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Summary

"Rachel Reid crafted a story of true heart, beauty, heat, and glorious, hard-won redemption! I loved both heroes and their journey to love was a gorgeous one to watch!" (Lauren Blakely, number one NYT best-selling author of Scoring with Him)

The highly anticipated fifth novel in Rachel Reid’s Game Changers series sees a grumpy professional hockey player meet his match in an out-and-proud social media manager....

The hits just keep coming for Troy Barrett. Traded to the worst team in the league would be bad enough, but coming on the heels of a messy breakup and a recent scandal...Troy just wants to play hockey and be left alone. He doesn’t want to be in the news anymore, and he definitely doesn’t want to “work on his online presence” with the team’s peppy social media manager. 

Harris Drover can tell standoffish Troy isn’t happy about the trade - anyone could tell, frankly, as he doesn’t exactly hide it well - but Harris doesn’t give up on people easily. Even when he’s developing a crush he’s sure is one-sided. And when he sees Troy’s smile finally crack through his grumpy exterior, well...that’s a man Harris couldn’t turn his back on if he wanted to.  

Suddenly, Troy’s move to the new team feels like an opportunity - for Troy to embrace his true self, and for both men to surrender to their growing attraction. But indulging in each other behind closed doors is one thing, and for Troy, being in a public relationship with Harris will mean facing off with his fears, once and for all. 

Game Changers:

  • Book 1: Game Changer
  • Book 2: Heated Rivalry
  • Book 3: Tough Guy
  • Book 4: Common Goal
  • Book 5: Role Model
©2021 Rachel Reid (P)2021 Harlequin Enterprises, Limited

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  • Carol (bookish_notes)
  • 07-09-21

Loved Troy and Harris!

I really liked this book??! This book is my second favorite of the series. We have hockey! Dogs! Spa day! Anxiety! An apple farm! And the relationship between Troy and Harris is SO RIDICULOUSLY CUTE. There’s also really not any big third act break up anything between them in this book and I love that for us.

This book is definitely still a bit dark in places. This book IS angsty. There’s also a few things that I want to point out that were kind of…let’s just say, weird, moments in the story for me, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I love this book.

Content notes include mentions of rape and sexual assault, people not believing the victims, homomisia, misogyny, emotional abuse, and near death experience from a plane malfunction. I do not recommend reading this book right before a flight or during a flight if you experience any anxiety at all over flying.

We’ve met Troy Barrett before. He was an all-star forward on the Toronto Raptors team, but after calling out his (now former) best friend Dallas Kent a rapist during practice and a video of the incident going viral, Troy gets traded to one of the worst teams in the NHL - the Ottawa Centaurs. Troy believes the women sharing their stories online about Dallas, but seeing nobody else feel the same way and only defending Dallas instead of condemning the man has Troy angry. He doesn’t regret what he said, but he’s in a weird place of losing his friend and his team all in one week, among other things, and now he’s going to play for a team that almost never wins games. Even if all-star fan fave Ilya is the team captain.

Because of the nature of the job, and a little because Ottawa handles things a little bit differently than everyone else, the social media manager for Ottawa is really friendly with all the guys on the hockey team. Harris Drover is 25, the same age as Troy, and just a really friendly guy. Harris is out and proud, and the Ottawa hockey players don’t seem to mind. Troy doesn’t know how to handle that at all.

So! There’s a lot going on this book. I think this book starts off with a very anxious Troy. He feels even more anxious as a character than Ryan Price from book 3, Tough Guy. Troy’s entire world has turned upside down and he knows he’s made a lot of enemies on the ice over the years. He has a reputation and it’s not a nice one. Add to the fact that people would rather side with Dallas Kent? Even if Troy is one of the best players in the league, it’s not enough for the league to stand behind and he’s left feeling adrift.

I like Harris. I feel like there’s nothing to NOT like about Harris. He’s talkative and loud, and just really good for Troy? He’s so sweet and I love him!!! And Troy’s really good for Harris too because he doesn’t treat Harris like he’s fragile. Also, any time Harris manages to make Troy smile for real just makes my heart melt!!!

***SOME SPOILERS***

I think the one surprising thing about Harris that I wasn’t expecting coming into this book is that he was born with a heart condition and has had surgery for it. There’s a surgery scar on his chest that he sometimes feels self conscious about. That’s all well and fine. HOWEVER. I think the way this book goes about informing readers about Harris and his heart condition was really strange? It only lasts a couple of pages, but the way the book mentions his scars made me initially think that Harris was trans. But no, he’s not. It wasn’t until a few pages later that we learn that the scars came from heart surgery and not because he had top surgery. So, I don’t know. The whole way this was handled and how Harris’s scars continued to be handled in the book just seemed a bit strange.

The inclusion of a puppy named Chiron for the Ottawa team is fun. But initially, the puppy was said to be training and going to test to be a therapy dog. I think in a way it was a missed opportunity in the story that the puppy wasn’t trained into a therapy dog? For a lot of this book, I think Troy would’ve benefitted from having a therapy dog. It all turns out well in the end for Troy and Chiron, but seeing Troy being so anxious about so many things just makes me feel like he needed a hug. Or a therapy dog. But Chiron is cute and I hope we seen him again in the next book!

