As someone who has never played any sport in my life, I still can’t figure out my fascination for sports romances, especially hockey because I hardly know anything about it. But they just make me insanely happy and this book was no different.
I remember reading the first book in this series and liking it but it’s been a while, so I didn’t go in with a lot of expectations. I just wanted to have fun and this author duo gave me that. I haven’t read any other books by Piper Vaughn but I have really enjoyed other hockey romances by Avon Gale and this one has a very similar feel. The writing is so easy to get through right from the beginning and I flew through the book in a single sitting. The authors do such a wonderful job making us root for this enemies to lovers to friends to more romance and I just couldn’t get enough. There is also a lot of focus on the game itself, it’s pressures, the camaraderie of the team etc and I loved reading about it all. Even the conflict felt very realistic and made me all emotional. This love story has more like an HFN but it feels very organic to the characters themselves and I also liked that coming out was never a point of contention.
Its amazing to see two protagonists of color in a sport like hockey which is majority white. Ryu is Japanese American who is very reserved, driven, a perfectionist who expects too much from himself. Emmitt on the other hand is Black, who has a faced a lot of prejudice but has never let it get to him and has finally arrived at the NHL. He is also supremely confident, a bit cocky and loves posting shirtless selfies on his insta. They are just so different from each other and competing for the starting goalie puts them at odds, but there were too many sparks flying to be ignored. I loved how they slowly became friends and realized they had feelings for each other despite not wanting to. It was kinda sweet watching them together, bringing out the best in each other on the ice, and also bonding over the immense parental pressures they have faced.
I absolutely loved the team camaraderie here too. Even though I don’t remember much from the first book, it was cool seeing Tristan and Seb together, just being all sappy and adorable. Tristan is the nicest guy ever and Seb is a force of nature and I really wanna reread their book now. Morley is another defenseman who was a prominent side character and he was annoying at first with his typical dudebro attitude and just making offensive jokes all the time. But I quickly realized he is a great friend, just with a puerile sense of humor. He is also not a fan of labeling his sexuality but doesn’t seem to discriminate between genders and I didn’t expect him to be so open and accepting about it. I have a feeling he is going to be the protagonist of the next book and I can’t wait.
To conclude, this was a fun, intense and emotional love story which had both hockey and romance in equal measures and I loved it all. I laughed, I cried and I didn’t want it to end – what more can I expect from a lovely book. If you like sports romances, then I definitely recommend this book. This works perfectly well as a stand-alone too but I think you should also read the first. I hope the wait for the next book in the series won’t be as long as this time.
PS: Thank you to Carina Press and Netgalley for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.