Contract Season by Cait Nary
September 6, 2022 by Carina
Review by Kate H.
Contract Season is the second book by Cait Nary, whose debut, Season’s Change, came out earlier this year. This novel expands the universe of her Trade Season series by including not just the world of professional hockey, but also country music. Brody Kellerman is trying to get over the end of his three-year relationship when the novel starts. His boyfriend broke up with him because he wouldn’t invite him to his friend’s wedding (between a professional hockey player and a country super star). It was too public for Brody, who was only out to his family and closest friends. His boyfriend dumps him, which is seemingly a surprise to Brody. Determined to develop tunnel vision and focus on only hockey and his career, Brody is interested in a little distracting fling at the wedding. He meets the charismatic Seamus or Sea (Shay) Murry, whose country career began in earnest when he was only 18.
Sea has a lot of issues that stem from the early start of his career, including a lack of experience with other men. One of the things that I appreciated about this narrative was the handling of his apprehension and shame. Sea and Brody have awkward sex at the hotel, made even worse by Sea’s poor communication and Brody’s tunnel vision. There’s enough amazing sex in romance novels that I found the candor of this and subsequent scenes affecting. I recently read a historical romance where the FMC had two orgasms her first night with the hero, and she didn’t even know what she was experiencing, so I suppose I was primed for a convincing less than perfect sex scene. It’s nice to read a scenario that acknowledges that just because you’re an attractive gay man, doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to relax in bed.
Early on the novel turns to a fake dating trope after a forced outing that threatens their careers in their respective industries. There needed to be something to bring the two guys back together after their inauspicious beginning, so fake dating works in that regard and provides a timeline for both their fake and real relationship. Unfortunately, it dragged a bit, even given the structure of the fake dates, and then in rapid succession, a lot happens at the very end. I felt conflicted about how homophobia in hockey and country music was built up to be such a threat, but turned out to be fairly limited. On the one hand, the support of the hockey teams, players, country stars, and organizations is what I absolutely want to see in the world. On the other hand, the potential for homophobia is such an important part of the narrative tension that leads to the fake dating that it seemed wishful thinking for it to go relatively well.
Sea’s character development was consistent throughout, but Brody’s felt like it was stuck in second gear for the first three quarters of the book. Part of that is Brody’s desire to stay in control of his career and his heart. We do get more eventually, largely thanks to discussions with his roommate Party, his friend Nick, but also Benji and Olly, hockey players from the first book. To me, though, Sea felt like the main character, and I cared more about his happiness than I did about Brody.
CW: Homophobia, alcohol abuse disorder