Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
Tropes: sports romance; new adult romance; inter-connected series; tortured lead; mental illness; hockey romance
Tijan’s Hockey with Benefits is more than its blurb. I didn’t realize, on entering her book, that we would be re-introduced to Mara, the somewhat throwaway character from Tijan’s Rich Prick. One of my favorite characterization treats is having a vilified character humanized. In her newest tome, Tijan takes Mara, who stands as a bit of a foil to the heroine in Rich Prick, challenging and insidious, and invites us into her backstory, which is complicated and heartbreaking. After Hockey with Benefits, everything makes sense about Mara, and Tijan’s capacity for drawing sympathy and empathy around her endears us to this new story.
Adding Cruz to the mix and the complication of their relationship creates a depth of emotion in this story. Cruz’s capacity to understand Mara’s situation is one of my favorite aspects of their relationship. It makes it so that it’s impossible for them NOT to become more than a situationship. When he protects her from the complications of her life, their tether becomes more defined and bold. Tijan makes us work through their complicated relationship in an almost tedious manner, allowing us to experience the difficulties of their lives. You can’t help but “feel” the characters’ emotions.
Add to the decided characterizations of Mara and Cruz messages about mental illness and its impact on loved ones and the trauma and process of dealing with SA. These plot lines undergird Hockey with Benefits with a depth of story that is compelling for the reader. Honestly, I couldn’t stop reading it because 1) I needed Mara to enact boundaries with her mother, and 2) I really needed the story’s villain to get his comeuppance. Tijan uses these story lines along with Cruz and Mara’s burgeoning and evolving relationship to engage us with her story.
My only criticism of Tijan and her Fallen Crest and spin-off stories are the sheer number of characters she infuses into an individual story. It can make it tedious to remember who is who, especially when she, as in Hockey with Benefits, vacillates between their first and last names. I love the supporting ancillary characters, but I’m not sure this book required so many.
If you haven’t grabbed Tijan’s Hockey with Benefits, you should. You won’t be able to put it down.
In love and romance,