Reviewed by Kini
Favorite Quote: This kiss was a promise— a promise that there could be more. That their story didn’t have to only be about a hockey player and an escort. It could be about Ben and Ryan. And that would be more than enough. It would, in fact, be everything.
The blurb for this book got me with its description of a fake romance, one of my favorite tropes. Also at first glance I thought this was a male/male book because the MC’s are named Ryan and Ben, but Ryan is a woman.
Ben, is a professional hockey player, and is in need of a date to his brother’s wedding. His family doesn’t fully approve of his career and his mother likes to meddle in his dating life. Obviously the best option is to find and hire an escort to go to the wedding with him. His friends suggest they go to the strip club because strippers are also escorts, at least according to one of his friends. Ben isn’t a fan of this idea but gets dragged to the club anyway. Pretty quickly he decides the idea is stupid and makes plans to call an escort service the next day.
Our heroine Ryan is down on her luck. She is working at a strip club as a waitress but doesn’t like the way the customers are treating her so she walks out. After she walks out of the job, she takes a few moments outside to think and reflect on what she is going to do next. She then gets struck in the face by a door opened by Ben. An interesting meet-cute with a heroine with a bloody nose and a hero that thinks the heroine is an escort and then propositions her to be his date for a wedding. Of course she accepts.
Ben mistakenly believes that Ryan is an escort, but she needs the money and thinks that Ben is an okay guy, which he is. They quickly forge a relationship that is more than a guy who hired an escort. One of the things in a fake relationship trope that I love, but also sometimes hate is how long it takes for the main characters to give in to their mutual attraction. Luckily, Ryan and Ben give in early on and have hot sex. I was glad they got that off the table quickly. I enjoyed seeing their romance grow from lust to love.
I’ve read a lot of hockey romance and this one gave me something different from all previous books, Ben is a man of color. I can not recall ever seeing a brown hockey playing hero. I was very curious to see how Ben being a person of color would be portrayed in the story. Or if it even would be. It was such a minor bit of the story, I thought for sure it would come up in relation to his profession. According to Wikipedia, the NHL is 93% white, so it seems like an easy (in so much that it is clearly an issue) and almost necessary topic to address, but not necessarily make it a huge topic in the book. Other than the description of Ben’s skin color as being brown, the only other mention of his blackness is that his family was the first black family to be members of the local country club. Ryan’s ethnicity is mentioned, her mother is Cuban Italian, it is unknown about her father. Her mother was neglectful and Ryan left home at 16. It made a little more sense for her ethnicity/culture to be understated because she really didn’t know it. But for Ben to have absolutely zero struggles that a person of color could potentially have while participating in a predominantly white sport/industry was just weird. It fell flat.
Overall it was a solid read. It was sexy, it was funny. There were definitely some eye-rolling moments, but not enough for me to stop reading. The conflict was not too dramatic and the characters come to their senses and figured their shit out fairly quickly. I believed in the love story between them. There’s some interesting friendships built and I will be curious to see if there is a next book and who gets paired together. There was no on page hockey happening, so if you are looking for that, this book is not for you. I will keep this author on my radar for future books.