So one of the things I decided to do this year was to embark upon a reading project focused on hockey romances. I am going to do a monthly post with mini-reviews of the hockey romances I’ve read this year, note DNFs in a separate section, and include general observances as I explore this new-to-me subgenre in romance.
- Stay by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen, #2 in the WAGS series. (contemporary m/f romance novel) I started with a book I already had on my Kindle. I enjoyed this quite a bit! The heroine was great, I really loved how competent she was & how flustered she got around him. It has a good mix of heat & humor. This made me seek out the other connected books, though this remains my fave after trying a couple of them. (Read 1/12-1/13)
- Good Boy by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen, #1 in the WAGS series. (contemporary m/f romance novel) This brother’s best friend second chance romance between two MCs who had a one night stand a while ago and now need to deal with being around each other a lot had a really endearing heroine who I adored, and a hockey playing hero who grew on me over time. While I could have done without the evil ex, I liked the heroine’s arc around her career and grappling with the way others saw her as flighty. I struggled with how intensely the hero pursued the heroine in this, it rode the line of not respecting boundaries. (Read 1/13)
- Him by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen, #1 in the Him series; WAGS is a spinoff series. (contemporary m/m romance novel) This was recommended to me by several folks, and since I read the spinoff series that includes the main couple’s wedding I thought I would give this a try. It was very much not for me. It’s a questioning/coming out story, which I found boring and irritating as it included common pitfalls in that kind of story (bi erasure, cissexism, gender binarism, misogyny, reducing queerness to sexual desire). I saw no romantic crushiness in this story, and romantic crushiness is one of the main reasons I read romance. The transmisogynist joke was awful, and I was exhausted by the way the MC kept thinking about how being with a man was different from being with a woman. (Read 1/13-14)
After being so frustrated by Him, I decided not to read book 2 in that series, and I took a break from hockey romance for a while and read other things. What was interesting was that I read another sports romance series, New York Leopards by Alison Parr, and saw a some similarities between the books, particularly in how they are as much about being famous as they are about the sport, and that you don’t need to understand or know the sport to follow the story. They felt different, though, in a way that I haven’t put my finger on yet.
- Breakaway by Avon Gale, #1 in the Scoring Chances series. (contemporary m/m romance novel) This was a reread for me (I read it at the beginning of 2018 too), and it definitely centered hockey more than the other ones I’d read earlier in the month. It was very focused on both team dynamics and game experiences and being a pro athlete, and it centers a relationship between players on opposing minor league teams, one at the beginning of his career, one at the end. I enjoyed Gale’s writing style a lot, and have really complicated mixed feelings about Lane, who I read as autistic. I liked that although Lane does come out in the course of the story, it wasn’t really about his queerness, it was about the relationship, which was both swoony in a romantic way and had a lot of heat. (Read 1/27-28)
- The Chase by Elle Kennedy, #1 in the Briar U series. (contemporary m/f romance novel) I found this oddly unputdownable, despite thinking that all the men in the story (with the possible exception of minor characters) were awful, including the hero. He didn’t come close to deserving her and treated her terribly. So so so so much misogyny, this book is filled to the brim with it. And includes this very hamfisted and glib attempt to grapple with sexual harassment that felt to me, as a survivor, like it was an insult to survivors, especially for a book published in 2018. (Read 1/31-2/1)
Hockey Romances I Began Reading in January
- The Tao of Hockey by Melanie Ting, #1 in the Vancouver Vice series. (contemporary m/f romance) I started this on 1/14, then paused reading because of a plot element that I found triggering. I plan to finish reading this when I’m up for it.
- Snap Shot by VL Locey, #1 in the Cayuga Cougars series. (contemporary m/f romance with a trans woman MC) I started this on 1/30, and paused reading because I was troubled by the trans rep and how race is working in the story. I am not sure whether I will pick this up again, am giving it a bit of time before I decide.
My February Hockey Romance TBR
- Save of the Game by Avon Gale (contemporary m/m romance)
- Off the Ice by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn (contemporary m/m romance)
- Game Changer by Rachel Reid (contemporary m/m romance)
- The Trouble With Valentine’s Day by Rachel Gibson (contemporary m/f romance)
- Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu (contemporary m/m graphic novel)
- Skater Boy by AE Wasp (contemporary m/m romance)
- Fair Play by Samantha Wayland (first in a polyamorous romance series, resolves to m/m/f)
- Kiss and Cry by Mina V Esguerra (contemporary m/f romance) (out 3/1/19)
One thing I noticed was how very white all these books were, white authors and white characters. That may be bad research on my part; I have found a few authors of color who have written hockey romance (I started one of Melanie Ting’s books in January), and I have found a few books with main characters of color (I started one in January, Snap Shot). But I mostly have found books by white authors that describe all-white teams and have white MCs and are set in the US or Canada. I’m going to pay attention to this as I continue to explore the subgenre and think on it some more.
Another thing that I noticed was how intense the misogyny was in these stories and in these characters. Some of that may very well be that I read multiple stories by the same authors, but even those books that were by other authors still had a lot of misogyny, moreso than many of the contemporary romances I choose to read. So I am thinking about this, wondering whether hockey romances overall have more misogyny (both casual and more intense) and how much of that I am up for taking in.
I’m still in the reading and learning the subgenre stage, so I don’t have any thoughts about writing a hockey romance as of yet. I will see if I get sparks for that in February!