A MelanieM Review: Game Changer (Game Changers #1) by Rachel Reid

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

New York Admirals captain Scott Hunter takes his pregame rituals very seriously. In this case, it’s not just a lucky smoothie he’s craving—it’s the man who made it.

Pro hockey star Scott Hunter knows a good thing when he sees it. So, when a smoothie made by juice bar barista Kip Grady precedes Scott breaking his on-ice slump, he’s desperate to recreate the magic…and to get to know the sexy, funny guy behind the counter.

Kip knew there was more to Scott’s frequent visits than blended fruit, but he never let himself imagine being invited back to Scott’s penthouse. Or kissed with reckless abandon, never mind touched everywhere all at once. When it happens it’s red-hot, incredible and frequent, but also only on Scott’s terms and always behind his closed apartment doors.

Scott needs Kip in his life, but with playoff season approaching, the spotlight on him is suddenly brighter than ever. He can’t afford to do anything that might derail his career…like introducing the world to his boyfriend. Kip is ready to go all-in with Scott—but how much longer will he have to remain a secret?

Once again, I backed into a series, this time starting with book 2 in the Game Changers series by Rachel Reid, called Heated Rivalry.  It’s a hockey player/game oriented series with each story supposedly a standalone, and yes, after starting with book two , I can say that’s true.  But now after reading the first story Game Changer, I can also say that together, now having read Game Changer?  It adds a richness and appreciation to scenes of great importance in Heated Rivalry that I missed my first reading. Yes, I had to go and read book 2 again after finishing this one.  It made so much more sense having this as a foundation for that story and characters.  So again, I wish I had read one and then immediately the second story as their timelines are happening almost simultaneously.

While you don’t have to be a fan of the NHL and hockey or follow the sport, it helps to understand the hockey mentality and the pressures the players are under while playing this sport (and practically any sport these days).  How many of you can count out athletes still playing?  Right….you can use one hand for most sports.  The pressure to remain closeted is enormous and Rachel Reid captures that well in the character of Scott Hunter, hockey star and deep in the closet gay.  Who intends to stay there until he meets Kip in a smoothie bar and has his world and feelings turned upside down.  As does the decidedly out Kip.  Because being closeted effects not only the person hiding but everyone he’s involved with.  How that affects Kip, his life, mentally, emotionally…is very effectively laid out for the reader, Kip, and eventually for Scott in a revelatory scene.

I fell in love with these characters through the development of their relationship which felt very realistic, highs, lows, career concerns and pressures, and personal hurdles and journeys to take.  It made the story finale all the more heartwarming and a true highlight.  For both books!

Now I can’t wait to see who or what is the inspiration for the next installment in the series.  I have loved both couples and novels.  I am dying to see what happens next.  Of course I highly recommend Game Changer and it’s followup Heated Rivalry.    Read them both together for a tremendous heartwarming hockey romance experience!

Cover art by Carina Press.  I wish there was more color and something to help catch the eye.  Simply a gorgeous torso isn’t really enough to help tell the story these days.

Sales Links:  AmazonCarina Press

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 334 pages
Published October 22nd 2018 by Carina Press
Original Title Game Changer
ASIN B07DCTFR2K
Edition Language English
Series Game Changers #1

Game Changer

Heated Rivalry

A MelanieM Review: Heated Rivalry (Game Changers #2) by Rachel Reid

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Nothing interferes with Shane Hollander’s game—definitely not the sexy rival he loves to hate.

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…

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

As a fan of both hockey and hockey fiction, I’m always on the lookout for more contemporary romances with hockey and gay hockey players at the center of the action.  So I was delighted to come across this new release from Carina Press.  It represents both a new author and a new series for me.  And since I ended up loving both the story and this couple, it will send me running to pickup the first story in the series.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure at first how I felt about the format the author uses in Heated Rivalry (Game Changers #2) by Rachel Reid.  Told from both points of view of the main characters, we start the novel when they are teenagers vying for status and an award.  It is their first meeting and the beginning of their personal hockey competition and interaction.  From then on the story starts jumping forward as they meet in different cities in various time intervals, the competition and heated rivalry flaring hotter and hotter. Each time frame advancing both the personal competition between them as the best hockey players currently coming up in the game, and something more.  A physical closeted relationship that’s still somewhat impersonal….until it starts to be something more.

