Veteran goaltender Eric Bennett has faced down some of the toughest shooters on the ice, but nothing prepared him for his latest challenge—life after hockey. It’s time to make some big changes, starting with finally dating men for the first time.
Graduate student Kyle Swift moved to New York nursing a broken heart. He’d sworn to find someone his own age to crush on (for once). Until he meets a gorgeous, distinguished silver fox hockey player. Despite their intense physical attraction, Kyle has no intention of getting emotionally involved. He’ll teach Eric a few tricks, have some mutually consensual fun, then walk away.
Eric is more than happy to learn anything Kyle brings to the table. And Kyle never expected their friends-with-benefits arrangement to leave him wanting more. Happily-ever-after might be staring them in the face, but it won’t happen if they’re too stubborn to come clean about their feelings.
Everything they both want is within reach… They just have to be brave enough to grab it.
I have to start by saying that this is my most favorite ongoing hockey romance series, so it’s always exciting when a new installment in it comes out. And I love that I always get to read them in advance. So I was very happy to get to this one and had quite a bit of fun reading it.
This is the fourth book in the series and it’s very noticeable that the author’s writing has changed a lot for the better over the course of time. From the very sugary sweetness of Game Changer, we now come to a much more believable romance, though the absent homophobia among most of the players in the hockey league in the series feels more like wishful thinking than closer to the real world – but we can always hope. This one was a typical age gap romance with some standard tropes which made it predictable, but also quite nice to read. I only took one break in between because it was too late in the night, or else I was pretty much ready to finish it in a single sitting. My only gripe is that the author uses the “almost no communication” trope and it just frustrated me.
Both the characters Eric and Kyle are lovely. I especially loved Eric, for being an amazing teammate who is well loved and respected, finally trying to figure out what more he wants from life after hockey. I adored that he is an amateur photographer and an art collector, which makes his character feel like a well rounded person with interests other than hockey. Kyle on the other hand is doing his masters in art history and works as a bartender, and while we got to see some very vulnerable moments from him especially regarding his backstory, I didn’t think we got to know him well enough. Their relationship starts as friends with benefits and it’s obvious how they feel for each other, but as I mentioned above, there are a lot of internal monologues about how they aren’t good for the other person but never actual conversations between the two about what they feel. I really wish we could have gotten more of that.
But as always, the side characters and the previous protagonists show up to liven up the proceedings and I really enjoyed seeing them all again. Scott and Kip are happy and adorable, and their sweetness quotient only seems to have doubled. Maria is a very supportive friend to Kyle and I loved getting to see her also maybe get her own romance. Carter brings lots of laughs, Matti is just there being his hot self, and Dallas Kent is a douche I never wanna see again. But I knew who I was looking for when I started reading this book, and I can’t describe my delight when he shows up quite early on – Ilya Rozanov is a delight and this series wouldn’t be the same without him. It’s hilarious to see glimpses of what the other players think of him and his “new found friendship” with Shane, and I as usual wish they had more presence because I can’t get enough of them.
To conclude, this was a fun addition to a beloved series. If you enjoy sports romances or May/December ones with very nice protagonists, a fun group of side characters and the usual tropes, you should definitely read this one. But it definitely works better if you start at the beginning because now all the books feel very connected, and don’t work well as standalones.
You might be thinking I’m recommending this series so much but I’ve given three of the four books in it less than four stars, so I have to clarify that I unfortunately can’t help but compare everything to the second one, Heated Rivalry which is an absolute favorite and none of the others make me feel that way. And I probably won’t be satisfied until the sequel to that comes out which is however a ways away. Till then, I can only hope that the next one Role Model will be wonderful because it takes place in Ottawa… which means more Ilya 🤩🤩
PS: Thank you to Carina Press and Netgalley for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.