This slow burn really was worth the wait
Do not read this review if you haven’t read the previous books in the series. I’m not spoiling this book itself, not more than the blurb does, but this part of the story is the result of everything that happened in the six books before. Go read them, it’s an excellent series.
Finally! There’s slow burn and there’s slow burn, and this has to be the slowest of all. Here we are, in book 7, the second to last of the series (if I’m not mistaken), and finally Sophie looks at Elsa’s lips and wants to kiss her.
Let’s be clear about something: I’m not judging anyone’s feelings, attraction, desires, or lack thereof. I love romance but I don’t need it in all the books I read. I loved every book in this series despite the lack of romance and got carried away by the ice hockey of all things – if you know me, you know how improbable that was. Yet for some reason (which I guess is the author’s gift at blurring lines), I’ve always felt there was more to Sophie. When we first met her at the beginning of the series, she appeared as a block but as she grew up, as she grew older, as the story moved along, she showed herself to be more complex, more and more interesting as well. This evolution is what makes these books amazing. The character growth and how it translates in the way Collins writes it. Because the books are written in the present tense, with a lot of detailed descriptions, of games most notably, yet the big picture is there as well. And in the big picture of Sophie, there’s always been room for love, romantic love as well as friendship love (this she’s had for a while). For not only a life beyond the ice rink but appreciation for this life.
Over the course of the series, Collins goes deeper and deeper, from the outside in. In the first books, we see Sophie as she works to be seen: the first woman in the NAHL, a hard-working athlete, focused and talented but bland. Then, book after book, we’re shown a bit more, layers are unveiled, one by one. We learn more and more about her as an athlete, as a captain, then as a person, as a woman, a friend, a daughter and sister as well, and now, as a lover. “For so long, Sophie has defined herself as a hockey player, and only a hockey player, writes Collins. Complete dedication was the only way to advance and carve out a space for herself in the sport. But she’s more than an athlete.” Each book brings new insight, and how wonderful is it that there’s still more to learn even as the end of the series is near? I’ve been calling this series “the hockey books” but they’re so much more than that (and even if they were only that, they’d be great), an in-depth study of one very special person and through her of sports, group dynamics, family, expectations.
I wouldn’t have been disappointed if romance hadn’t taken over in this seventh book. I’ve come to see this series as an inexplicable delicacy, something I shouldn’t enjoy but actually love. Sophie and Elsa becoming Sophie and Elsa is the icing on the cake. As cliché as it sounds, this book was everything I hoped for and more. I’m very excited about the next one even though I’m already sad that it will be the last. As unexpected as it was for me, this series has turned out to be a masterclass in character growth, and definitely one of my favourite series. I can’t recommend it enough, including the novella Glove Save and a Beauty, focused not on Sophie but on goalie Gabrielle Gagnon, whom I also love, for radically different reasons. 5 stars.