Trade Season, Book #1
Heat Factor: Centers on the emotional tension growing, not on the sex (which was so tender)
Character Chemistry: I was on tenterhooks
Plot: Olly has a lot of trauma to deal with and Benji is a little bit clueless but extremely supportive
Overall: Uff da, what a tearjerker!
Did I pick up this book because it’s a romance between a grumpy veteran hockey player and his sunshiney rookie roommate? You bet I did!
So, okay, now that I’ve read the book… Olly is 24 when the book starts and Benji is 20. This isn’t, like, a 19yo rookie rooming with a 34yo veteran. I confess I was expecting a few silver whiskers, but for the emotional space these characters were occupying, early twenties is really spot on. And also, I’m not sure that grumpy/sunshine quite fits the bill here. Benji is very chill and positive, and Olly is a prickle-ball, but, like, these guys—Olly in particular—are dealing with stuff that makes grumpy/sunshine seem like floating tufts of cotton candy.
Olly is coping with a perfectionist outlook combined with his father’s parenting-coaching style that is more critiquing than supportive, plus he’s gay but closeted and his former roommate punched him in the face and he was kicked off his old team when he was outed there. His mental health challenges are legion, and he is extremely resistant to doing anything about them because “he should be tough enough” (thanks, Dad). I really liked that, at the end of the day, Olly does the work to take care of himself. He is supported in this by several people along the way, which is really important, but he’s the one who finds a therapist and decides he needs to make different choices if he wants to not be an emaciated ball curled up on his lake cabin bed, hiding from the entire world.
C.W. Olly’s anxiety is so bad he regularly vomits when faced with bad stressors.
Benji comes from poverty and an abusive (primarily through emotional manipulation and abuse) mother, and he’s had to humbly take every opportunity ever offered to him. Because of his early years, he has a lot of anger, but thanks to his supportive hockey billeting families, he did get the help and therapy he needed to manage his anger, so even though I wouldn’t term him a walking ball of sunshine, he does very intentionally have a positive life outlook. I got a bit of a bi-erasure vibe for a while with Benji’s story, which is essentially a bi-awakening story. Specifically Olly (and eventually Benji) identify that Benji isn’t gay … so of course he must be straight. I would have enjoyed this more if the questions or points of insecurity were framed by the narrator (3rd person) in a more bi-acknowledging manner. Though, to be fair, Benji’s obliviousness and easy comfort with his sexuality is meant to be diametrically opposed to Olly’s fear, so the opacity of Benji’s understanding there is meaningful.
This is not a particularly easy book to read. The tension stems from a huge amount of emotional angst and not from natural situational tension (I mean, a little bit) or the protagonists not knowing how to be vulnerable to each other (also this is certainly present). That said, I 100% Bad Decisions Book Clubbed this puppy and read 70% of it in one evening. (Night, okay? Way too late.) It was riveting. Carina adds the word count to the front of their ARCs and I was like, “100,000 words! Eek!” But honestly I did not feel this book getting slow or saggy at all. It’s a very slow burn, yes, absolutely. But there’s always something making me turn the page.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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