The Hockey Player’s Heart, by Jeff Adams, Will Knauss
Series: Hockey Hearts, Book 1
A Dreamspun Desires Novel
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
When hockey star Caleb Carter returns to his hometown to recover from an injury, the only thing he’s interested in is a little R & R. He never expects to run into his onetime crush at a grade school fund-raiser . Seeing Aaron Price hits him hard, like being checked into the boards. The attraction is still there, even after all these years, and Caleb decides to make a play for the schoolteacher. You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take, right?
Aaron has been burned by love before and can’t imagine what a celebrity like Caleb could possibly see in a guy like him. Their differences are just too great. But as Aaron spends more time with Caleb, he begins to wonder if he might have what it takes to win the hockey player’s heart.
Friends to Lovers
The book was a “getting to know you again after being away for a while” type book. They had known each other in high school as the younger-brother-of-a-best-friend type deal, lived adult lives apart, and then met again. This book had them turning their high school crushes into a Real Adult Relationship. I like that the book had them actually getting to know each other properly since they hadn’t seen each other in years. They weren’t the same people and I appreciated that they were mature enough to realize that and relearn eachother.
Although they knew each other in school, this wasn’t an angsty second-chance-at-love thing where one bullied the other or anything. Instead it was a spark of interest that grew as they spent time together. There was minimal angst, misunderstandings, or miscommunication. The last two are my biggest pet-peeves while trying to read about an adult relationship. In YA it’s understandable, but reading about adults who refuse to communicate actually irritates me because it seems like a lazy plot device to add angst. Angst should be about depth of feeling, not because someone can’t communicate properly. This book had that emotionally-driven angst (not much but a little bit) and it added depth to what was happening.
The characters have a lot of chemistry together, but it isn’t what drove their relationship. Instead their relationship was driven by their interest in each other’s personalities and interests. It’s been a long time since I read a book where it was really about the characters getting to know each other instead of getting in each other’s pants and pretending like they are incapable of feelings. Yes they made bad/questionable decisions, but they were realistic and showed how they were conflicted. The book also showed why they were able to overcome their hesitancy instead of it being an instant fix.
The two MCs were really likeable characters who were different enough from each other to make it interesting. Caleb is not your typical jock. He’s an out and proud hockey player who is very smart, thoughtful, and kind. Aaron is more closed off and less optimistic than Caleb after being burned romantically. He had insecurities because he had been toyed around with by a closeted athlete, so he was weary of starting something with Caleb.
The secondary characters were actual people instead of plot devices. They had character and added to the story beyond the two MCs getting together. The two MCs ended up training a youth hockey team and the kids had character instead of being an obvious subplot. I don’t want random people to show up just so the two MCs can end up together. That’s not how life works. I want to see the MCs interact with other people to learn more about them and this book was fulfilling in that regard.
This book was a good slow burn without the angst plus hockey. All in all I really just enjoyed the characters and plot of this book!
A side note related to the book but not part of the actual review: So in this book Caleb and a few other players are out in the NHL. This was nice to read because unfortunately the NHL is incredibly behind on its relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. They have You Can Play and some players taking the steps to go to Pride to be supportive, but all in all it is still a league rife with homophobia. A few teams have recently started doing Pride nights but it’s been a frustratingly slow movement. I hope that the way the League accepted openly gay players in this book becomes a reality someday, but as of right now it’s a far away dream.
Jeff’s written stories since he was in middle school and became a gay romance writer in 2009 when his first short stories were published. Since then he’s written several more shorts and novels, including some in the young adult genre, and he plans to keep writing as long as wonderful readers keeping picking up his books.
Will Knauss is a child of the seventies. When he wasn’t twirling around on the playground (like Lynda Carter from Wonder Woman), he wrote stories and performed plays for family members. Enthusiasm for his theatrical presentations varied. Before becoming an author, Will’s work experience ranged from hotel housekeeper to retail clerk. While living in New York, he even worked as a Wax Museum tour guide.
Each week, Will shares his love of gay romance fiction with the listeners of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, a show he co-created with his husband and fellow author, Jeff Adams.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.