past experiences.

The plot is rooted around a hockey season from regular season games thru playoffs. The two main characters, Mike and Danny, regularly fight as their teams face each other. The pair eventually hook-up and fall in love throughout the course of the season. The plot isn't very interesting and lacks substance.

Throughout the story, the book discusses the use of drugs and alcohol to cope with physical and emotional pain. But it really isn't until the very end where we see some action in resolving these issues.

Overall, the book doesn't have a strong plot and mostly focuses on the struggle the characters face with their addictions.

The book's pacing is inconsistent and lacks focus, making it difficult to stay invested in the plot and characters..

There are parts to the story that moves wildly fast and involves a lot of development. And then there are parts that are slow with tiresome interactions and lackluster intimate scenes that feel overly wordy and not sexy.

Also, the writing feels choppy with awkward use of punctuation and style.

Overall, the book struggles to keep readers engaged because of the choice in writing style.

Overall, the characters are decent.

The two main characters are have some substance to them. There is some backstory that is revealed in the book but it feels rather rushed and lacks the space to breathe and fully develop. This in turn makes it challenging to develop any true connection with the characters or care for their substance abuse.

The supporting cast is also very weak and there are far too many extra characters - it was challenging to remember who was on which team because they were not developed and used when convenient.

Overall, this story looks at two hockey enforcers who fall in love which each other while coping with addictions and a under developed story.

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Well this put me through the ringer.

I’m a sucker for enemies to lovers, and this had that in spades. For a hockey romance it also had little homophobia and not a big focus on being outed to the public which I really enjoyed.

But it’s probably one of the hardest mm hockey romances I have read. The book is double POV and the two voices are incredibly distinct. Especially noticeable with Mike. He is immature, reactive and allergic to feelings. And it shows on the writing and on his thoughts. But we also see his growth.

Danny on the other hand is older, more mature and superficially less self sabotaging. But that’s a facade cause of the both of them Danny is the one with some horrible demons and a very long way forward. Danny is an alcoholic and misuse opioids. And his reluctance to accept help for so long is a bit soul destroying.

I’m torn between 4 and 5 stars. I wish we had gotten a glimpse of them at the end. Cause after all they went through I wanted to see them. How the future looked like for them. It’s not a romance that lives you happy with their HEA. It’s rough, they are both quite flawed MCs and love isn’t the cure to everything. Very recommended.

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Afraid to say this didn’t do it for me, it’s a shame because I looked forward to read it.
The beginning was great it had everything I was hoping for, but I quickly realised that this was just going to be a book of forwards one step , backwards three.
I was dying for them to sort their act out, it was frustrating.
Sorry but not for me

I received an Arc copy of this book and chose to post this review

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This was such an intense rivals to lovers hockey mm romance. These two would fight everytime they were head to head. But when they meet in an alley randomly the fight turns into something else. And despite how much they fight it and each other they still find what they are missing in each other. There is so much pressure to be on top of their game in pro hockey. Danny on his way out with his injuries getting the better of him, having trouble with pain and pain relievers. Mike still young and not up to his potential and doesn't know it till Danny mentions it then others echo. They helped eachother from their different perspectives.

I would have liked the cover to have Mike with tattoos. Since he's written as fully covered. But def has the look otherwise.

Thank you harlequinbooks and net galley for the e-ARC for my honest and voluntary review.

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The latter half of this book was much better than the start which I'm thankful for because it took me a very long time to slog through the first chapters. This was one of my most anticipated upcoming books and I'm devastated that I didn't enjoy it more than I did.

There is a lot going on here and everything seems almost overdone and somewhat farcical. Mike and Danny both have big personalities with a lot happening in their lives and whilst their dynamic is somewhat interesting I just honestly didn't buy the chemistry and connection allegedly between them and that didn't really improve as the story progressed. One element I really didn't like was that were was a lot of 'telling' rather than 'showing' and I think that contributed massively to me not connecting with the main characters and their relationship.

There is an interesting assortment of side characters including Bee who is the first woman to play in the major league and she was a pretty solid character. There were a lot of new and interesting additions in this hockey romance that a lot haven't covered yet (like Bee) which I did enjoy but not enough to cover up the elements that just weren't working for me.

There was just something about this book that frustrated me. I'm not even sure if I can name what it was honestly, it was just irritating throughout.

Overall this was an alright read for me but I wanted more.

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M/M hockey romance with enemies to lovers trope is usually my top jam. This one had it's ups and downs for me to read.

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I don't mind a rivals to lovers romance, but this one was just so antagonistic and brutal that I had trouble finding a redeeming reason for their relationship to continue. The anger doesn't evolve and the hockey wasn't compelling enough to hold my interest until they got it together... I want to see growth and development at least somewhere in the characters either individually or together and all I got was more of the same - they get together and beat each other and get off...

I tried really hard to find a redeeming reason to continue this book, but without growth at 70% I gave up and moved on.

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Baran’s debut not only brings us the rivals-to-lovers and age-gap tropes but all the hockey one could want in this MM romance. Baran’s characters have depth and complexity while still remaining relatable; you’ll quickly grow to root for Mike and Danny on and off the ice. Oh and let’s just say that the dark and kinky OPS scenes are hotter than Hades. Both characters deal with serious issues and are handled with sensitivity but be advised and check the CWs. The only drawback for me is that the ending seemed too. This is book one in the Penalty Box Series and I’ll defiantly be picking up the next.

I received this eARC thanks to NetGalley and Carina Press & Carina Adores (Harlequin), Carina Press in exchange for an honest review. Publishing dates are subject to change.

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