As I said I started out unsure about this flash forward framework because it didn’t allow the reader to see any development of a relationship between the men.  Until I realized that was the point.  There wasn’t one.  Only the one we saw on ice.  But midway, those jumps in time slowed and a relationship between the men started to develop beyond the competition and mere physicalilty they had allowed themselves.  And we as readers relished it all the more for the lack of intimacy that had gone before.

Due to this format, we need the 2 pov narrative to fill us in on the men, their background and the drama that is happening around them and to them in some cases.    These characters are well developed and if they seem a tad familiar to those that follow hockey there is a reason for it.  If you read the Afterword by the author, you will know that Reid was a fan of the HBO hockey series about  Penguins/Capitals rivalry, specially the one between “good boy” Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and  “bad boy” Russian Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. As a Caps fan, I can tell you it’s a hard fast competition that continues today between “The Kid” and “Ovi” .  And it sparked the inspiration for this romance and story.

The slow to develop emotional intimacy is what we crave here because what they already have is an intense physical one.  So the payoff for the men at the end is a realistic one.    It’s not a HEA but an authentic HFN which I thoroughly appreciated.  It’s what they had worked for, were still working for, and, cleared eyed as to how the NHL is run, homophobia included, make plans that we as readers not only get behind but quietly cheer for.  And hope to see this couple pop up in future stories.

I really enjoyed this tale.  The author has a feel for hockey action on the rink, a well developed storyline, great characters and a ending I believed in.  Love it.  And now to go back and check on the first book in the series.

This is definitely a standalone novel as far as I can tell.  One that I recommend, especially if you are a fan of hockey and hockey romances like me.

Cover art by Carina Press.  Ok not a fan of this cover.  Could be for any romance, nothing really distinguishes it as a hockey novel.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 310 pages
Published March 25th 2019 by Carina Press
Original Title Heated Rivalry
ASINB07H5K8SFW
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Game Changers :

Game Changer

Heated Rivalry

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Heated Rivalry (Game Changers #2) by Rachel Reid

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

My first book from this author, but it won’t be my last. This story engaged me and kept me riveted with not only memorable characters, who happen to be sexy hockey players, but also men who grow from 18-year-old rookies looking for a quick hookup to mature all-stars who know each other better than anyone else in the world and become willing to risk their hearts for a chance at permanence.

Talk about slow burn! These two took forever to realize their instant lust attraction—which they perpetuated for several years—was more than they ever thought they could have. After all, pro hockey players didn’t come out. They didn’t settle down with one man.  And they certainly didn’t leave their homeland—Russia in Ilya’s case—to find their HEA with the man who newscasters set up as an archrival.

After years of texting, secretly meeting up after games in each other’s hometown, Ilya and Shane—Lily and Jane on each other’s cell contact list—finally face the fact that they aren’t just meeting to scratch an itch. They care deeply for each other and there’s a glimmer of hope for a future together if they plan it well.  And since Shane is a planner…

From the beginning of this story, I was swept up in the rich characterizations, the excitement of pro hockey, and the secretive sexy banter and wish fulfillment. I enjoyed being with Shane as he matured and developed feelings for Ilya. And Shane was fortunate to have two supportive, interesting and loving parents—especially his mother who was a hoot with her knowledge of pro sports.  Ilya, unfortunately, was not as blessed. An aging father who suffered from dementia, a demanding brother who constantly wanted money, and a stepmother who was zero in the nurturing department were all he had in his homeland and he got to the point where he dreaded going back to Russia in the off season.  I adored Ilya with his accent, his sense of humor, and his ego—huge and well-deserved.  And together, these two men were fantastic.  By the end of the story, after they’d made their decision to be a couple, I couldn’t put the book down. 

Every word, every page turn brought me closer to the end of the book, and I didn’t want to finish.  I savored their time together, and I am hopeful we’ll see them again at some point in the future because I’m not ready to release them from my heart.  Very highly recommended. 

Cover art is every bit as heated as the title.

Sales Links;  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 310 pages
Expected publication: March 25th 2019 by Carina Press
Original Title Heated Rivalry
ASINB07H5K8SFW
Edition Language English
Series Game Changers #2