The Long Game by Rachel Reid

“Would you show me off?” Shane asked quietly. He could feel the heat of Ilya’s gaze even without looking.

“I would never stop showing you off,” Ilya said. “If I could.”

There’s something to be said about being late to the party. I only recently discovered Heated Rivalry, where Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov’s relationship first started, despite it being out for a few years now. But it ended up working out because I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait between that book and the continuation of their story in this book! I can imagine the wait was brutal for fans who read it in real-time. Shane and Ilya stole my heart in Heated Rivalry and I immediately dove into this book as soon as I finished that one because I just needed more of these two. This story was everything I could have hoped for, and more. Talk about all the feels! I was having a hard time coping with all the emotions this story drew out of me. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, and just fell even more in love with these characters. I highlighted so many parts of this story, I had to stop myself from pulling them all to put in this post! But I did include a few of my favorites that highlight just how in love these boys were! 

“I am so glad I met you,” Ilya said quietly. 

Shane’s heart clenched. It was such a simple statement, but it was so open and honest, and it instantly made Shane think of the flip side of those words. 

What if they’d never met? 

But they had, and they were perfect for each other in a way that probably only they would ever understand. Their relationship wasn’t easy, but it existed. They’d made it happen, against all odds, and they’d protected it.

This book picks up shortly after the ending of Heated Rivalry. Shane and Ilya are finally in a committed relationship and have taken the first steps in their plan to soften the blow to the hockey world when they eventually are able to go public with their relationship. They are head over heels in love and willing to play the long game if it means they’ll get to have a future together. Ok so maybe Shane is more committed to this plan than Ilya, Shane loves Ilya with all his heart but he also wants them to remain at the top of their games and knows that a scandal surrounding their love life will derail that. If it were up to Ilya, he’d shout his love for his boyfriend from the rooftops and let the whole world know, to hell with the consequences. Their end game is the same but their timelines are definitely out of sync – together they are going to have to figure out which is more important, hockey or their relationship.

He wasn’t sure, after years of being together, how he could still be surprised by the depths of what Ilya felt for him. By the plain, unguarded way Ilya would occasionally reveal what he held in his heart. Maybe English being Ilya’s second language made it harder to dress up his feelings with fancy words, but the raw honesty left Shane thunderstruck every time.

I’m just going to come out and say it – Ilya Romanov completely stole the show and my heart in this book. He’s notorious for being hockey’s bad boy. He’s cocky, a smart ass, loves to antagonize his opponents on (and off) the ice, but has the talent to back it all up. What we started to see in the later parts of the first book and what became abundantly clear in this book is that Ilya also has the biggest heart you’ll ever see and when he lets you in, he wears that heart right on his sleeve. He made so many changes and sacrifices to be with Shane but he never hesitated because he loved Shane and would literally do anything to protect what they had. My heart swells, even now, thinking of everything he did for the sake of their relationship. Some of the lines he came out with took my breath away. There was one line where I audibly gasped because it was just so lovely. Seeing him with Shane’s family and with his new friends, finally feeling like he has a family he really belongs to – it was incredibly touching. But we also see the dark side of all his sacrifices. He’s done so much to make sure Shane is protected and comfortable but being the only one sacrificing so much can end up being very lonely. And we see Ilya struggle with this a lot and it broke my heart. This man loved with his whole heart and was usually a larger-than-life personality so it was really sad seeing him struggling so much. But I loved how this aspect was handled. 

There was no question how much Shane loved Ilya and how dedicated he was to their relationship but the fact that not much else in his life changed caused him to take certain things for granted and he didn’t always realize how difficult things were for Ilya. I got a little frustrated with him but I think it was realistic and understandable for him to not realize things weren’t quite right. But I will say, as soon as he figured it out, he was so apologetic and felt awful. It was never his intention to hurt Ilya, in fact, that was the last thing he ever wanted to do. They had so many things stacked against them but their love was unwavering and it filled my heart right up.

I loved seeing them so in love but I also loved that they still maintained that (friendly) rivalry and competitiveness. Plus their banter was still spot on. I think I laughed just as much as I swooned throughout this one. And don’t worry, they may be in a committed relationship now but the spark is certainly not gone. All that heat we’ve come to love from these characters was there in abundance and fit perfectly into the story. 

There were so many other things I loved about this story, I could go on for paragraphs. But I’ll spare you. So far Shane and Ilya’s books are the only ones I’ve read from the series but after meeting more of the characters from the other books, I’m definitely going to be checking them out as well. Not only because I really liked what I saw from those characters but also because I’m hoping for some Shane and Ilya cameos. If this is truly the end for these boys, as sad as I am that it’s over, my heart is delighted with how things ended. It was a well-earned happily ever after. Selfishly, I hope that somewhere down the line we’ll maybe get a novella or a short story. Or maybe another bonus scene (I’ve already read all the bonuses on Rachel Reid’s website). Heck, I’d be happy with just a new sentence about these boys! 

Ok wow, this has become a long rambling review now. The bottom line is, I loved these books and these boys. They’ve sky-rocketed up to my all-time favorites list. This is a story I won’t soon forget! If you were like me and hadn’t read either of these books yet, do yourself a favor and grab copies now! 

“I’m sorry for basically everything I said. Like, so fucking sorry. I love you.” 

“I know, moya lyubov.” 

Shane grinned. “I know that one.” 

“Ah,” Ilya said in mock despair, “then you know my secret.” 

“That you love me?” 

“That I am very mushy inside.” 

Shane laughed. “I knew that too.”

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