Ryker Madsen and Jacob Benson are on the verge of their happily ever after. Their wedding is just a few months away and it should be a joyful time for both of them. But the stresses of real life are building up. Jacob has started a new job that seems to be consuming his every waking moment, leaving most of the wedding planning to Ryker. And aside from feeling put upon, Ryker seems determined to have the fanciest wedding possible, regardless of the cost.
Ryker’s increasing jealously of Jacob’s new boss isn’t helping the situation and Jacob finds himself being pushed and pulled in all directions. When Jacob is betrayed in the worst way, he and Ryker must put aside their arguments and reaffirm their love for one another in order to forge a future together.
Valentine’s Hearts is part of the extended Owatonna U Hockey series, which is a spinoff from the Harrisburg Railers series by the same authors. You really need to have read the Owatonna books or at least be familiar with Ryker and Jacob’s story before picking this one up. Things will just make a lot more sense if you have the background information already at hand.
While Valentine’s Hearts has the same sweetness and guaranteed happily ever after as all of these books, I struggled with this one a bit more than usual. First was Ryker’s behavior, which seemed somewhat out of character. He acted as though Jacob’s career wasn’t as important as his own and, at times, this read as rather petty and almost immature. This isn’t something I’ve seen from his character before. Yes, he’s a tad spoiled and that’s been acknowledged, but he just didn’t read as quite as supportive or mature as before.
My biggest issue with this novella is how Jacob’s situation is handled. There’s no way to really go into this without giving spoilers so consider yourself forewarned.And I give the authors credit for acknowledging the severity of it and treating it like the trauma it is. But the entire situation feels rushed and I think part of that is the novella format. This kind of event is significant enough that it needed more exploration and more time to breathe. I don’t feel as a reader I got a solid idea of how it affected either Jacob or Ryker or their relationship, because there wasn’t the time to process it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was handled in a cavalier fashion, but it needed something more to be complete.
Valentine’s Hearts gives Ryker and Jacob the wedding they’ve been planning for and that aspect of the book is comfortable and sweet. But I felt Ryker went through a character shift that didn’t make much sense and Jacob’s trauma wasn’t given the kind of breathing room it needed to feel like a full journey. That said, if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll probably enjoy this entry, even though I think it could have been stronger.