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.
Note: All links to Amazon will be affiliate ones. If you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money on that sale (which I plan to use to buy more books to review), but it will not add any to the cost of your product. It comes out of the company’s profits.
- Save of the Game by Avon Gale, #2 in the Scoring Chances series. (contemporary m/m romance novel) I enjoyed this the second time around. I liked watching the romance build between the MCs, and enjoyed the contrast of their perspectives. This was a compelling reread, had great pacing and was a great ride. Just like with my first read, I found the coming out experience (in terms of recognizing their own queerness) described in this story rather baffling and quite different from my own. (Rep: Bisexual men MCs. Bi/demirom/grayace woman author.) (Read 3/2-3/3)
- The Tao of Hockey by Melanie Ting, #1 in the Vancouver Vice series. (contemporary m/f romance) This didn’t work for me; the romance arc felt forced and while I love a prickly heroine with lots of emotional armor, and I really liked Josie as a character, the way he pursued her was creepy and I couldn’t root for them as a couple. I never warmed to or connected with the hero, unfortunately, and I think that made it a hard read for me. I found it difficult to read about the intensely toxic team environment and the hero’s arc was not satisfying; it didn’t feel like a full arc to me. (Rep: Hero with trauma. Japanese-Canadian woman author.) (Read 1/14-3/3)
- Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu (contemporary m/m romance graphic novel) I highly recommend this, it was utterly delightful. Most adorable gay boy hockey player ever. He figure skates! He bakes pies! He has a crush on the captain of the team! Slowest of burns, romance element is rather light, but still present. (Rep: Gay man MC. Nigerian American woman author.) (Read 3/2-3/3)
- Until You by Jeannie Moon (contemporary m/f romance novel) This age gap romance between a newly divorced mom and a younger hockey player reads a bit like a soap opera. The writing was oddly compelling but this book was very much not for me, as the central antagonist was the heroine’s abusive ex husband, and the abuse continues throughout the book and is described in a lot of detail. That alone makes it not my kind of story, but the abuse and the threat of the antagonist are not portrayed in a realistic way, and as a survivor reader who also worked in the intimate violence field for a long time, I find these kinds of depictions and simplifications frustrating, especially when they are combined with a hero that leans toward protection and rescue. There is more that didn’t work for me with this story, but that’s one of the bigger pieces. (Read 3/4-3/5)
Hockey Romances I Began Reading in March
Two Man Advantage by Samantha Wayland (contemporary m/m polyamorous romance novel) This is book two in the series, where the m/f couple are long distance and they open up their relationship for him to be with another man; who knew it would be his (presumably heterosexual) BFF teammate? I liked book one quite a bit, but I got irritated with the way the first m/m sex scene was handled (so much gender binarism and cissexism) and I just wasn’t up for slogging through that at that time, so I put it down, figuring I’d pick it up again. I haven’t yet, but I still may. (Began 3/2, put down 3/2)
Hockey Romances I DNF’d in March
- Pucked by Helena Hunting (contemporary m/f romance novel) (A) The best things about this were Muffy Newtown’s narration (I disliked the other narrator), the open discussion of the heroine’s masturbation and general investment in her own sexual pleasure, her social awkwardness and the hero’s affection for it, and the surprisingly good consent negotiation in the sex scenes (especially the early ones) which managed to make incremental consent really very hot in a way I generally have not seen. Those things, some of the humor, and my investment in reading a range of hockey romances to get a sense of what the subgenre is like had me hanging in despite the really intense amount of slut shaming and misogyny (both externalized and internalized) that was so deeply embedded in the heroine’s POV that it was seeped into pretty much every moment of the story. I held on way past when I should have, as it was a train wreck in so many ways and very clearly not for me and full of problematic elements (check the CWs on the link above for more details). It was the rather lengthy joking exchange between the MCs that was full of intense trans hatred that snapped me out of listening to this, and led me to DNF. (Began 3/2, DNF 3/5)
My April Hockey Romance TBR
- Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid
- Off the Ice by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn
- Beast Behaving Badly by Shelly Laurenston
I did not have the best of luck with m/f hockey romances in March. I DNF’d my first one, and pushed myself to finish two others that I didn’t like. So I started questioning whether I wanted to continue reading hockey romance, or if perhaps this project wasn’t for me. I had a bit more luck with m/m. I reread Save of the Game, which I’d enjoyed quite a bit the first read, and liked it still, and I fell really hard for Check, Please, which was adorable and charming and made me feel hopeful that there was hockey romance that would work for me, I just maybe needed a break. That was confirmed when I tried a polyamorous romance that I just ended up not being up for right then. So after the first week in March, I took the rest of the month off from reading hockey romance, with the thought I might be into reading it in April again, and a game plan that catered more to my reading preferences.
So, for now, the project continues. I do think that the level of misogyny, gender binarism, cissexism, and toxic relationships has been higher in the hockey romances I’ve tried than I am generally willing to tolerate in romances in general, and I’ve been pushing myself to read it anyway, which is not the right tactic. So, going forward, I am going to DNF more, and be more careful in my choices of which books to try. I’m hoping that will help.