Genres: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, College Romance, Sports Romance, Hockey Romance, LGBTQ
Also by this author: Top Secret, , Him (Him, #1)
Series: The Ivy Years #3
Publisher: Tuxbury Publishing LLC
Source: Libby (My Library app)
What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.
Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexuality from everyone. Including himself.
So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.
John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.
And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.
Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.
Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.
Warning: unlike the other books in this series, this heartbreaking love story is about two guys. Contains sexual situations, dance music, snarky t-shirts and a poker-playing grandmother.
THIS BOOK IS A STANDALONE. NO CLIFFHANGERS. NO PRIOR EXPERIENCE NECESSARY.
Full discloser… I absolutely adore Sarina Bowen, and she often writes some of my favorite romances with another favorite of mine, Elle Kennedy! My favorite of theirs is probably Top Secret, which ended up being one of my favorite books last year, no contest. They also wrote Him, another new adult second-chance hockey romance, like this one! Also… hockey romances are one of my favorite things ever, and if they’re M/M… even better :)
I discovered Understatement of the Year just in time to complete an M/M square for Romance-opoly, a year-long reading challenge that I’m participating in (read more about it here). This book was definitely an emotional journey for the characters they went through hell and back and really had to work through some things before they accepted each other fully into their lives.
I’m getting ahead of myself. This book follows Michael Graham and John Rikker, two hockey players when Rikker transfers to Graham’s college to play on his team. They’d been best friends (with some benefits) way back in middle school and freshman year. They were together every spare minute and discovered their sexuality on each other whenever there wasn’t another adult in the house. It was considerably tame stuff, they didn’t go too far, but they were definitely in deep with each other. That is until Rikker was beaten within an inch of his life in an alley for being “gay” and his parents kicked him out. He went to live in Vermont with his loving Gran, and his life drastically improved, even if Graham was left behind, and wouldn’t answer any of his attempts at communication.
He kissed me between the shoulder blades. “Getting along together was never the problem with you and me,” he said. “We’re both easy. It’s just the rest of the world that’s hard.”
Graham was there in the alley, too, but didn’t suffer the same injuries. While Rikker was able to heal physically, mentally, and move on, no one knew that Graham was in the alley, too. Left in the small god-fearing town of Michigan at a private Christian school, he withered, absolutely terrified that anyone would discover the truth. He lived his life by a large set of rules so that no one could remotely guess his secret, and routinely had to get wasted in order to pretend that he was into girls. His life sucked, but to him, it was better than if anyone ever found out the truth, right?
So Graham was suffering but was living life the best he thought he knew. The only person who ever knew his “dirty little secret” is Rikker, who just walked into his team’s locker room as a new transfer. Cue panic. But also… can we talk about how amazing it is when they call each other by their last names?? That’s when I start drawing the little hearts in the margins. Couples who last-name each other will always be endgame, in my opinion.
I loved this book so much <3 Sarina Bowen knows what she’s doing with these two. I loved their friendship and their connection that they had, and it was so, so honest and genuine, what they had. Going through their troubles and life’s kicks in the ass was hard, and their story was hard. But I was proud of Graham, in the end. He pulled through when it mattered, and I was so happy for them. Graham was a barrier in this book. He was so terrified of anyone connecting him to Rikker that it was hard – You wanted to think Oh my god, get over it Graham and tell someone, but it obviously went deeper than that. He was so miserable, and his struggle was so obvious, it felt insurmountable to the reader. So it didn’t feel simple or just something the character had to do. Graham and his struggles were written so well, and he was such a genuine, sweet, adorable character. Rikker, too, was more assertive and confident, but still sweet and patient. Gah so good ✨
Other books you may enjoy…
Do you enjoy hockey romances? What are your favorite new adult romances (bonus if it’s MM)? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!