So I actually enjoyed this book. Enjoyed as in there wasn’t too much in the book that drove me so mad I wanted to walk away from it. I didn’t mind the insta love as it fit the story. I did enjoy the chemistry between them as it wasn’t over the top neither was it so subdued that it made the insta-love fail. Over all this was an okay book. Okay as in it went from for stars to a possible two but ultimately landed on three. Why who knows. I’m still thinking all my issues might make it two worthy but on the other hand the flow of the book, if not the pacing wasn’t off enough for me to quit reading so it’s a definite grey area.
Firstly as a non-Canadian and a non-French speaker I didn’t find the French too off putting, nor the way it was handled in the book. The reason I didn’t mind it is because the words around the where significant enough for me to guestimate, and also significant enough that if I had zero clue what they meant I didn’t lose anything from that. Also I didn’t get all those the author is saying what it means after it every time feels. Sometimes you really feel like a non-English sentence is there to replace an English sentence so it just sticks out like someone talking to you and just dropping a non-English sentence and continuing. For me at least, it didn’t feel like that happened reading this book.
I don’t know anything about sports so I’m just going to say I wasn’t put off from reading the sports stuff which I sometimes can be based on how little or how much detail some authors use.
Another thing I liked was in the first half the insta-love fit. The first two dates, even later on when Bryce and Hunter first admit they are into each other and move in together I didn’t get angry like ‘they just started dating why are they moving in with each other’. In the framework the author presented all of it made sense. I was even on board for how, at the end, it’s revealed their relationship is a big no issue for the team. It doesn’t always have to be this big falling out and discrimination and hate speech. But this is where all of my like ended. As other readers have said the deeper you get into this book the more you skim.
I like low angst and medium to high tension books. This books first point of real tension was when my love of the book started to wain, and it was early in the story. Bryce, the hockey superstar, takes Hunter on two really nice dates. They eventually end up in Bryce’s room and a kiss happens. I was more than ready for this. It’s in Hunter’s POV at this point. Hunter is shocked but the kiss still happens. So much so that he has time to slowly move his hand between them assess how fast Bryce’s heart is racing and gently, yes the author said gently, push him away. He didn’t have an immediate reaction and shove him of. He had time to enjoy the kiss and describe how their mouths slowly separated.
There’s the predictable moment of silence and when hunter opens his mouth to speak Bryce goes into a panic and kicks him out. Hunter literally just want’s to ask if he is gay. That’s it. When he is drinking about it later his thoughts are about how nothing has shown any signs Bryce was gay in the media or anywhere. And this takes me back to the beginning of the book. Bryce is talking about this big secret and how he can’t let it ruin his career or come out yet. And so on and so forth. But it’s all vague and reads extremely awkward. Instead of wanting to know what he is going on about I spent the entire time wondering why he wasn’t saying in and feeling confused by how it kept rambling. This is a precursor to one of my biggest issues with this book. Back to on track Hunter’s thoughts are literally all about him questioning Bryce being gay and his own sexuality. Which eventually leads to a Bi awakening. Basically he is unsure. And if Bryce had let him get past ‘Are you’ and speak, this entire situation could’ve been handled right then and there.
I really hate forced angst/tension and miscommunication, and this hit all those notes so hard I reread this scene so many times to see if Hunter even for a smidge after the stare-of-silence, gave any hint something was off. He didn’t. The entire thing was basically set up for Bryce to be so upset that he goes from being the best player in the league to the worst.
This is where it started to slowly go downhill. Hunter spends too much time lamenting how he should’ve spoke faster but the pause after the kiss whether awkward or basking in the moment was legit. His timing wasn’t off. He didn’t react in anyway with all that gently pushing Bryce away and feeling his heartbeat to even hint something wasn’t right. Just too much time in his head on this issue. On Bryce’s considering he has never done anything with a guy before the only thing he should be worried about is Hunter outing him. He even admits he didn’t realise he was attracted to him in that way until he met him. He only followed Hunter because he thought Hunter was a good player on the wrong team and so he sought him out to tell him that. When he saw him in person that’s when sparks flew. So when you add all of that up the drama of him possibly being benched makes zero sense Shooting straight to broken hard is a big leap and, his internal monologues, just like Hunter’s, felt too long and slightly repetitive.
It continues again when Hunter is drafted to Canada to somehow bring the magic back into Bryce’s playing. It doesn’t work. But at Hunters suggestion they go to a place where they can be alone and play. Getting there was a droning mess. Hunter is stalling for zero reason. Saying all the same stuff he already said when he didn’t text Bryce for so long when he was still in Texas and could see how much Bryce’s playing was suffering. Same stuff different scene/angle. At one point when the author finally lets us out of Bryce and Hunter’s heads Bryce actually says let him keep his broken heart. I am so glad I skimmed that. Yes. A third in the book and I was already skimming the internal talks. They were officially too repetitive here. However, once we got out of the heads and the plot started moving the book would become interesting again.
