“Anastasia Allen has dedicated her whole life to have a chance with Team USA.
Stassie is a determined competitor who has been a competitive figure skater since she was five years old, has a full college scholarship as a result of her membership on the Maple Hills skating team, and a demanding schedule.
Never before has Nathan Hawkins faced a challenge he couldn’t overcome. He is aware that as the Maple Hills Titans’ captain, it is his duty to keep the hockey team on the rink.
When a miscommunication forces the two teams to share a rink and Anastasia’s partner suffers an injury as a result, Nate is forced to trade in his stick for tights and one spooky coach for an even spookier one.
I’ve been really into Kindle Unlimited lately, and I’m not at all sad about it. This book helped me break out of a reading slump that had been dragging on for a month. It was delightful, seductive, and exactly what I needed. I enjoy romantic hockey stories because I adore hockey. Sometimes all I want to do is read something enjoyable, and this satisfies that need. I adored the characters’ journeys and felt a strong connection to them. It was exciting and simultaneously brought back memories.
I realize that not everyone will enjoy this book when I think about it. This is the kind of comfort book that is well worth reading for someone who enjoys getting lost in the story and the characters, though. I cherished my time with Nate, Stassie, and their friends.
Except for the conclusion, I adore this book in every way. It’s unfortunate that this novel comes out at the same time as my second straight experience with a slow-burning hockey romance that falls flat in its resolution. The epilogue here, in my opinion, does this book a great injustice and seems to have been tacked on because the story needed a conclusion. And swift. Simply put, it doesn’t work for me and reduces what was a 5-star book for me up until the epilogue to, at worst, a 2-star book. This is a perfect illustration of how a book’s conclusion can entirely derail for me an otherwise excellent tale.
Given that it takes place in college, this story is obviously YA. Could we not classify this NA even though there are no graphic sex scenes? In that regard, the graphic novel Check, Please! comes to mind when I think of this scenario with a short 5’5″ MC set in college. but the similarities stop there. The characters in this rivals-to-lovers tale are AMAZING.
Mickey James III is the sole narrator of this tale. He is the only male in the family and the youngest of six children. He bears the names of two legendary hockey players: his father and grandfather. It doesn’t matter that his sisters are all talented athletes or that his mother is a legendary figure skater in her own way. Mickey has always known that he must be the first pick in the NHL draft and that he does not have an option as to whether or not he wants to play hockey. He is supposed to do it.
Depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and coming out fears are among the content notes.
I genuinely adore the plot and the representation in this book. Additionally, there is no homomisia and there is m/m/f and f/f representation from supporting characters, despite the fact that Mickey has anxiety about coming out as bi (he thinks he is pan but likes the term “bi”). A Black love interest (the lovely Jaysen Caulfield, often known as “Caller”) and a diverse collegiate hockey team serve as representations for mental health issues and diversity, respectively.
At the beginning of the book, Mickey and Cauler are fierce rivals. Mickey believes he should be the first pick in the draft, but Cauler is also vying for it and thinks Mickey is just being considered because of his name. Mickey is only going to attend Hartland for a year before being selected in the NHL draft, so he doesn’t actually need a scholarship spot there (he’s only there because of the age criteria for the draft and since his father and grandpa attended Hartland for a year before turning pro). The truth is that Cauler is correct, and Mickey knows it. He didn’t HAVE to attend college; he might have joined a development team in its instead. Mickey, though, first despises Cauler because he views him as a threat to his draft position.
Since this story is primarily about relationships and dealing with mental health off the ice, I wouldn’t say there is a LOT of hockey in it, but this story does kind of assume you are familiar with the hockey world and can comprehend why Mickey is left with other families at the age of 10 to…learn more hockey? I dunno, no other sport does this, and the idea of billet families is not explained.So, if you don’t know how hockey works, the idea of it is very confusing. Though I have a general understanding of it, I still do not.
The book essentially ends in January, before the start of the spring semester, and jumps to JUNE when the draft picks begin, skipping any explanation of how Hartland advances to the NCAA championship. I find this to be disappointing because the book immerses you in an almost slice-of-life story where you follow Mickey around throughout the fall semester, learning about his fears and watching him develop a relationship with his teammates. I really feel defrauded.
AFTER THAT It feels like a major cop-out because the ending leaves everything open-ended, doesn’t reveal who will be in the first or second draft, or how Mickey and Caller can make their relationship work. It’s a book ending for the book’s sake but in the most disappointing way conceivable. After all the anxiety throughout the entire novel, Mickey’s speech about sadness and choosing the draft over going to school in the epilogue comes across as a holier-than-thou attitude forced down everyone’s throat because we don’t witness that growth or the reason WHY he does that.
The tale and the characters were excellent, but the epilogue may be torn out and ignored. If not for that ending, I would have given this book a five-star rating. The spring semester and what happens after could be the subject of fanfiction, which would provide a more satisfying conclusion than what this book offers. I wanted to adore this, and the truth is, I DID love it, but I feel too lost and let down.
About Author: A.L. Graziadei
A.L. Graziadei was raised on Sabres hockey and video games while growing up in Buffalo, New York, and wrote books that were influenced by both in their spare time. A.L., who now resides in Wisconsin, continues to play a lot of video games and is an active participant in the Displaced Buffalo Sabres Fans community. Their debut novel is titled Icebreaker.