3.5 stars out of 5!
Round 3 of my adventures in hockey romance this year, and Him has definitely been the best one so far! Am I going to read the sequel for it, titled Us? Mmm, I’m not so sure yet. But potentially.
Him is a m/m romance between two long-time hockey bros, Jamie and Wes, who became fast friends over the years, spending their summers at hockey camp together, until after an awkward interaction things suddenly went cold between them. A few years later back at camp though, with one of the boys out and gay, and the other questioning, they find themselves drawn together in ways they never thought they would be.
The basic premise here is a story that I’ve read/watched a few times before, just in different circumstances (and usually in LGBT+ media, in fact). It’s that of the good friends, one of whom develops feelings but doesn’t think the other feels the same way, only to end up with them separating to meet again later and need to confront the dynamic once again at a new age. Actually, the movie Esteros (2016) which I watched recently had this same vibe to it, and it was quite good! But then again, I am an absolute sucker for those stories about friends pining for one another but not pursuing anything because they don’t want to ruin their friendship, only to then find that maybe the other person also shares those feelings and so on and so on… you know how it goes.
What I loved in this novel was how close the two characters are over time, and how quickly they fall back into their friendship dynamic after being away for so long, as well as how they explore their feelings for one another. There is also some good introspection in terms of questioning how you may be pressuring someone into something they don’t want, as well as the coming out process. However, these strong aspects are almost pushed aside for a lot of sex, which indeed is well-written and quite sexy, but I myself have realized that when it comes to romance novels, I’m in it more for the feelings aspect over the sexual aspect, so it maybe hinged on the side of a little too much sex for my taste in this novel, though of course that is a personal preference at the end of the day.
Something that was interesting here too was the way the homophobia in sports was addressed: the reality is that in the media when athletes come out, it is still usually seen as a huge deal. And in hockey in particular, despite the “Hockey is for Everyone” inclusions campaigns, I can’t name a single out NHL player right now. But I would doubt that there are no gay players at all in there. There’s still a stigma and while these issues are brought up in this novel, it’s almost like they are too easily ironed out in the end as well, with Wes and his prospects for joining an NHL team in the coming years. It’s almost like the authors were setting this up to be a bigger conflict than it ended up being. But then again, it seems like maybe it comes up more in the upcoming sequel novel?
In any case, Him was an enjoyable romance novel, despite a few aspects that maybe didn’t quite hit my personal preferences of what I look for. But as I mentioned at the beginning, it was definitely my favourite of the three hockey romances I’ve read so far this year!