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

 

Zeke Boehm is a Physical Education teacher at the Rittenhouse Friends private Quaker school in Philadelphia, where he teaches K-5 students of the rather wealthy. He’s an out gay man with a complicated family that he loves, but doesn’t like. Zeke grew up on a farm, and his country folks can’t understand his need for a city job or his “lifestyle choice” sexuality. His childhood best friend and roommate shares his work-comped tickets to Philadelphia Liberty hockey games, which Zeke loves, because he’s a broke teacher trying to pay back his school loans and live within his means.

Zeke is a superfan for the Liberty, and especially of Spencer McLeod, a first-line winger who recently returned to the line-up full time after overcoming debilitating migraines. Zeke has very little chill when it comes to Spencer, barely able to ask for his autograph on one of the FOUR McLeod jerseys he owns. So, he’s absolutely gobsmacked when Spencer, his mother, and Spencer’s (apparently secret) daughter, Adeline, turn up to back-to-school night at Rittenhouse Friends.

Zeke is trying to maintain some level of professionalism, but his major hockey crush keeps showing up and being basically adorable with five-year-old perfectionist tyrant Adeline. (Who is pretty cute, especially with how she takes no crap.) She’s also having some issues with abandonment after her mom checked out, her gran died of cancer, and this move to Philly after Spencer took custody. Zeke is an excitable man, and he’s tamed these impulses with yoga, running, and all sorts of activity, yet Spencer’s constantly overloading his circuits. And, well, the more they engage, the more Spencer’s teammates push Spencer out of his shy, introverted, closeted comfort zone and into Zeke’s orbit.

This is a really wild stream-of-consciousness romance narrated completely by Zeke’s hyperbrain. His thoughts come six miles a minute, and he’s got a brain-mouth filter that can’t always keep pace. For me, this was constantly entertaining. I can imagine that some readers would find it off-putting, but I felt absolutely immersed in his sweet and sensitive character, who’s totally gaga for a pro-hockey player that’s best described as taciturn. But, Zeke was pretty much smitten before they ever met, just from being a fan and watching Spencer’s moody and mumbled press conferences. Observing how Spencer is a gooey marshmallow with his daughter? If Zeke had ovaries, they would have exploded.

This book has a hockey player, but the POV is that of his love interest, so we get a super-fan’s perspective and not the athlete, which was rather unique for me as a reader of lots of sports romance. So, there isn’t a lot about training or even performing on the ice. Zeke attends some games, but the story is more centered on the development of their relationship.

The men don’t get hot and heavy immediately. It’s complicated with Adeline and Spencer’s work schedule. And Spencer’s mom, who’s living with him temporarily to help Addie get settled and manage her care when Spencer’s on the road. But they develop some rapport via text and a few shared outings, and once Spencer’s sister comes to relieve his mom on child help duty, they have more relaxed visits. Addie just adores Zeke, as a teacher and a “friend” of her daddy’s.

The whole book charmed me, with the spare dialogue and Zeke’s intense internal monologue. He’s working so hard not to flail, or panic, or reveal anything that would make him seem too needy, since that caused his other boyfriends to run. Spencer sees Zeke as he is, though: an eager, fun, and compassionate man. I adored Zeke’s incredible vulnerability so much, I just could have read a whole other book and still wanted more of Zeke being hopelessly in love with Spencer, who’s also actually quite in love with all of Zeke.