by Rachel Reid
Release Date: August 10, 2021
Publisher: Carina Press
Book #5 in the Game Changers series
Number of Pages: 284
Ages 17 and up
CW: mentions of sexual assault and rape, homophobic language
The hits just keep coming for Troy Barrett. Traded to the worst team in the league would be bad enough, but coming on the heels of a messy breakup and a recent scandal… Troy just wants to play hockey and be left alone. He doesn’t want to be in the news anymore, and he definitely doesn’t want to “work on his online presence” with the team’s peppy social media manager.
Harris Drover can tell standoffish Troy isn’t happy about the trade—anyone could tell, frankly, as he doesn’t exactly hide it well—but Harris doesn’t give up on people easily. Even when he’s developing a crush he’s sure is one-sided. And when he sees Troy’s smile finally crack through his grumpy exterior, well… That’s a man Harris couldn’t turn his back on if he wanted to.
Suddenly, Troy’s move to the new team feels like an opportunity—for Troy to embrace his true self, and for both men to surrender to their growing attraction. But indulging in each other behind closed doors is one thing, and for Troy, being in a public relationship with Harris will mean facing off with his fears, once and for all.
Here I am again, about to sing Ilya’s praises when this isn’t his book. I just love the guy! I was beyond happy that Troy’s troubles landed him on Ilya’s hockey team. Ilya not only helps provide some comic relief, but also becomes quite the wise mentor for Troy. We see a lot of Ilya in this story and it seems more and more people are starting to figure out his secret. More on that in a bit.
The Ottawa Centaurs may be the under dogs in the league, but they sure have heart. It’s easy to want to dislike Troy after his part in previous stories, but with Ilya’s help and support, and the fact that Troy stood up to the league bully, the team and the readers can find reason to get behind him and show him support. Getting inside Troy’s head really exposes the scared little kid that lurks inside of him. With good reason; his dad is quite the piece of work. That is a character that will have you seeing red.
Although this is a story about Troy struggling to speak his truth about his sexuality and finding love with Harris along the way, the reason Troy ends up in Ottawa has to do with sexual harassment and rape. His former best friend and teammate has been accused by multiple women who have, in turn, been dismissed and ignored by the league and the media for the most part. When Troy’s eyes are opened to the reality of the situation, he calls them out. Things don’t go well for him from there. Thus, him ending up on a losing hockey team. That’s step one in Troy’s redemption in the reader’s eye. But he also realizes he has a lot to make up for to atone for his action (and even his silence) through the years. And he puts the work in and does just that.
The issues I mentioned above pop up multiple times throughout the story, but don’t overwhelm the love unfolding between Harris and Troy. You will fall in love with Harris yourself. He is kind and funny and self-deprecating and supportive of all of those in his bubble. Harris is out and proud, yet understanding of those that have struggles to get to that place in their lives. The friendship Harris and Troy tentatively start is so cute. Troy is not out but feels himself drawn to Harris in a way he’s never been drawn to anyone before. Harris thinks Troy is straight but cannot resist giving him help and support even while knowing he’s getting his emotions too attached to a straight man. When they both finally open up and connect it’s a beautiful thing.
As for Ilya and his secret, there is an upsetting event in this story that really shakes up the whole team and many other in the league. At the time, and from Ilya’s actions, I didn’t think he’d be able to be so discreet anymore. I hadn’t realized the next book in the series would be another Ilya/Shane story. Holy cow you guys! I am beyond excited! I can’t wait to read about these two again!
I’m really loving how so many players in the league have stood behind each of the men as they’ve come out of the closet. And how supportive they are with each other, helping one another navigate the rough waters of being out in an environment that isn’t always so welcoming to everyone. I really never want this series to end!
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