Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid

Ilya couldn’t resist a bad idea.
And Shane Hollander was a bad fucking idea. The worst idea. Wrong in every way imaginable. Two men. Two NHL players, poised to be the two biggest stars in the league soon enough. Two bitter rivals on opposing teams that had hated each other for almost a hundred years.

I have seen this book talked about so much over on Instagram recently, even though it came out a few years ago now. I figured if people were still that passionate about these characters and this story after all this time, there must be a reason why. So I one-clicked and finally dove in. And let me tell you – I LOVED this book! I can understand the hype, Shane and Ilya and their enemies-to-lovers story was everything I hoped it to be! Do you want good banter? This one’s got it. Plenty of steam? Look no further. How about a cocky Russian hero who will make you swoon? Ilya Rozanov has got you covered.

I’m going to spare the recap on this one. The quote at the start of this post basically covers it, but check out the blurb if you wanted more details. Heated Rivalry was the perfect title for this book because that’s exactly the dynamic between Shane and Ilya, even if it was mainly manufactured by the league, it was legendary and made whatever was happening between them behind closed doors a really bad idea. If anyone caught wind that these guys were hooking up, it would ruin both of them and probably be the biggest scandal to ever hit the NHL. The way this rivalry was written was perfect, there was no doubt about how high the stakes were for both men. And the hopelessness they both feel over the possibility of any sort of future will tug at your heart.

The first half of this book was good, loved the push and pull between Shane and Ilya. Their sexual chemistry was off the charts which was evident by the fact that neither one could bring themselves to call off their little arrangement over the years, despite the risks and impossibility of it all. But for much of the first half of the book, it’s not clear if either one actually liked the other. If you look closely, though, you see little hints here and there that they may have actual feelings. These little things start adding up (ginger ale, anyone??? Swoon!) and then really come to a head about halfway through and the second half of the book is amazing! I think we got to see the vulnerable side of Shane through much of the book but once Ilya’s vulnerabilities start to come out later in the story, I was a goner. He was the sweetest, while still being the same playful, cocky guy we’ve come to know and love through the earlier chapters. I love that even when things started to get serious between them, we still got the banter and rivalry they were known for.

I also loved Shane, he was just too precious! His life and upbringing couldn’t have been more opposite from Ilya’s but I think his innocence and nice guy persona were a perfect balance for Ilya’s bad boy reputation. I enjoyed Shane’s journey to figuring out his sexuality too. I thought that was really well done and was really sweet. The scene later in the book where his parents find out was both touching and hilarious – loved it!

I’m so glad that there is a sequel for these guys because I’m not ready to let them go quite yet. This story has an HFN ending but I’m very much looking forward to diving into the sequel to see these boys finally have their HEA!!! If you enjoy M/M romance, especially hockey ones, and haven’t met Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov yet – don’t wait!

“Have you been… thinking about this?”
Rozanov gave a crooked grin and shrugged. “I like trouble.”
Shane laughed. “Well, I think we’ve found it.”

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