Which kind of leads me to speculate WHAT is going to be in book six! I want to say I read on the author’s Twitter that the next book is going to be about Ilya and Shane again, and the author said that the timeline will overlap with this book? I feel like I kind of know what’s going to happen? Because let’s talk about THE PLANE RIDE. Don’t worry, I’m going to circle back to Ilya and Shane because this is relevant.

So, what happens is that the hockey team is traveling to Florida for a game and gets a very, very scary experience where the plane almost plummets and everyone could’ve died??? It’s a near death experience for these guys. It’s very out of the blue and there was ZERO warning about this when I started the book, so I hate it. The tv show LOST has scarred me from planes forever and yes, I still do fly, but I get a lot of anxiety because of it and this book decides to derail the feel good feels that was happening so far by throwing this into the story! The players all start to feel anxious about flying back to Canada after their games in Florida and I’m surprised that nobody mentioned seeing a therapist or something after that? I know these guys are all hockey players, but it was a big event and they should all talk about it.

Which brings me back to Ilya and Shane. I really think they’re going to come out in the next book. It seems like the near fatal plane crash affected Ilya a LOT and he disappears after they get back to Ottawa and I think it’s to be with Shane. The hints Ilya gives makes it sound like he won’t be a secret with Shane forever. But I wonder if they’ll have a fight or breakup over this at first because if I remember correctly, Shane was very clearly not about that coming out life last we saw him. He was still terrified of someone finding out he’s gay. But I think that Troy’s story in this really inspires Ilya by the end and maybe that’ll inspire Shane too even more than Scott’s coming out did. And anyways, I think no one will be happier for everything to be out in the open than Shane’s teammate Hayden Pike.

Ilya doesn’t overwhelm with his presence in this book and feels like a proper secondary character that lets Troy take the spotlight whenever they have a scene together. I think there’s just the right amount of Ilya in this book (and he is actually in this a lot!!) and he still gets to stir up trouble with literally everyone so that’s fun.

We only got the start of a good run with Ottawa’s hockey team in this book and does this mean they’ll wind up winning the Stanley Cup???! FINGERS CROSSED BECAUSE I LOVE THIS TEAM! All the players seem really awesome. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a team win a Stanley Cup in this series, so I’m ready.

The hockey was really fun in this book. The first half of the book has SO MUCH HOCKEY. I will say the back half of this book unfortunately doesn’t have as much, but considering one of the MCs is a top hockey player and the other manages the team’s social media accounts, I think there’s still a lot of hockey life embedded in the story and I still enjoyed it.

This book doesn’t really address the relationship dynamics between Troy and Harris. Everyone on the team seems really chill about it and I’m fine without workplace drama when this book has quite a bit of other things going on, but I can see if some of the jokey comments Troy and Harris have about the dynamics of their relationship might grind some gears.

The only really baffling thing I’ve noticed in this series where hockey is concerned is that almost nobody has agents for some reason. Like, WHY doesn’t everyone have an agent?? Scott was the only one who had a few actual conversations with his agent and I would imagine with all the changes with Troy’s life and public image (was he dropped from sponsors? did he gain sponsors?), his agent would have something to say.

Which leads me to DALLAS KENT. He’s awful. All he deserves is prison. He’s been the clear villain in the series and this book doesn’t really go into detail about anything the women are saying he did, but I think it’s enough. The book doesn’t present this as a grey area. We’ve seen this kind of stuff play out in real life, and I think this book does do a good job of not trying to go and list all details of his transgressions? We don’t need that. Troy’s reaction is enough for us to know what side is the right one.

The Dallas Kent storyline does take up a lot of the book and plays into the decisions the characters make, but I don’t feel like it necessarily overwhelms it. However, I do question whether anyone else feels like the reactions of the other characters praising Troy for calling out Dallas Kent was weird though? And also, just everything with what Troy was doing on his Instagram account and mentioning he was donating money to the appropriate charities, and even this book being called “Role Model”. Like, he calls out his best friend and is obviously trying to educate himself and be a better person, and that’s great! But it almost feels like they’re putting a different hockey player on a pedestal, even if it’s for doing the right thing is weird. I don’t know. I’m probably not explaining my feelings on that properly. It all just felt iffy. However, I will say that I liked the ending and how that storyline kind of wrapped up. I wonder if we’ll see more of what happens next to Dallas Kent in the next book, or at least some very permanent closure from all of it.

I think for a book about sexual assault and rape as major topics, there should be an inclusion by the author about charities and organizations to support. And maybe a bit longer author’s note addressing all this since the author’s acknowledgement section felt pretty inadequate.

On a happier note, I think it was fun seeing characters from past books again. I loved how they were all weaved into the story and it never felt forced. I do think it’s funny how I keep forgetting that Scott is the oldest of the 20-something players. Hearing that Troy’s hero is Scott??? I love that!

