Saturday, February 29, 2020

Rachel Reid - Heated Rivalry

Pro hockey star Shane Hollander isn’t just crazy talented, he’s got a spotless reputation. Hockey is his life. Now that he’s captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, he won’t let anything jeopardize that, especially the sexy Russian whose hard body keeps him awake at night.
Boston Bears captain Ilya Rozanov is everything Shane’s not. The self-proclaimed king of the ice, he’s as cocky as he is talented. No one can beat him—except Shane. They’ve made a career on their legendary rivalry, but when the skates come off, the heat between them is undeniable. When Ilya realizes he wants more than a few secret hookups, he knows he must walk away. The risk is too great.
As their attraction intensifies, they struggle to keep their relationship out of the public eye. If the truth comes out, it could ruin them both. But when their need for each other rivals their ambition on the ice, secrecy is no longer an option…

Comment: This story has been in the "best of 2019" lists of many readers. I read the first book in the series last month and I just had to dive into this one to see what the hype was about and I'm very glad to say it was a very good book indeed.

In this story the focus is on hockey players Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov, which is a difference to the first book where only one of the protagonists was a hockey player.
Shane and Ilya meet at a very young age, around 17 or 18 and the sparks fly but especially Shane doesn't really think he should be feeling attraction towards Ilya. The fact they are both promises of the hockey game and seem to hate one another on ice and end up playing for different teams puts them in a position that is quite good for the game and the rivalry but wouldn't let anyone assume they might like one another outside of hockey.
The reality is that through the years they do meet in secret and while their public personas never seems to change, the intimacy they share does.
Will these two ever have a future together or everything related to their job will always be an obstacle they can't beat?

This is a story that does seem to be very unlikely but at the same time it's quite known the sports area is not one very conductive of acceptance and tolerance for what is different, including homosexuality.
I can understand the need for secrecy the two characters show during the whole book and even more so in real life, most supporters just aren't receptive enough to root for gay athletes. It shouldn't be like this but sadly it is.
This is why books like these make people think and be familiar with the possibility and this can only be a good thing. For me, then, this was perfect situation: a story to tell us about the reality of athletes bound by many rules but who try and even better they pretend one thing while being the opposite.

I had a great time reading about how these two players went from curious attraction to the type of relationship where everything about the other is a positive aspect (one of them was happy the other won a special trophy in hockey although being in a rival team) and although the action is told in segments, parts of their day, parts of what they do and we only get clues about their personalities and states of mind through simple or apparently dismissive scenes, there's a richness to them as a couple that i found very appealing to see happen.

Shane is the one we can probably read the easiest. He is a sweet, caring guy, quite driven and talented too, otherwise he wouldn't succeed in a demanding game, but he is a next-door kind of guy, someone we would be buddies with, someone simple, quiet and who never saw himself as liking guys but when he realizes Ilya is his someone, he quickly accepts that and doesn't react as someone not fully aware of his own emotions. I liked how steady, how special he was. He's one of those types one would like to know in real life.

Ilya is a bit more reserved and not just because he is from a country where people culturally aren't as loud. He presents a very charming and extrovert side to everyone, he's very competitive and he clearly likes how he is a rival to Shane on the ice. 
But deep down he is not as confident as he appears to be and he's still locked in thoughts of his mother, of how bad his relationship is with his father, who is very demanding and never praises but whom he can't stop caring about anyway, he also doesn't get along with his brother... so basically he is the antidote of Shane when it comes to family bonds.

Perhaps this is why they matched so well, they have opposed personalities but a lot in common and of course, they fall in love.
Their relationship after a certain point felt really balanced and special and I think the author really did a good job showing us how in sync the guys were. I think maybe there were too many sex scenes but all had their timing well, in a way so I can't say it was badly inserted int he story flow.
I'd have liked the end to be a bit more revealing of their distant future and not just of the ideas they talked about. It was still very sweet and positive, though, don't be worried.

All in all, this was a good story, one I enjoyed a lot, I had a great time with these characters and I think the author really did a good job in how the plot was developed and the pace convinced me they were really evolving.
Grade: 9/10

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