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A powerhouse demonstration of how to write an epic love story

58919071._SY475_The Long Game by Rachel Reid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s been a long wait for this book. I suspect the pressure on Rachel Reid for writing this book was immense.

Their original decade long love story was told so beautifully in Heated Rivalry that, although it finished with them both still closeted, their own HEA felt very much a guarantee.

What I didn’t want from this book was anything which messed with that solidity, that hard-fought for place they’d reached when all the world thought they were rivals.

Ilya Rozanov is on my top ten list of favourite MM characters ever, he’s the almost perfect depiction of what I’d hope to see in a Russian star Ice Hockey player.

He has attitude, he’s a god on the ice, in perfect control of the puck, he’s ambitious, arrogant.

But, he’s also vulnerable, he hides great pain and hurt, he has a darkness inside him that he fears my take him down the same road as his mother Irina.

And he has Shane.

Shane Hollander, who is a character I alternate between loving almost as much as Ilya and, not quite hating, but finding it very difficult to be sympathetic towards.

He has always been the centre of Ilya’s world, but sometimes the reverse hasn’t always felt true and a lot of the tension points in this narrative come from his fears over what might happen if they’re outed and his career was affected.

And I get it, I totally understood Shane’s fears, they’re not coming from nowhere. This book obviously loosely overlaps with everything onwards from their first appearance, but more specific attention is paid to the same period as Troy and Harris’ story in Role Model so we’ve seen what the League can threaten to those it feels don’t “fit in”.

But, when push comes to shove, Shane shows not only Ilya, but the world, that he is a one-man guy and will never be anyone else’s but his Russian’s, and it’s a moment that brought tears to my eyes.

I don’t think there was an emotion I passed over while reading The Long Game. It took me from humour through happiness, into confusion, anger, despair, back into hopefulness.

There is heat which scorches, intimacy which brings tears to the eyes, passion which could light a room, fear which would fell even the strongest army.

But it ultimately all folds together into a bone deep satisfaction for not only a story well told but for a pairing that is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar.

Do what makes you happy. Live how you want, love who you want. People will judge you, hate you , criticize you, but plenty more will support you and love you. And, in the end, no one matters except the people you care about.

I care, I care about Ilya and Shane. I love that there was no dramady made up purely for plot tension, I loved that they had moments where their love was so palpable I could feel it surrounding me as I read.

I loved that Rachel took two men and the journey they’d already been on through 10 years of hiding their love and gave them an ending which will make your soul sing.

This Game Changers series has been immense, while Ilya and Shane might stand out as the couple most readers fell for, for me every book has brought something new to the sports romance MM sub-genre and I really hope there might still be more to come.

#ARC kindly received from the publishers Carina Press via NetGalley in return for an honest and unbiased review

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