I love Cait Nary’s first book, Season’s Change, but was a bit reluctant to continue with the second one based on the mixed reviews. But after my third reread of Season’s Change (that’s how much I love it!) I decided to give Contract Season a chance. Sadly though, it wasn’t at all as great as the first book. There was something off with the pacing and the plot, but most of all the characters and their chemistry.
This second book in the series can be read as a standalone, as it follows two new main characters, even though it set in the same hockey league and with some of the characters from the first book making an appearance. It’s also a little less of a full hockey romance, with one of the main characters being a country musician, and more of the plot takes places at parties or clubs.
Defenseman Brody has recently been left by his boyfriend, because he never wanted to go public with their relationship, and has no intention to go down that road again until he’s retired from hockey. Up and coming country musician Seamus has never really dared to explore his sexuality to not risk losing his conservative fan base. But a hookup at a friend’s wedding changes all of that when photos leak forces them to fake a relationship for damage control.
I usually love the fake dating trope, but here it didn’t work for me. It never fully made sense why they had to fake their relationship in the first place, nor all the miscommunication, and I didn’t feel the right kind of chemistry between the two of them. Brody was such a sweetheart (apart from the ghosting part in the beginning) but Seamus was quite annoying with all his drama and bad communication skills. I never rooted for them as a couple, so it was a bit difficult to get truly invested in their romance. The story also lost a bit of the nerve and drama when they didn’t encounter any problems or homophobia after the forced outing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that the fans and colleagues reacted much better than anticipated, but it felt like the whole premise of them being closeted and then having to fake a relationship fell.
An aspect that was dealt a bit poorly with was Seamus’s addiction to alcohol. It was implied, but not addressed as a real problem, which didn’t sit very well with me.
I also felt that Brody’s ex and his last relationship should have been given a bigger part. Now we were told that Brody was heartbroken, but I couldn’t feel it. And it was also strange that the ex never made an appearance at all in the book. Like, wouldn’t the ex be upset and reach out somehow when seeing Brody going public with a new guy so short after they broke up because of that very reason?
Another thing that was a bit sad and frustrating was the appearance by Olly and Benji which didn’t feel in line with the epilogue from the first book. I would have liked to get a confirmation that Olly was feeling better and less anxiety but it was the opposite even though he had the team’s support and Benji by his side.
So, all in all, even though the writing itself and the description of the characters and their struggles was well done, it was quite a frustrating read. Extra frustrating and disappointing since I loved the first book so much and would have preferred to keep the happy image of Olly and Benji without the additional worrying glimpses of them here.
2.5 stars rounding up to 3
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This was such a wonderful and emotional friends-to-lovers mm hockey romance with two amazing main characters to root for. I loved how this book had a different vibe than many other hockey romances, with an MC who suffered from anxiety and panic attacks that added extra layers to the forbidden love trope.
Season’s Change follows the struggling and angst-ridden hockey player Olly Järvinen, who is trying to get his career back on track after a traumatic previous season and change of team, and the happy go lucky new rookie Benji Bryzinski, who wants to leave his trailer park upbringing and anger management issues behind and earn his place in the big leagues. Being roommates shouldn’t be a problem, but there is something about the other that keeps knocking them both off track.
I read this book in one sitting, it was so addictive and I rooted so much for all characters that I just couldn’t bear to put it down until the very end! It was such a perfect slow burn, forbidden romance, story with lots of depths and emotions. There was so much angst and fear of messing up, the struggle for Olly to hide his true self and not give into his feelings for Benji, and for Benji to not let his anger or feeling of always being the odd one out get the better of him. And on top of that, a bi awakening for Benji with all the new feelings for Olly he can’t even put a name to. There were also so many other amazing side characters, and wonderful friends and family relationships, but also toxic ones, like the relationship between Olly and his dad, and between Benji and his sister, and Olly’s homophobic and mean former teammates. So definitely a lot of emotions going on, and a very intense read!
This is Cait Nary’s debut book, but there is no way you could have ever guessed that. The writing was beautiful and Cait did such a great job describing Olly’s loneliness and anxiety, and his longing for being able to show his true self. I loved how Olly and Benji had this instant connection, that slowly was allowed to blossom into something more as their relationship developed. I also loved the other teammates, especially Poiro, and hope that Cait Nary will continue the Trade Season series with a book in his POV.
I had some issues with one of the scenes (not going into details in order to spoil anything, but if you read the book you’ll easily know which on I’m referring to) and it was perhaps a bit unbelievable how Benji was so not worried about what others might think, and how super anxious Olle could just go with the flow when he and Benji started fooling around. But those are my only minor complaints.
All in all, this was a both heartwarming and heartbreaking story with a perfect balance of hockey and romance, fun banter, vulnerability, steam and sweetness. Highly recommended!
4.5 stars rounding up to 5
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abby Kaitz Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alice Winn Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira Amanda Woody A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Ban Gilmartin Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cait Nary Cale Dietrich Cara Dee Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare Cat Sebastian C.F. White C.G. Drews Charlie Adhara Charli Meadows Chasten Buttigieg Chris Bedell Christina Lauren Christina Lee Ciara Smyth Claerie Kavanaugh Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Courtney Kae Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Dallas Smith Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton D.N. Bryn Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E.L. Massey E. Lockhart Emery Lee Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens F.T. Lukens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hannah Grace Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving H.S. Valley Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacob Gelman Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kathy Anderson K.A. Tucker KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Lauren Shippen Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Lex Croucher Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr M.A. Wardell Melanie Munton Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nathaniel Shea Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Nyla K. Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rachel Reid Racquel Marie Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Taylor Jenkins Reid Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Tucker Shaw Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez