Heat Factor: They have a lot of sex. (A lot.) And it’s explicit but not every time.
Character Chemistry: He was meant to love the white swan!
Plot: Gay football player thinks he can spend his college career with his head down and without romantic entanglements…until he meets the love of his life during a summer study abroad in Paris
Overall: Holy angst, Batman!
Heat Factor: It’s actually not that slow a burn, but getting to that first kiss is oof
Character Chemistry: They just like each other so gosh darn much
Plot: (Best friend) and (father) of The Jock’s protagonists are third wheels so much that they find themselves pairing off, particularly after the quarterback is left behind while everyone else has summer break
Overall: It’s a sweet one. Floating hearts just coming right off it.
Well, I decided to do a hockey round-up for the beginning of hockey season, but apparently most of the hockey books I’ve read are college sportsball, or I’ve already talked about them on the blog in a review or a listicle, and obviously I wanted to talk about new-to-us books. So I’m left with a M/M pro hockey romance list. There will be teammates. There will be coaches. There will be celebrities, and some normal people, too. Mostly, it’ll be fun.
Nothing to see here but sweetness. After winning the Stanley Cup, Daniel wonders what’s next for his career, so when an offer comes to be an influential veteran for the struggling Miami team, he takes it. His risk is rewarded: it turns out that his childhood bestie still lives in Miami (he works with the marine mammals at the aquarium!), and Micah isn’t opposed to picking up where they left off—first kiss and unrealized romantic dreams finally realized?—now that they’re back in the same city. But Daniel’s career is dependent on his team winning, and Micah can’t find aquarium jobs just anywhere. Bonus points: If you’re looking for an MC with an amicable divorce, I found one for ya! (Daniel’s ex moves with him so they can keep co-parenting equally.)
Sergei and Alex have been best friends since Sergei was billetted in Alex’s house for juniors. Alex is a retired olympic medalist figure skater who’s floundering and broke. Sergei is an extremely successful professional goalie. When Alex finds out he’s the other man for the jerk who turned out to be a controlling sugar daddy, he has nowhere to go but to Sergei until he figures out his next move. Meanwhile, Sergei, who is giving off many demisexual vibes, realizes that, in fact, he’s interested in more than friendship with Alex. Fun story, though! Just when they’re thinking they might be able to do this relationship thing, they get the curveball of becoming parents as well. Definite domestic bliss fantasy wish fulfillment in this one. This book would be better with more editing, but I found it enjoyable nonetheless.
So, look, I started this series at the beginning, and I enjoyed it all; however, the last two books in this series were added after the planned three because the characters just really needed their stories told. Which is likely why they’re my favorites. Soren is the first out player in the NHL. He came out in Deke (#3), which is also a hockey romance (FYI). But now he’s getting old. He’s getting slower. There might not be much hockey left in him, but he’s going to enjoy being the 5th wheel on his Fijian vacation and play next season refreshed. Then Jet comes back in need of some TLC. Jet is the little brother of Trick Play’s (#2) hero. He’s a spitfire. He’s a rock star. But when he and Soren hooked up three years before, he was just getting started. And he’s still ten years younger than Soren. Their relationship has “bad idea” written all over it, but they just don’t care anymore.
Can I interest you in some angst? The first…half(?) of this book is an emotional roller coaster. It’s followed by some lovely, calm sweetness like snuggles under the blanket by the fire when the snow is falling outside. And then someone almost dies. Me, I am a sucker for an “Oh my God, you almost died, and then I would have died!” moment, but I feel I should warn readers that this one was particularly, er, graphically terrifying. Pucks are no joke, folks. And then the ending is really lovely. Broadly speaking, I liked this book. Bryce is the biggest player in the league, and he’s closeted, but it doesn’t matter because he’s never interested in anybody. He and Hunter hit it off immediately, but Hunter’s convinced he’s straight. Mixed signals ensue. Enter the angst-fest.
The quantity of absolutely bananas stuff in this book (I mean, just Rupert’s background alone) is one thing that’s extremely entertaining if you roll with it. But the primary draw of this is probably going to be that it’s 100% playing house, we-made-a-family fantasy wish fulfillment. Callum and Rupert get off on the wrong foot when professional goalie Callum buys into the minor-pro (CHL-type) hockey team Rupert manages, but when Rupert’s 4yo brother needs rescuing, one thing leads to another. And another. And sharing a bed. And a hotel room. And coordinating childcare. And making decisions together. And why is Callum going back to his pro-hockey career in a different country, again?
Y’all, I cannot resist a coach romance. If it’s coach-player, so much the better. It’s so naugty. And Gabriel and Lance know they’re being naughty. The one thing they have going for them is that Lance coaches the forwards and Gabriel plays defense. They’re both living their second chance—a TBI ended Lance’s pro career and his marriage, and it took him many years to rehabilitate himself until he was able to coach; Gabriel’s only outlet for his personal woes has been sex and fighting, so his last chance at a pro career after being put on waivers is to toe the line in Evanston. If you’re into a wholeheartedly caring and supportive friendship as a romantic foundation, this one delivers.
Well, shoot, I wrote up this whole Saturday Smutty Six and then started making the graphics and found I had seven! Plus my bonus down below! Whatever. More romance is better than less romance! Enjoy this Saturday Smutty Seventh and the Taylor Fitzpatrick it’s-technically-not-genre-romance-but-it-slayed-me bonus below.
