Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Zane Murphy and Ryan Hartinger have been hockey teammates and best friends for more than a decade. They met back in college, when Zane was team captain and helping Ryan get his game together. Ryan helped Zane pick up his personal life, following a nasty break up with his cheating girlfriend. Zane swore off relationships then, afraid it would take his focus off hockey.

Zane was drafted into the NHL and Ryan soon followed, his stalwart wingman on and off the ice. Zane has trouble connecting with people, at times, and he doesn’t generally feel a strong romantic attraction until he’s made a close emotional connection. Ryan’s just kept himself busy with hockey and friends with benefits in multiple cities. Both men are intensely focused on a Stanley Cup win. Last season the team was close, and Zane took not winning as a personal failure. Their close connection fosters a running joke among their teammates that they are really secret boyfriends. It’s bewildering to both men, especially as Ryan’s a well-known ladies’ man on the team.

Their personal lives get a bit of a stir-up when a prominent player on a rival team comes out publicly as bisexual. Zane knows this player fairly well and is a little surprised, but very supportive. This support affects Ryan, who plumbs the depth of his feelings for Zane. He loves Zane–who is his closest confidant–but, could he be in-love with him? Ryan’s stunned to learn his family has long believed that they have been lovers for years, hiding their relationship under the guise of teammates and close friends. It’s eye-opening, and his growing attraction for Zane begins to consume him. A late night confession on the road opens Zane’s eyes to the possibilities. Zane’s love and trust for Ryan makes the move to some level of sexual activity seem dangerous, while also super tempting. He’s been celibate a while, and Ryan’s eager to explore his attraction. Zane consents, but only if they follow some rules: keep it absolutely secret, and only indulge when they are on the road–which may be more difficult than it sounds.

This is an expanded, novel-length edition of a previously published novella and gives the reader a meaty hockey romance to devour. Both Zane and Ryan are great guys, and I think readers will root for them to have both personal and professional success. The long span of time these characters know one another really fostered an intense bond, and friends-to-lovers is always an engaging trope. There are a lot of different personalities in the story, from rivals, to teammates, to coaches, and family for both Ryan and Zane. Neither Ryan nor Zane anticipated the strength of support or love they’d experience when shifting their focus into romance. It was interesting how in sync these men were as companions and players, and I was pleasantly surprised how the team’s dynamics worked as the love story progressed.

Expect a low angst, sexy, first-times, friends-to-lovers hockey romance that ends in the happiest of ways. I really enjoyed the story and would read on in this series.