I read ctkat1’s review of Heated Rivalry last year and added it to my tbr. I kept seeing people love on it so I finally bought it and then I felt like I needed to read the first book in the series first, Game Changer.
Game Changer was a nice m/m romance, but it was not as it’s title claims, a game changer. Scott Hunter is the captain of Manhattan’s pro hockey team and a deeply closeted gay man. He’s in a slump. After ordering a smoothie from Kip Grady, an incredibly good looking not closeted gay man, he breaks his slump and returns to the juice bar before his next game to continue the magic. Kip is floundering, still living with his parents after college and feeling like he’s at a dead end. Scott and Kip are both lonely, lost and floundering. In romance parlance, they are in many ways two precious cinnamon rolls falling in love. They begin a secret relationship. Even though Kip thinks he knows what he is getting into, the secret makes the relationship difficult.
I enjoyed the depth that Reid brought to Scott and Kip individually. I also appreciated that Reid included some diversity in her professional players. Hockey romances, like small town romances sometimes feel like a way to create an all white world. Reid makes Scott and Kip’s world look more like reality. You don’t absolutely need to read Game Changer before you read Heated Rivalry, but you really should. The resolution of the crisis between Scott and Kip plays a significant role in Ilya and Shane’s relationship. You also meet Ilya in Game Changer and get a sense that he is an abrasive asshole (therefore he is most likely guarding a heart of gold).
Heated Rivalry is one of the most extraordinary romances I have read. It is an enemies to lovers romance except that the enemies are lovers all along. Ilya and Shane meet as teens representing their national youth hockey teams. They are each held up as the best youth player in their respective nations (Russia and Canada). Ilya hates Shane on sight and Shane is quick to follow. Reid takes us through the 8 years of their relationship as they go from shame filled hate fucking to a loving partnership. I don’t even know how to describe it without telling you everything about it. The emotional catharsis is worth the pain of shame/hate fucking.
I’ve read Heated Rivalry few times now.