Troy Barrett has been freshly traded to Ottawa after calling out Dallas Kent during a team practice. He wants to be a better person, and the weird, scrappy energy of the struggling Ottawa team seems like the place to…well. It seems like the only place that will have Troy right now.
Fortunately the Ottawa team includes Ilya Rozanov and Wyatt Hayes, and also includes an adorable social media manager, Harris Drover. Harris is the opposite of Troy in every way: friendly, cheerful, chatty, and goofy with a booming voice, a startlingly loud laugh, and Pride pins all over his denim jacket. Definitely not the sort of person Troy would normally associate with, and yet…
CW: mentions of past rape/sexual assault, disbelieving of victim’s accusations, mentions of homophobic slurs
I just waited one day after receiving this arc to finish it in a single sitting, because I couldn’t resist. And this was despite me not reading contemporaries at all during this pandemic – but how could I not pick up the next in my favorite hockey romance series when I knew it would make me smile.
This series has given me a lot of joy in the past and it was nothing this time around. Once I started reading, I just couldn’t put it down. It was funny, sweet, entertaining, even if slightly anxious at the beginning. I breezed through the whole thing, laughed and cried, and felt delighted at being in this world again. I won’t say the book was perfect though, but I guess I understood the choices the author made in her writing – she mentions she wrote the complete thing during the pandemic and I think that’s why the bad things in this book are mostly at the periphery and seem inconsequential despite being very important issues. However, I did like that the author touched on toxic masculinity in the sporting world and also how teams and fans often rally behind the players when they are accused of misconduct, particularly by women; and it’s the victims who get slandered instead. It’s such an awful issue, but the author only touched lightly on it, which may feel performative for some readers.
However, the characters make up for any shortcomings because they are amazing. Troy is not easy to like immediately because we have seen him be an asshole before but also seen him be slightly conflicted, so I started off the book feeling contradictory about him. But I could quickly sympathize because he lost his love, his team, his fans, everything in a few days for finally standing up for the right thing after being wrong for a very long time. I was glad to see him realize his mistakes and be a better ally. He was well supported by Harris who is the sweetest ball of sunshine, and I loved the environment that he created for all the players of the team. They made for a great couple and I was so happy to see their level of understanding each other.
The best part of this series has always been the side characters and it was lovely to see some very supportive family members here who were delighted to see their sons find their perfect partner. But my heart is with all the past characters showing up, right from the first book. It may not have been my favorite, but Scott Hunter has now become a lynchpin around whom this series revolves because he is the ultimate inspiration for most of the players and I so admire him for it. It was nice to see all the couples and realize they are doing well. But ofcourse, my love for Ilya will always remain special, and it was awesome to see him be a great leader and supportive friend, though I did miss Shane a lot.
To conclude, this was a super fun new installment in my favorite romance series and I’m glad the author was able to write such a sweet story during these hard times. You can’t give it a miss if you’ve read the previous books, and you should totally start from the beginning if you wanna try a highly entertaining and lovable sports romance series. Now I can just wait for The Long Game because Ilya and Shane will always be special and I can’t wait to read more of their story.
PS: Thank you to Netgalley and Carina Press for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.