Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Court Henderson is playing hockey in the minor leagues when his team cuts him loose. It leaves Court at loose ends and, with nothing better to do, he heads home to the small town of Elmwood, Vermont for the holiday season. Court gets a chance to work and train with the local hockey legends and, in return, they’ll help him get his game back on track. He’s still got a couple of years of play left in him, and he’s not ready to leave hockey behind.

Ivan Carmello sowed his wild oats, but came home to Elmwood and opened a coffee shop, Rise and Grind. It’s done well and Ivan’s happy, but he’s also lonely. And when his childhood crush, Court, comes back to town, Ivan tells himself that’s in the past and he can’t go crushing on Court again. But circumstances bring them together and conversation flows easily. And the attraction between them is undeniable.

One kiss turns to more, and as the holiday season approaches, they spend more and more time together. They’re lovers and friends and find a lot of joy in each other. But Court is improving daily and, before long, he might have the opportunity to get back to playing professional hockey. When Ivan’s business partner wants out, and Court gets the chance he’s been waiting for, Ivan thinks his world is going to shift. But neither man counted on falling in love, and it might just be enough for them to get their happily ever after.

Holiday Crush is the third book in Lane Hayes’ Elmwood Stories series, and while all the books work well enough as standalone stories, there is something extra having read the series in order. Ivan has played a part as a secondary character in the previous books, and there have also been mentions of Court’s family, so it’s nice to have that background. Elmwood has become a hockey mecca of sorts, especially for young players, and that adds a believable backdrop to all the former hockey players making their home there.

I adored these characters. Ivan is a lovely mix of emo and sunshine, and Court has a bit of grumpy side that stems from his last few years of less than stellar performing. Court needs to get his head on straight and back in the game, and Ivan needs a fairytale romance. Hayes delivers a sweet and fun story about these two men who have known each other all their lives, though they’ve never been particularly close. There was a nice believability to their relationship, first as they meet again, and then as they get to know each other. And the chemistry between them is off the charts.

I really liked the easy way Court owned being bisexual, and I liked Ivan’s honest reaction to learning this information. It was a shift to how he’d always perceived Court, but more than that, it was something he could have benefited from knowing when they were growing up. That being said, they move on from that and embrace their relationship for what it is, learning about each other and falling into bed, or anywhere else, as often as they can. I loved these two guys together and was honestly rooting for them from the start. They are both on a bit of a personal journey as well, and need to figure out what they want from their futures, with the added bonus of having each other at the end.

I found this story to be fun, cute, and sweet, with just the right amount of holiday cheer. Hayes nails the characterization. It’s a great addition to the series, and I recommend it if you’re looking for a quick, lovely, holiday read.