I’m not sure where to begin. Hockey With Benefits is so much more than a sports romance. I would be remiss not to mention the way Tijan brought out the raw, heartbreaking truths of the serious matters these characters are faced with, which is a true testament to her talent. Their emotions bled through every word, and while this may be fictional, the facts are that someone out there is dealing with these very things, and I hope that if they are feeling alone that they find their way to Mara and Cruz’s story.
Anything you believe you know about Mara isn’t even close to who she is, I can promise you. Most of what others see of her is an illusion she has curated for her own benefit. Keeping everyone at arm’s length. I loved how everything about Mara’s character felt genuine, especially the transformation that takes place in her throughout the book. Sure, she’s closed off, but underneath that is a girl who doesn’t know her strength. She doesn’t notice that the reason people are drawn to her is about more than her looks; it’s the fire inside her that could have easily become doused from all she dealt with, but instead it caused it to burn brighter, a beacon for others that had their own reasons for keeping people at a distance.
Cruz was the polar opposite of Mara when it came to friendships. He had a close-knit group of friends from the hockey team, but there were parts of himself that he kept locked away from even them. He was closed off in some ways, but in others, it was as though his actions with others were showing you a direct view of his soul. When he loved, he loved with everything he had. He faced so much that could have completely destroyed everything good about him.
Cruz and Mara’s chemistry was more than palpable; it was soul-searing. I truly don’t know what word to use. Each and every broken part of them fit together flawlessly. It was never just hockey with benefits, although those benefits were hot AF. Their hearts and souls found their safe place; it just took their heads a while to catch on to it.
The emotion was on another level. Everything between Mara and Cruz was to the nth degree. The emotion that bled through every word hit my heart with an intensity that was suffocating, and maybe that was because, while it may have been for different reasons, I had faced some things similar to what she did. It wasn’t all heavy emotions though; there was also witty banter and laugh out loud antics, a little glimpse at previous characters.
Another element, as I’ve come to expect with Tijan’s books, is that the secondary characters are as important to the story as the main characters. Maybe because sometimes you are reminded that it’s all about perception—someone you thought to be the villain was merely a person fighting battles that the person telling the story knew nothing about. A lesson we can all take away from this story
Hockey With Benefits is everything I didn’t know I needed. One word and I was done for; reality vanished and I became a part of the story that was playing out before my eyes. A riveting combination of soul-encompassing chemistry, a strong heroine, an alpha hero, heavy topics that were handled with raw, tragic truths, so many FEELS, from ugly crying to laughing out loud, and hot AF steam More than anything, as Mara and Cruz were on the road to healing and their happily ever after, I too found some healing.
Woven throughout was the beauty of allowing others to see the parts of you that are irrecoverably broken and giving them the chance to love every fragmented piece of you.
About the book
Hockey with benefits. That was what Mara proposed, and I was down.
She said no feelings and she meant it.
Just benefits. No strings attached. Nothing else. Not even friendship.
College was her escape, including us.
I didn’t have time for a girlfriend.
I had classes, the team, my family, and the game.
It was all working too…
Until somewhere down the line, things got messy.
Until somehow we were dealing with threats, secrets, rivals, and so much more.
Until I began to want her in ways that weren’t part of the deal.
Our agreement didn’t just get checked into the wall, it got obliterated.