Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand-new M/M contemporary hockey romance from Rachel Reid. ROLE MODEL is the fifth book in her Game Changers series, which features two rival hockey players finding love with each other. All the books in the Game Changers series are standalone romances. Check out my reviews for GAME CHANGER, HEATED RIVALRY, TOUGH GUY, and COMMON GOAL to catch up with other yummy stories.
Troy Barrett has been freshly traded to Ottawa after calling out Dallas Kent during a team practice. He wants to be a better person, and the weird, scrappy energy of the struggling Ottawa team seems like the place to…well. It seems like the only place that will have Troy right now.
Fortunately the Ottawa team includes Ilya Rozanov and Wyatt Hayes, and also includes an adorable social media manager, Harris Drover. Harris is the opposite of Troy in every way: friendly, cheerful, chatty, and goofy with a booming voice, a startlingly loud laugh, and Pride pins all over his denim jacket. Definitely not the sort of person Troy would normally associate with, and yet…
Troy Barrett has been a bully and a follower, as well as a skilled hockey player, but he’s done cowering from the bigger bullies in his life: his father and his best-friend and teammate Dallas Kent. It seemed the best way to keep the spotlight off his personal life–not that he has much of one, because it’s really hard to be a closeted pro athlete. He’d been on the hot shot Toronto team for years, but after calling out league golden boy Kent as a rapist, well, now he’s persona non grata, and his team promptly traded him to the cellar-dwelling Ottawa Centaurs. He’s teaming up with all-stars like Ilya Rozanov and Wyatt Hayes, but he’s honestly hoping to get moved someplace else–except that’s even less likely than Kent being non-guilty of the (multiple) accusations against him.
Troy has a bad reputation in the league, behaving badly will do that, but he knows he must build relationships to survive. Thing is, Troy is pretty ashamed of himself, and it makes it hard for him to reach out or ask for help. Also, he’s bruised emotionally because his one-and-only boyfriend–someone Troy had considered coming out for–has just come out to be with another man. Thankfully, the Ottawa players are decent to him–they just want him to play his best hockey. They might not be amped for winning all the time, but they are also not a toxic bunch. In fact, they are super friendly, and–more importantly–they believe he’s telling the truth about Kent, even if Troy’s only going on his intimate knowledge of situations and experiences with Kent–without directly having witnessed an assault. It’s almost too good to be true to be accepted instead of a pariah, and it also comes with an unlikely friendship with the social media manager for the Centaurs, Harris Drover. A native of the Ottawa area, Harris’ family owns a local apple orchard and cider brewery. Harris is the sunniest flower in the garden with flair and flamboyant panache. He’s a consummate smiler and unapologetic cheerleader for all things Ottawa, and Troy lets Harris help him get acquainted to the city, team, and fanbase. And Troy just absorbs Harris’ positive energy for the balm it is.
Harris is way attracted to Troy Barnett, not that he’d ever imaging he was gay–or interested. But, hey, he needs an image makeover, and Harris knows how to do that. Photo ops with sick kids, and puppies, and funny interviews for the fans help Troy see that there are folks in the world who are willing to accept him. Troy starts using his own social media to raise awareness for sexual assault survivors and domestic violence victims. He takes it a step further and begins actively donating to those charities. And, he’s finally playing up to his full potential, helping to lead Ottawa closer to a playoff berth. It’s also awesome that Troy and Harris connect on a more personal level.
I loved Troy learning to love himself, and being an awesome human–and finding real love for himself. His relationships with his mom and dad are multilayered and divergent–which was important to see. His mom is amazing, while his dad is NOT, and Harris’ family are entire delight. But, specifically, I think this is the first book that really shows a player coming out and then continuing to play during the aftermath. I know Game Changer had a coming out, but it was late in the book. Troy’s situation was more fraught, especially with the vitriol he’d already been facing over the Kent issue. This made his HEA all the more sweet, I felt. Plus, life-threatening situations always add interesting conflict, and that was 100% true for Troy and Harris, who clung to one another rather than walk away.
This was a great catch up book for the series, with lots of close-ups on Ilya, who is a perennial fave of fans. Also, as more and more players come out publicly, it seems like we have another Ilya-centered book in the offing. I cannot WAIT!!
About the Author:
Rachel Reid is the pen name of Rachelle Goguen. She chose it because it is much easier to say, spell and remember than Rachelle Goguen!
Rachel writes cute, romantic smut, mostly about hockey players.
Rachelle co-hosts a comic book podcast called Living Between Wednesdays.
Rachel/Rachelle lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. She has always lived there, and it’s looking like she probably always will. She has two boring degrees and two interesting kids.
The first two books in her Game Changers m/m hockey romance series, Game Changer and Heated Rivalry, are both available now from Carina Press. Book five is coming soon!
Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!