Saturday, May 7, 2022

Rachel Reid - The Long Game

To the world they are rivals, but to each other they are everything.
Ten years.
That’s how long Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov have been seeing each other. How long they’ve been keeping their relationship a secret. From friends, from family…from the league. If Shane wants to stay at the top of his game, what he and Ilya share has to remain secret. He loves Ilya, but what if going public ruins everything?
Ilya is sick of secrets. Shane has gotten so good at hiding his feelings, sometimes Ilya questions if they even exist. The closeness, the intimacy, even the risk that would come with being open about their relationship…Ilya wants it all.
It’s time for them to decide what’s most important—hockey or love.
It’s time to make a call.

Comment: This is the final installment in the Game changers series by Rachel Reid. The series has been quite hyped by many readers, especially because of the second book, which featured an enemies to lovers romance. That book ended in a believable and happy for now manner, but the author has gifted the readers with this final gem, a conclusion to that couple's story.

In this book, we finally have the HEA for Shane and Ilya. After years in a relationship only a few people knew about, the weight of it is taking its toll on Ilya, and sometimes he feels he can't cope with the thoughts in his head and the everyday issues in his life. He loves Shane more than anything and the feeling is certainly reciprocated but their careers and public opinion still are heavy obstacles for them to become public. However, as the difficulties carry on, as the thoughts run through their minds and as they see others around them reaching for what they want as well, can they truly wait until the end of their careers to become an official couple?

I'm certain there are plenty of amazing reviews out there, and discussion threads, where anyone can have a much better summary of why this book was so good. It's true, taste is personal and there are those who didn't see the appeal, but I believe the majority has liked this book. I liked it too, especially because I still feel invested in the characters, not only the main couple, but all of those they have around them and who play an important part in the book or simply because they are important for the protagonists.

Although Shane and Ilya are a very balanced couple - that was established in Heated Rivalry, the 2nd book - they still face challenges in life, complications of work and because of the conflicting agendas of their teams. Ilya, we learnt, had signed with a less than stellar team, surprising everyone, only so that he could be geographically closer to Shane, but since their relationship is a secret and they play for different teams, this isn't as easy as they imagined.

All these issues start to pile up and in this book, the focus is clearly on Ilya and his side of things. Of course Shane has a key role, no worries on that, but most of the novel is seen through Ilya's POV. Often it has been said Ilya doesn't have such a wide net of connections in whom he can trust, unlike Shen, who has friends and his parents knowing about his relationship and why he isn't coming out. I understand this tactic, but I can see how it might have given the story a slight depressing vibe in some moments, more so until a bit after halfway, when things start to change for better, emotionally wise.

In fact, it should be said the author did a good job portraying someone who had depression, or a version of it. I don't know about the subject enough to talk about it for long, but it does seem Ilya faced struggles and his thoughts, his surroundings, were big in leading him to think the way he did. His days were routine but the weight of the secret,t he loneliness, both the one he faced by living alone, and imposed because he felt he couldn't share his private thoughts with others made hims eek professional help. I can't say how professional that part was but it felt like what the therapist told Ilya or helped him with felt what someone should do.

As the problems increase, and the stress and the demand to deal with this, Shane and Ilya never lose their affection for one another, never give in to silly or childish behavior and they respect each other enough to take the time to talk. I really liked how the dynamics between them happened. At some point, a decision about which step to take for the future becomes impossible to delay and I also liked how this situation was faced by the two of them. Really, what a lovely, sweet couple they are...

There are many scenes that warm the heart and I can see myself re-reading my favorite moments, as I still do with the other stories, so in general this is certainly a very good series from this author. I think this one ends up in the perfect vibe and tone and scene, with everything a fan of them has wanted. I loved it and what a great experience it was to get to know these characters and be happy for them!
Grade: 10/10

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