Every book I’ve read by this author has been vastly different, but all have been fantastic, and Bauer brings that same storytelling skill to the hockey romance subgenre. In fact, he also completely nails what appeals to me about this subgenre in a discussion between the two main characters about the game of hockey itself. Overall, this is a story about soul mates, hockey style, with a fascinating twist on the forced proximity trope.
Due to their positions in a relatively exclusive club, Bryce and Hunter were aware of each other before meeting in person. Neither man expects the instant connection that develops into a real friendship, and the first days they spend together are as lovely as they are poignant—because a subtle sort of pining exists as an undercurrent of every interaction, and the inevitable conflict is about to rear its head. They end up with the most tragic first kiss ever, followed almost immediately by the sort of impossible situation that only seems to work in fiction. In Bauer’s deft hands, however, the full relationship arc is as intricate and compelling as the on-page hockey games in which the characters play, which had me equally riveted.
I thought I had a decent idea of how the dark moment of this story would play out, but instead, I was hit with completely unexpected angst and drama. But, as I texted to a fellow fan, “Tal is gonna Tal.” The event that occurs is entirely plausible and neatly upended everything I expected about the external conflict arc. The recovery that follows is a tad unbelievable, which surprised me based on Bauer’s obvious dedication to research, but I appreciate that he knew when to help a reader suspend disbelief in service to telling a truly excellent story.
If you’re also not sure what all the fuss is about regarding hockey romance, I highly encourage you to give this book a shot. My only regret is not reading this book as soon as it was released, and I know I will not make that same mistake again with this author’s future publications.