Title: Heated Rivalry (Game Changer Series #2)
Author: Rachel Reid
Publisher: Carina Press
Heat: 4 Flames
Rating: 5 Hearts
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Nothing interferes with Shane Hollander’s game—definitely not the sexy rival he loves to hate.
Pro hockey star Shane Hollander isn’t just crazy talented, he’s got a spotless reputation. Hockey is his life. Now that he’s captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, he won’t let anything jeopardize that, especially the sexy Russian whose hard body keeps him awake at night.
Boston Bears captain Ilya Rozanov is everything Shane’s not. The self-proclaimed king of the ice, he’s as cocky as he is talented. No one can beat him—except Shane. They’ve made a career on their legendary rivalry, but when the skates come off, the heat between them is undeniable. When Ilya realizes he wants more than a few secret hookups, he knows he must walk away. The risk is too great.
As their attraction intensifies, they struggle to keep their relationship out of the public eye. If the truth comes out, it could ruin them both. But when their need for each other rivals their ambition on the ice, secrecy is no longer an option…
I absolutely adored this book. It’s my first five-star read in what feels like a very long time. I don’t think I’ve rated any a full five stars in at least a year, or five. Apparently.
Why did I love this book so much? I think it was Rozanov. No, I know it was Rozanov. As a character, he was just so well drawn and endearing, even though he drew so much animosity from his colleagues. He was, by far, my favorite in the story. He was such a shit disturber that everyone loved to hate.
“”Ilya couldn’t resist a bad idea. And Shane Hollander was a bad fucking idea. The worst idea. Wrong in every way imaginable.”
“The truth – the truth that he tried so very hard to ignore – was that no one set him on fire like Shane Hollander.”
Ilya couldn’t believe what he’d been reduced to. He was… infatuated. It was disgusting.
Okay, I think we’ve established my love for Rozanov.
This is such a great enemies-to-lovers story, and it’s one of my favorite tropes. This story spans approximately 10 years throughout the hockey careers of both Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov. It’s told in a series of snapshots from before the NHL to becoming two of the best players in the league fighting against each other to stay at the top. It’s that rivalry that we see develop into something more. Watching the relationship change and grow over those years is what made the book for me. (That and the fact that I had a rather emotionally driven playlist that had been inadvertently playing in the background while I was reading most of it. The lyrics to the songs just seemed to hit right and make the scenes that much more powerful in my head at the time, but I digress.)
There are a lot of reviews that say this book doesn’t have a lot of romance in it, but I disagree. There were parts that I swooned. That said, it’s not an overt type of romance, so if that’s your thing you may not like this as much as I did. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a love story though because it very much is. It’s just quite subtle most of the time.
Shane didn’t think his heart would ever stop racing. Shane. He called me Shane. He pulled back so he could see Rozanov’s face, and was shocked to see him staring at him with the same wide-eyed terror that Shane felt. “Ilya,” he said, barely more than a whisper.
“Hey,” Shane said softly. Ilya gave in and reached for him. As soon as he had Shane in his arms, he was done for. He leaned forward and took his mouth. If felt different this time as he wrapped his arms around Shane’s back and pulled him close against his body.
Shane’s hands cradled Ilya’s face as he kissed him with the force of everything they had almost said out loud.
Gah! These two.
I wish I could write a more eloquent review to adequately convey all the reasons why I love it so, but I can’t. Words fail me currently. All I can say is that it was pure perfection for me. This is an author that not only knows how to tell a story but can show it too.
Incidentally, this book has a very different tone from the first one in the series. The first is sweet, but not saccharine. This one is edgier with a bit more angst. The couples are very different. While I liked both, I’m fairly certain that this will be my favorite of the series.
If you like stories with a slow build that draw you in further with each word, you should give it a try. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Also – There is a sequel due out in late April of this year called The Long Game. I can’t wait!