“I’ve never wanted anyone like this before. I’ve had, I don’t know, crushes. I’ve been attracted to men, of course. Hooked up with men. But you… I’m breaking all my rules with you.”
The time has come – I finally made it back to the first book in the Game Changers series to see how it all started! Of course, I was well aware of who Scott Hunter was and how important he was for all the stories that came after his but I quickly learned that the Scott Hunter I created in my head based on the other guys’ perception of him was very different than the Scott Hunter I got to know during this story. More on that later (hint: he was way better than I ever imagined!) but I thought this was just the sweetest story, Scott and Kip were so cute together and I really enjoyed seeing where it all started.
Scott Hunter is the well-respected captain of the New York Admirals. He’s a great leader, well respected, and values his privacy. He’s also one of the biggest stars in the league so when he’s in the mid-season slump, people start to notice. On a whim, he pops into a local juice bar for a post-run smoothie to try and mix things up. When he ends up having a great game that evening, he thinks there must be some magic in that smoothie and returns the next day. But maybe it isn’t the smoothie but rather the cute barista, Kip Grady, who makes them for him that’s the good luck charm. Scott finds himself uncharacteristically pursuing Kip, drawn to him like he’s never been drawn to anyone else before. Kip can’t believe that someone as famous and attractive as Scott Hunter would ever want to take up with a juice bar barista like him but he’s not about to say no. The men quickly fall for one another and Scott can’t imagine his life without Kip in it but he’s not out and has spent his entire career hiding his sexuality since the NHL isn’t a historically welcoming place for a gay man. Kip is all in with Scott and willing to let Scott dictate the timing of their relationship going public but as time wears on, the loneliness and stress of a secret relationship wear on Kip, and Scott is left having to make a decision that will change both of their lives forever.
If you’ve followed any of my other reviews on this series, you know that I’ve gone completely out of order. I knew the climax of Scott’s book already because it’s mentioned in the others. Specifically in Heated Rivalry when Shane and Ilya witness Scott’s grand gesture and it’s a moment that really changes the trajectory of their relationship. Aside from that, all I knew of Scott was that so many of the other players tease him for being old and boring. Based on that, I was expecting someone serious and not someone who would fall head over heels so easily. But from the first time he walked into the juice bar and was all smiles for Kip, I knew I was very wrong about him. He was a total softie and had such a lovely heart. He may have come off as stoic to everyone else because he kept that side of him locked down so that no one could figure out he wasn’t straight. My heart ached for him over how truly lonely he was before Kip came into his life. He wanted so badly to give Kip the world but there was a lot on the line if the world found out and it took him a long time to find the courage to go public.
I never had a doubt how much Kip felt for Scott, he truly loved him, and I thought that his reactions to having to stay a secret and his feelings of inadequacy based on their very different social/financial statuses were valid and well depicted. There wasn’t any weird drama or miscommunication between these two but the very nature of their relationship provided enough angst all on its own. When they were in their little bubble of Scott’s apartment, things were so good. They had a lot of chemistry and there was no shortage of spice in this one! But it’ll tug at your heart how badly they both wished things could be different without knowing exactly how to make that happen. As I said earlier, I knew how it would all turn out based on the other books, but I still loved reading about it.
This book is very appropriately named, Scott was certainly a game-changer. I know this is a fictional universe and fictional characters but reflecting back you realize how important his coming out was for everyone who came after him. He opened the door for all those other guys to live their truth. I loved seeing in the other books how the other guys, each in their own way, reached out to sort of thank Scott for being brave enough to do that (even if they didn’t let him know at the time why it was so important to them). It was also fun seeing the world’s introduction to Ilya Rozanov! Since I read his book(s) first, he’s already won my heart but had I read this first, I would have been very intrigued to learn more about him!!
Anyway, I can’t believe I’ve only got one book left before I’m done with this series! I’ll be sad to see it go and I’m hopeful we’ll get more books someday. Eric Bennett is last up and I look forward to reading that one after meeting both him and Kyle in this one!
“Like I said, I’ve never dated anyone,” Scott said. “I’ve never… I thought I didn’t need to. That I could maybe live without that.”
Kip heard the past tense in what Scott was saying. “And now?”
Scott exhaled. “I don’t know. I feel like… maybe I hadn’t met the right person yet, you know?”
“I’m just saying,” Scott said, “I don’t think it’s the smoothies.”
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