Season’s Change by Cait Nary wasn’t really on my radar until I read the first few chapters as part of a sampler paired with the first few chapters of the upcoming Rachel Reid book. I enjoyed the mental health journey set up in what I read, and between that and Cat Sebastian’s glowing recommendation, I decided to give it a go!
Season’s Change is a m/m hockey romance between two teammates and roommates. Olly had a really traumatic experience with his old team that involved his sexuality, which he has largely kept hidden, so when he’s traded to a team in DC, he’s a wreck. He’s definitely not performing at the top of his game, but the coaching staff really wants him to do well, and as part of that support, have him room with rookie defenseman Benji. While Olly does his best to keep his quills up, he’s no match for Benji, who’s kind and caring and open about his own struggles with mental health and therapy. As the season continues and the two spend more and more time together, it becomes impossible for them to ignore their growing attraction.
This is an interesting book to review. I would say that overall I enjoyed it, but for better or worse, it definitely inspired a lot of strong opinions!
I think the biggest thing to note going in to this book is that it’s a super slow burn. Like, they don’t really recognize and acknowledge their attraction to each other until past the halfway mark. I knew it would be a slow burn going in, and I actually skipped ahead to the halfway mark and read from there, and I’m kind of glad I did that. There wasn’t much build up to their romantic relationship in the first half of the book, so reading the romantic aspect and then going back and reading it from the beginning let me enjoy the development of their friendship and Olly’s mental health journey more.
Also, wow, these two took idiots to lovers to the EXTREME. It took a huge chunk of the book for them to realize they were in a relationship. They really didn’t talk at all about their feelings or relationship, which is a totally valid choice, but they really needed to have a good heart-to-heart by the end of the book, and they didn’t. As much as I enjoyed their story, I really needed that heart-to-heart to feel confident about their ability to navigate a relationship together going forward, and so the ending was off for me without it.
Another thing to note is to definitely go in to this book prepared for there to be lots of hockey. This is not a book where someone says they’re a hockey player and you never see it! For me, there was way too much hockey culture in this book. Which, considering it’s a hockey romance, is kind of a ridiculous critique! But I know enough about actual hockey culture to prefer a slightly fictionalized version of it, but this one was very accurate, and sometimes that made it hard for me to enjoy the story.
Part of that was the excessive use of bud/buddy, the word “chirp,” and various other slang, which kind of annoyed me. The other thing I noticed with the writing style was that “whatever” would punctuate a lot of sentences in random places, and I found it jarring enough to notice.
Another thing that didn’t work for me was how the story danced around what happened with Olly’s old team. I don’t think I needed a play-by-play, but it would have been nice to see him tell Benji about it so Benji could understand better where Olly was coming from. Or even seeing Olly tell his family.
Spoiler ahead, but the thing I hated most about this book was the threesome. I think that scene should have been scrapped altogether. Olly had enough going on already, and having him freak out and throw up the next morning because of it just made my skin crawl. I just think there could have been a better way to get Benji to start realizing he was physically attracted to Olly despite not identifying as gay or bisexual.
Oh, and be forewarned that there is a lot of alcohol in this book. Like, a lot. And it definitely fuels some bad decisions, including the spoiler I mentioned in the paragraph above.
That said, it was lovely seeing Benji and Olly take care of each other and slowly become best friends whose relationship develops into something more.
I also really liked seeing Olly’s relationship with his family and how they weren’t perfect but they loved him and were trying their best to support him. And Poiro! Their French Canadian teammate is great, and I really liked seeing him also bring Olly out of his shell and be another person in Olly’s corner no matter what.
And it was great seeing mental health talked about so openly and to see Olly talk to a therapist on page about his anxiety and panic attacks, among other things. Benji started seeing a therapist as a teenager because of his anger management, and he was really open about it from the beginning with Olly and encouraged him to see a therapist, too, though you don’t see Benji’s therapy sessions on page. I can’t speak to how well the representation is handled, but it was really great seeing it be such a central part of the story and how therapy helped Benji and Olly with different things.
Finally, not to spoil the ending, but I really liked how the team handled Olly and Benji’s relationship at the end! It was too cute.
So yeah. I have lots of thoughts about this book that are kind of disjointed and all over the place! It wasn’t the most satisfying romance, but there were a lot of things I really liked about it. I was actually a little reluctant to read it because some other reviews I read after requesting it on Netgalley made me think I really wouldn’t like this book, and I’m glad I was proven wrong!
I think if you enjoy hockey romances, slow burns, and a good idiots in love, this book is worth checking out! It seems to be a rather polarizing book, so hopefully you wind up really loving it.
Let me know in the comments if this book is something you’re interested in reading and why! It’s on shelves now, so go forth and read!
I received an arc of Season’s Change from the publisher via Netgalley.