***END OF POSSIBLE SPOILERS***

I really liked this book and it’s definitely my second favorite in this series, only second to my faves Scott and Kip from book one. I know everyone says their fave book is Heated Rivalry, but I haven’t warmed up to their story yet so I’ll give Ilya and Shane another chance in the next book!

But it’s fun that we get Cooper North again for this audiobook because I love his performance as each of these characters! I loved this Troy and Harris. And I think the Russian accent he uses for Ilya is just right and doesn’t overwhelm the character or makes him into a caricature. I know some folks say they want the other narrator back for Shane and Ilya’s book but I want Cooper North back! So, here’s my vote to stick with this narrator to narrate the next book because I can’t imagine these characters with another narrator (I skipped the first 3 books in audiobooks and read them in text instead because that narrator is NOT a fave).

I definitely cried reading this book because the ending was great and emotions are HIGH. Troy and Harris are just so sickeningly sweet and I love them a lot!!! I’m happy that Harris has a loving family and Troy has at least one awesome parent, and that Troy has a chance at finding some REAL friends with the Ottawa team. I’m just really happy Troy and Harris found each other and I can’t wait to see more of them in future books!

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  • Mari Cardenas
  • 30-08-21

One of my Top Favorites Ever!!!

5+++ Stars!!!

I think I pretty much cried on and off (mostly on) from chapter 25 on, and that pretty much guaranteed a 5+ Star rating from me. I haven't read/listened to any of the previous books, although you can be certain I'll be fixing that soon, at the very least I need to read Ilya's book soon, before book 6. LOL

I was totally charmed by Harris, he was such a delight. Sweet, fun, supportive, I adored him. But the one who stole my heart was Troy, he went from depressed and a bit lost to finally being happy and proud of who he truly was and he took me along in his journey. I was just about as proud of him as Harry and his mom were. I loved Harris and Troy together, they were just so sweet and hot and perfect.

I loved Ilya and Wyatt and the rest of the guys on the team. And I was ecstatic that both Troy's father and Dallas Kent got what they deserved. There might have been cheering, hahaha.

Anyway, I totally loved this book and it's so going on my Top Favorite books. It was amazingly written, but above that, it made me feel and fell in love with Troy and Harris. It was an emotional rollercoaster, but it was so worth it. Highly recommendable! Just don't forget to invest in some tissues before reading it, or better yet, listening to it, because Cooper North did a fabulous job with it and definitely made it into an even more fantastic experience for me.

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  • Shannon LaBrecque
  • 20-08-21

Can’t get enough!

Can not get enough of this series. I love the interactions with the characters from previous books especially Ilya! Troy & Harris just make you smile!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 14-08-21

Love story with plot twists

This story was excellent. There were major plot turns I wasn’t expecting. I loved the two characters Troy and Harris. The love story was sweet. The author did a great job of allowing Troy to turn into a better person and watching him grow through his eyes. She also tied up loose ends to make a happier ending than it could have been. Great narration.

Ilya was a major secondary character. As team captain for Troy, Ilya carefully guided and nudged Troy in both his hockey career and through some major life changes. It setup for book 6 well. I imagine time will rewind and book 6 will cover some of the events in book 5, through Ilya and Shane’s eyes. Can’t wait for that.

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  • BookFan67
  • 13-08-21

Excellent book

This book was very entertaining. The story was engrossing along with great writing. The narration was wonderful. I would definitely listen to Cooper North again. I would recommend this book.

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  • casrock
  • 12-08-21

MM Hockey Romance

This series is just the best. I have loved them all. I truly believe this is my second favorite, as Ilya and Shane have my heart, but this was just as good. Troy is so real and so raw. He was wonderful, and broken and had such an amazing redemption arc with the help of the best hockey team ever. I adored Ottawa and loved that we got to see this team. I also really enjoyed the aspect of Kent and how that all played a huge part in this. Harris was so fun and he fit in so well with Ottawa and I loved his backstory and just story in general. This was just a great hockey romance with all the feels. I found myself misty eyed several times and just felt all the feels in this one. Cooper North did this audio narration and did a fantastic job! Cannot wait for the Long Game!!

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  • Shelli corse
  • 11-08-21

I loved this audible

I like a lot of narrators but I think Cooper North is a notch above the rest. The story was so good as well
Thank you audible

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  • Sunny
  • 11-08-21

Just delightful!

This book is a great addition to the series. The main characters are multi-dimensional and interesting and as usual, the hockey feels like the author actually knows what she’s talking about, and we see (and enjoy!) characters from past books. I can hardly wait for the next book.

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  • NightOwl
  • 11-08-21

loved it

Cooper North did a great job, he brought all the characters to life.
I enjoyed this story from start to finish. I was happy that Rozanov, Ryan, Fabian, Scott Hunter & Kip made an appearance even though it was brief.
It would be nice if Rachel Reid did a book on all the couples 5 yrs later, give each story at least 6 hrs.
It's sad when a good story ends.
I RECOMEND THIS BOOK.

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  • Haydles
  • 10-08-21

I love this series

I’ve loved every single book in this series, the way Rachel Reid weaves everyone’s story into a new beautiful love makes it one of my favorites. Now I can’t wait for Roz and Shane to get there coming out!!