Season’s Change by Cait Nary
Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ+
February 1, 2022 by Carina Press
Review by Kate H.
I am not a hockey fan, but I am a fan of hockey romances. I can’t explain it. I’ve never even seen a game. Maybe it’s the way the sheer physicality of hockey juxtaposes with the more intimate aspects of the romance that makes it such a great setting for romance. Season’s Change, by Cait Nary, is my new favorite in this sub-genre.
The novel starts at the beginning of training camp. Olly Järvinen is playing for a new team in DC after being traded by his home state team in Minnesota. What we learn as the novel progresses is that his transfer occurred after he was almost outed by a teammate for being gay. In the novel, he would have been the first gay professional hockey player, which is close to the truth in the real world. Luke Prokop, the first publicly gay NHL player, did not come out until last summer. Olly, however, is not ready to take on the massive responsibility of being the first. He comes to DC traumatized and bottled up, doing everything he can to hold it all in and not repeat the experience with his new team. He intends to keep his two worlds separate: hockey and who he is but has never really had much chance to be. Add on top of his situation an overbearing hockey Dad, and you have a recipe for crash and burn.
His roommate, Benji Bryzinski, is a rookie, three years younger, but with a better set of coping skills after years of therapy and a mindset to try things like yoga, deep breathing, and nutritious green shakes. He comes from his own set of familial problems: no Dad, poverty, and a mom he had to cut out of his life. He is the king of hookups, never seeing a woman for more than a night. But luckily for Olly, he is well set to be a guide and a caregiver, and eventually a lover.
Cait Nary does an awesome job of using the conversation between the two men, as well as their teammates, to show where their thinking is at: the friendships, the frustrations, and the resistance. The frequent razzing and guy talk make the moments of tenderness feel even more meaningful.
There is a lot of hockey in this book, after all, it does take place over a hockey season. The games are sometimes a counterpoint to the internal drama of Olly and Benji, and sometimes a reflection of their state of mind. I thought those passages worked really well in the novel, but others might not enjoy the highlight reels. A few of those scenes brought the drama to the ice, so I wouldn’t recommend skimming them!
I could not put this book down. I loved the way the relationship between these two men grew. The sex scenes were hot, but it was the quieter, daily intimacy that built between Olly and Benji that I couldn’t resist: the touch of a hand to ankle, the head on shoulder.
CW: Depression, Anxiety