Why have one coach when you could have two? I don’t know. And I didn’t try to resist, honestly. Max is the new assistant coach for an ECHL team, and he is very surprised to discover that his head coach is none other than Misha, the guy who caused the accident that ended Max’s pro career. You’d think the conflict would center on this one injury that so significantly impacted both men…but it doesn’t. Instead, Misha has a lot of baggage about a lot of things (among them is Max’s injury, but it’s by no means the biggest), and both men are fighting for the health, wellbeing, and success of all their players. If you’re into scenes involving holidays that bring people together, I found a book for you!
It’s not *technically* a genre romance, but oh my gosh it was such a beautiful love story. I wouldn’t typically recommend a book that’s not a romance because I get super ragey when I go in thinking something is a romance and it’s not, but there are a couple things about this book that made it really worthwhile. If you want a good cry with a lifelong love story between a veteran D-man and a rookie forward that has so, so much heart, I do recommend this one.
Got any hockey recommendations for Erin? Please let her know. Seriously. She needs them all.
Heat Factor: awkward sex → “you should leave” → slow burn → spectacular sex
Character Chemistry: They are so awkward with each other, but they’re also the only one who really understands what the other is going through, and they’re so sweet to each other
Plot: Brody and Sea’s attempt at casual fails horribly, but somebody caught them smooching on camera so now the whole internet knows they’re gay. In order to contain the fallout raining down on their careers, their agents negotiate a six month fake relationship
Overall: The perfection of this fake relationship is that, when they would normally just walk away, they have to stick around and talk things through and UGH MY HEART
This isn’t the first book in a (great) series, but it’s the first that involves a pro athlete. Ethan and Fiona have known each other since college, and they still float around each other because Ethan’s best friend married Fiona’s sister. Oh, also, Ethan is a virgin who has secretly been pining for Fiona since college. He wants forever, she wants to get the promotion at her job that is in a completely different state to his. There’s plenty of angst in this book, and the third act is a doozy (involving non-consensual release of nude photographs by a third party, be advised), but Callihan is really good at digging into those feelings and creating complex situations for characters who want to be together but don’t necessarily know how to navigate their own messy feelings to take care of their partner’s also messy feelings.
Isaiah is a widower and single dad trying to get things right. When Isaiah takes his son to meet his idol, out and proud Russian danseur Victor, sparks fly, and they have a one-night stand, but it’s supposed to be nothing more. Then Victor’s request for asylum is denied, and his life will be in jeopardy if he goes back to Russia after his gay rights advocacy in the US, so Isaiah proposes a marriage of convenience to keep Victor in the US legally. If you can suspend your disbelief about the green card marriage, this is an engaging marriage of convenience story featuring two gay men with very different outlooks on how they want to live their lives but who are more and more drawn to each other the longer they’re married.
Best friends to lovers bi-awakening, but make it football? After an awkward breakup, Kelly finally decides that it’s time for him to buckle down and get over the unrequited crush on his best friend so he can have a life. Blue is not a fan of his best friend avoiding him, and when he walks in on Kelly about to get some, he starts having some thoughts, which he acts on after a night of drunken jealousy. When Blue’s knee injury creates an excuse for him to recuperate at Kelly’s house, the two men really enjoy playing house (among other things *wink*), but Blue doesn’t want to change his life plan—marry a woman, kids, etc—and Kelly doesn’t need to be someone else’s problem. This is the first in a duology and ends with a secret-relationship HFN, but it’s playfully angsty with relatively low-stakes drama and lots of supportive friends.
Okay, so the premise for this one was what hooked me. Garrett realized he was bi when he met his brother’s best friend, Warner, as a teen. He’s had a crush forever but never acted on it, and Warner is basically part of the family. After his brother’s career ends with an injury, Garrett graduates and gets drafted not only to fill his brother’s shoes, but also onto the same team as Warner. Even better, they’re both bi, but only Garrett’s brother/Warner’s best friend knows, and he’s being a good human and not sharing. So if dancing around each other to we definitely shouldn’t be hooking up to secret relationship is your jam, this one’s for you.
The title might make you think of a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but this book definitely has some Cinderella vibes, at least at the beginning. Ronan has a drunken one-night-stand with Nova on the anniversary of his finacee’s death and his career-ending injury. He calls her by his fiancee’s name, and she disappears into the night, and the way he feels about that night is what he needs to turn his life around. Nova meets him again when she moves home to take care of her younger sister after their mother’s death, but the football coach who can do no wrong in the small town’s eyes doesn’t even remember her. Antagonism leads to grudging respect leads to fake dating leads to real feelings. You know the drill. Bonus points for extremely entertaining small town worldbuilding.
This book is a really fun read. Books often feature protagonists who banter, but often the banter doesn’t click with me—in this case, it was super fun to read and a fun component of the relationship dynamic between these estranged best friends who become lovers as adults when Briyana is forced to move home after a series of unfortunate events. Meanwhile, Lance is living the good life as the local football team’s hometown sweetheart. When their rekindled friendship becomes a no-holds-barred relationship, Lance starts thinking of happily ever afters, but Briyana is still holding on to her career dreams—that will take her right back out of state. Bonus points for sneaker enthusiasts.