Emory Lowe has just won Nationals and has made the Olympic figure skating team. He’s on top of the world, and isn’t going to tone down his flame for anyone or anything. He’s loud and proud, and nothing is going to keep him from being himself. Especially not the sexy Ukrainian moving in across the street. At first glance, Nikolai Vetrov is a homophobic jerk who is also a hockey elitist. But quickly the two young men get to know each other better and they find an attraction that cannot be denied.
Nik has always lived his life according to his father’s wishes, and his father rules with an iron fist. Nik is a hockey player because he’s worked his entire life toward it, but it’s because that’s what his father wanted for him. Though he’s now 20, he’s still under his father’s thumb. Nik has taken a spot on the Chicago Wolves roster as their enforcer because that’s what his father wants. And he denies his immediate and intense attraction to Emory because he knows that his father will probably, literally, kill him if he’s gay. He’s conflicted and confused, but there’s no denying that Emory makes him want. Emory is a bright light, and Nik gives in to his feelings and attraction. Soon the two men are falling in love and starting to make a life for themselves, though they are keeping it quiet. Nik isn’t ready to come out.
When a video of Nik and Emory is sneakily taken and posted online, the news is out. Nik is devastated, never having intended for it to come out this way. With the help of Emory, Emory’s family, and a supportive team, Nik starts to come to terms with being an out athlete. Nik’s hateful and homophobic father threatens his life. Despite all the heartache, worry, and fear that Nik has endured since he met Emory, he knows without a doubt that Emory is worth it.
I finished this book with a smile on my face. And there is so much to love about it. The characterizations here are so very wonderful. Emory and Nik are so fully fleshed out and beautifully written. Every character in this book, in fact, is so perfectly consistent while at the same time showing growth. I really enjoyed this book.
Emory is unapologetic for his attitude and outlook on the world. What I loved the most about him was his supreme confidence. He was in your face, but not because he was trying to prove a point. That’s just how he was. But that’s not to say that he doesn’t make mistakes, because he does. I loved that when he did, he owned up to them, learned from them, and grew stronger. Emory benefitted from a truly supportive family, for both his chosen career and for his sexuality, and I simply adored how much he loved his family. He didn’t take their sacrifices or their support for granted. Em’s dad, Tom, in particular, was all kinds of awesome.
Nik came from a completely opposite kind of upbringing, and I liked the way the author used the contrast between the two. It really worked to the advantage of the story. Nik, perhaps, did the most growing throughout the story and most of that was internal and mental. He had to change the way he’d always lived and thought. He really came into his own as the story progressed. Not just because he questioned and then accepted his sexuality, but he also had to realign his thinking toward his father and stand up for himself. This guy wormed his way into my heart from almost the very beginning. He wouldn’t stand up for himself, but he would fight to the death to take care of anyone else. I just loved him.
Together Nik and Emory made a perfect pair. Their chemistry just leaped off the page. From almost the very beginning, it was clear that these guys were meant to be together. You know how it is when you read characters that just work together? That’s what you’ll find here. They complement each other perfectly. The actual on page sex was hot and satisfying. There’s no doubt in my mind that Nik and Emory, were they real instead of fiction, could live happily ever after.
Now, I have to be honest here and say that as much as I loved this story, I did have a few quibbles that were enough to bring my rating down a half a point. There were seemingly long sections of the book where the hockey, both the game and the duties of the players, were explained. For me, this part slowed down the narrative too much. I don’t know if it’s because I’m rather familiar with the game and therefore felt like I was being told things I already knew (and if that’s the case, then this is a strictly personal quibble) or if it actually bogged down the story. To me it seemed like the same could be accomplished with condensed wording and that may have helped.
I also had a problem with the fact that Emory and Nik were supposed to be 18 and 20. They acted older. Some of this could be explained by the way they grew up, but not enough. It bothered me enough that I noticed. There was also a small amount of head hopping in some of the scenes. The story is told in the third person with alternating POVs, and that’s awesome. But occasionally, a scene would start from one of the guy’s perspectives only to switch at some point. It pulled me out of the story every time it happened. Also, there are a couple of scenes from each of the fathers’ POVs. I get why the author chose to do this, but they were so few and far between it was a little disconcerting.
But really, guys, I absolutely enjoyed the hell out of this book, and I can recommend it without qualm. The characterizations shine, the writing is fantastic, and the plot progresses at the perfect rate. There is so much about it that is so good that even though I had a few noticeable issues, I still walked away with the satisfied sigh of a story well read.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.