Rating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Rayne “Rain the Pain” Hamilton has been playing hockey for most of his life, and in the minor leagues for the past 8 years. At this point, Rayne knows there’s very little chance of him ever getting called up. He’s loved his time playing for the Boulder Blitz, and he loves the city, so he knows it’s time to look to the future. Utilizing the career program the league offers, he’s studied online to become a firefighter, and now that the season is over, it’s time for him to take the practical training.

Nick Seavers is still grieving the loss of his husband in an accident two years ago. He’s been surviving, not really living, and he’s not ready to move on. As a firefighter who also trains new recruits, Nick’s life is as fulfilling as it can be. Or so he thinks. Until Nick meets Rayne and his libido sparks anew. Rayne is also instantly attracted to Nick, but once Nick tells him of his past, he doesn’t push, even though he wants nothing more than for Nick to say yes.

As the training continues, the two men get to know each other. And when the course is complete, and Rayne is no longer under Nick’s instruction, Rayne makes his move. Nick has to grapple with his feelings before he can say yes, but there’s no denying the chemistry between them. Their love grows fast, but with Rayne’s future up in the air, the question is whether they have a future together.

Just Add Ice is part of the Games We Play collection, a multi-author series about minor league hockey players who are at the end of their career for one reason or another. Chase’s contribution is the second book in the series, but the books do not have to be read in order, as they are tied together only by the theme and the league.

There was a lot I enjoyed about this book. Both Nick and Rayne are well fleshed out characters who each have their issues. Rayne is facing uncertainty, which is nothing new, as he’s dealt with that his entire life. But now that he’s looking at the possible end of his career, he’s ready to finally settle down and find his home. He just doesn’t expect Nick to be it. I really liked Rayne’s attitude and his demeanor, and though most of his growth happened before the story starts, we get a good understanding of who he used to be and how that turned him into the man he is today.

Nick, on the other hand, is learning to live again after the passing of his husband, Geoff. When the story starts, it’s clear Nick’s still grieving. But it’s just as clear he’s starting to heal. One of the things I really liked about this story is that Nick falling in love again did not diminish the love he has for his deceased husband, and nothing about the relationship moving forward negates his experiences from the past. He makes room in his heart for a new person. By the same token, though it’s only shown in glimpses, Rayne is open and accepting about Nick’s past, and asks about Geoff so that he can understand Nick. I loved that the story didn’t revolve around how Rayne is the love of Nick’s life, and that it’s “so much better” than what he had before, as can sometimes happen when a widower is an MC. Instead, it’s about Nick’s heart loving two people, his past with Geoff, and his future with Rayne.

This was a shorter novel and the story goes fast, but there’s plenty of character development and storyline, so that it doesn’t feel like it’s missing much. I would have liked to see some of the scenes and emotions explored more, in particular as they dove into dating. There were some time jumps in the last third of the book where I would have liked to see more going on. But, overall, the story works well and is a lovely tale about new love and new futures. I really enjoyed both the MCs, Chase’s narrative style is always a great read, and the secondary characters really flesh out the story. This one is an easy recommendation.

Joyfully Jay