Review: The Hockey Player's Heart (Hockey Hearts #1) by Jeff Adams & Will Knauss

When hockey star Caleb Carter returns to his hometown to recover from an injury, the only thing he’s interested in is a little R & R. He never expects to run into his onetime crush at a grade school fund-raiser . Seeing Aaron Price hits him hard, like being checked into the boards. The attraction is still there, even after all these years, and Caleb decides to make a play for the schoolteacher. You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take, right?

Aaron has been burned by love before and can’t imagine what a celebrity like Caleb could possibly see in a guy like him. Their differences are just too great. But as Aaron spends more time with Caleb, he begins to wonder if he might have what it takes to win the hockey player’s heart.

By now I think it’s pretty obvious that I am a fan of the Dreamspun Desire series and this book is a great example of why. There are some books in the Dreamspinner Press houseline that are super fluffy and they are some that are so damn sweet and meaningful, you need to hug it out with your Nook when you finish the book. This story is the latter.

From the prologue I was hooked as we get a young Caleb waiting to give a gift to his older sister’s best friend Aaron who is also Caleb’s crush and his geometry tutor after Aaron’s high school graduation. Caleb has been crushing pretty hard on Aaron for what seems like forever but he has no way to tell Aaron other than this. It’s a milestone moment for Caleb but it’s over quickly and then life happened and the two men haven’t seen one another in years.

Caleb has always loved the game of hockey and was lucky enough to turn it in to a career playing for the New York Rangers. But a foot injury has Caleb needing some time off the ice so he heads back to his home town of Foster Grove to recover. Once home, his sister Pam who is also the elementary school’s principal thinks it’s a great idea for Caleb to participate in the local school’s carnival and draw some fundraising money, Caleb comes face to face with his teenage crush.

I love that this was told from both Aaron and Caleb’s POV so we really got a chance to see that both men have had crushes on the other for some time. Aaron is nothing short of adorable as he tries to act like seeing a grown up and hot as heck professional hockey player that Caleb now is doesn’t affect him and Caleb momentarily turns 16 again when he sees Aaron but the men keep it platonic.

This story was so sweet and yet really meaningful. We get a lot of Aaron and Caleb building an adult friendship though a natural progression. The men hang out with one another and find out they have a lot in common with their likes and shared history. It’s easy to see how they could quickly find themselves in a relationship though it moves at a slower pace with them keeping respectable boundaries. The moments of Caleb showing Aaron’s third grade class how he uses geometry in Hockey and Aaron being mesmerized by Caleb teaching kids on the ice was lovely to experience. These two have such a healthy admiration for what the other does that it gives the reader a stable building block for their romantic relationship.

With Caleb being a hockey player, we do get a good amount of sport in this story. At least for a reader like myself who isn’t sporty. We get the ins and outs of how the sport works professionally for Caleb and his responsibilities with it. The “You Can Play Initiative” is front and center with Caleb and the story highlights it in an informative and supportive way. Just the memory of Caleb dealing with a young man wanting an autograph and what he does warms my heart. Caleb knows that his position as an out gay man in the world of professional hockey holds a level of responsibility and he doesn’t take that lightly. He gives back to his community and he gives back to kids remembering what it was like to be one.

Aaron broke my heart with his relationship issues and how he wants to trust Caleb but is scared. I think what I liked the most about this element is how he and Caleb were so honest with one another about their past, present and future. The communication is always there even if it’s a little stalled with insecurity but it doesn’t last long.

Once again, I find myself rambling because there are so many positives in this story. It’s a great unrequited/unknown/mutual high school crush/friends to lovers romance that warmed my heart. I truly loved watching Aaron and Caleb become friends and then more. They are sweet and also really hot together when they decide to get down and dirty and Aaron can get pretty dirty.

At the end of it all, this was lovely. I find myself thinking of the moments that made me smile and there are so many of them. I have a note on one highlight that says “Stop highlighting moments before you highlight the whole book” because there are that many.

The ending was super sweet and again, respectful and romantic. Yeah this was a good book.

Wait… I have one more thing to say. Since this is listed as a series, I really hope the next books is Dimitri because he needs someone to show him his hookup days are over.

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