To the world they are rivals, but to each other they are everything.
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.
CW: depression, homophobic comments (mostly challenged)
It took me exactly an hour after I was approved for this arc before I started reading it even though it was almost ten in the night. There was no way I was gonna sleep without knowing more of Ilya and Shane’s story. So that’s exactly what I did – stayed up late night to finish it in one go.
I have to say, I didn’t expect to cry so much while reading this but I did. I used to be a very frequent crier while reading romance novels but in the past couple of years, I’ve become way too cynical and nothing makes me cry anymore (except ofcourse wangxian fanfics on ao3 but they are an exception). But this book – wow did I just sob and sob at so many moments. Not to say this was a painful read. It was just such a beautiful love story of two people who were forced to be apart for long periods of time due to circumstances and them trying to handle that loneliness was heartbreaking. While Heated Rivalry was all about hot and sexy (and this one doesn’t compromise on that), this was more about love and the emotions associated with it. I love this whole series but this probably has the best writing because the author handled so many sensitive things with care and I adore her for it.
I remember the author mentioning once that while Heated Rivalry was more Shane’s book, this is more Ilya’s book and I think that is a perfect description. While in the first one, we get to see Shane come to terms with his sexuality and the person he wants to be with, this book is mostly Ilya trying to find his path in life, navigating the joys and sorrows, trying to do things for himself and figuring out how to get his HEA.
I was so impressed by Ilya this time, and I didn’t think that was possible because he is already my favorite character in this world. His personality is so out there that no one would think he is lonely, depressed and unhappy even with his hockey because he isn’t on a winning team anymore. It really really broke my heart when he felt insecure that Shane might leave him for a more uncomplicated relationship. But he has always been a fighter and I was so glad to see him take the initiative to get help, figure out what he needed to do and believe in his love.
Shane on the other hand felt like he has become more uptight, being all about self control and discipline. His whole “performance diet” was a running gag throughout the story and I found it hilarious. I also wanted to shake him sometimes because he wouldn’t try to understand Ilya’s pov but then he was always a bit clueless, so I knew he would get there, even if he needed some nudges.
I was also pretty surprised by how the various side characters played out. It was nice to see all the familiar hockey players and their reactions to Ilya and Shane’s relationship. There were ofcourse some assholes and some supporters and I was glad it was more on the positive side. I was actually sad to see what happened in the aftermath but I think the ultimate consequence was just perfect.
What more can I say about this book which was my most anticipated romance release of this year. I have loved Ilya and Shane’s characters for years now and it was a joy reading more of their story and seeing them find happiness and togetherness in the best way possible. It was the perfect book and I’m ecstatic, but also sad at the prospect that we might not get to see them anymore. I don’t know if there are more books in this series but I hope there are, and even if it’s a new couple, I hope we’ll get to see more of this amazing couple’s snippets alongwith the many accomplishments that I can’t wait for them to achieve. Even if I never get to know what happens next in their story, I’m just happy I got to meet them and I will always come back for more rereads whenever I need some joy.
PS: Thank you to Carina Press and Netgalley for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.