For the entire second half of the book the proclamations of love got too long or too repetitive. The internal dialogue/monologues were even more repetitive, and I was in super skim mode. Describing how each person felt about their feelings and proclamations in full detail every time. And since it’s in first person it’s pretty much like hearing someone on a lunch date talking about the same thing for hours and not realising they are saying the exact same thing just in a different word package. This story needed a lot more perspectives to break up the monotony or at least to be in third person.
I say that because, as one reviewer said and I agree, it’s nice that that whole negative team tension that comes with coming out isn’t there. With this being a first time for both characters its written like it’s a secret. However, Bryce is playing better, they came to the next practice together and he moves Hunter into his house in one day. From this point together on all trips they are together and even stay at the bar until all the other teammates are gone so they can have alone time. They even steal kisses in stairwells and one time were all up against Bryce’s door and the roomie and best friend came to the door angry as fuck complaining and ordering Bryce in the room. And it’s written like if he showed up a second earlier, they would’ve been caught. Sigh.
Their whole relationship is written under the pretence they are trying to keep it from the team but this incident, the incident where this same friend switches keys at another hotel so Hunter can room with Bryce, and the fact they always are the last ones to head to bed, all scream it’s a badly kept secret yet the author wants us to believe that it was a secret. Being able to see glimpses of how they respond to Bryce and Hunter would’ve helped sell this obvious fail on their part. Being able to see how they react to things they do when the pair think their getting away with it. Just those little glimpses of information you get when an author can reveal things to the reader that is impossible to do in first person. Either the character knows it’s happening, or they don’t. With two POV’s you can keep secrets from both characters but that’s it.
The book didn’t need a big fallout like other books but it still needed a mutual coming out cause the secrecy was extremely hard to believe based on their actions.
Which brings me to the end. Bryce gets hurt and Hunter is all sad and crying and over emotional and proclaiming his love. Say what now? Bryce is a star in his homeland and people gossip. How you not gon’ at the very least wait until he comes out of the coma to talk to him about how you’re going to do this together. All the attention around this is too high to trust people to be decent. There’s always at least one person broke and desperate enough to sell a good story. Then his best friend being all the team always knew from the beginning, yet when Bryce was a failure for a bit no one stepped up to help him push through. And he gave the and if you don’t do right by him me and the team are going to fuck you up speech… groan. This whole coming out stuff was all sorts of bad timing and felt wrong.
It didn’t stop there. Bryce wakes up, can’t even talk yet, and he tells his parents in a video chat that he and Hunter are dating. He literally just came out to himself months ago, Hunter the same. How are they just suddenly after actively hiding, though badly, from everyone now just making bold acclimations of love. This was when the mush levels of the book finally hit this is too unbelievable and rushed for the ending to get on board with. And I noticed I wasn’t the only reader that thought the proclamations of love got too sappy and too unrealistic as the book progressed. However the team stuff, and Bryce not being able to talk but still being involved with how Hunter was taking care of him for a while was good enough to get me through this big clusterfuck of an ending.
Bryce has said when they win he wants to be by Hunters side holding the cup. This is all well and good but the team that almost killed him is the team they have to play against. The author goes for the ever over-used trope of having the protagonist/hero who is just healed so in no state for things to go wrong cause this time he could die, go out with the team known as ‘the bullies’ of the league to risk his life in some epic last game. Honestly he could’ve died. It was frustraiting to read. The entire ending is the reason I almost gave this book 2stars. I would’ve respected the author more if they lost the game and Bryce still had his on-ice kiss with Hunter in front of all the cameras. If they had won and he went skating out there to be with Hunter as they celebrate that would’ve been awesome.
Then there was no follow up. It didn’t have to be negative, but a famous sports player literally came out in front of all the media outlets and nothing. No interviews. No why did you decide to come out. Or even better, the ‘it’s nice to see a team that is accepting and a high profile player being comfortable in their own skin’in the sport angle.
Ignoring the negative and normalising is fine, but doing nothing at all was just awkward like all the other oddities previously mentioned..
So did I enjoy this book yes. Would I recommend it. Still yes. But just because I enjoyed reading it doesn’t’ mean it was a well written book or that the issues will just disappear. Even though I skimmed a lot of this book and found the mush levels to slightly increase to ‘yeah, this ain’t for me’ levels as I went on, some people will adore this and the stupidly over dramatic injury-coming-out-hero-ending. It fits well in its niche and target audience so it’s worth the read. Unfortunately, it just didn’t fit in well enough to get five stars out of me to match the fact I enjoyed this story.