Series: Mooseheads Hockey, #1
Release Date: July 1st, 2021
My dream has always been to go pro, but in that dream, she’s standing beside me. I messed up my chance once before but now I have a second chance. Just like on the ice, I will do anything I can to win. This time I’m playing for keeps.
He tortured me through High School, followed me across the country to college, and now I am stuck in a car with him for five long days. All I want to do is get home and go back to pretending he doesn’t exist. If only my stupid hormones would get on board with the plan.
This book was so wonderful! Open Lanes is Mary Morano’s debut novel and it was such a good time! And it featured one of my favourite tropes of all time – road trips – so that only made this book that much more exciting and lovely to me.
Brayden and Nicole grew up together, their parents are best friends and their mothers have been planning their wedding since they were born. They did everything together till one day, things changed and Brayden started leaving Nicole out. And then he started treating her like shit and she finally cut all ties with him. For years, they’ve just been people who know each other, but don’t do anything together anymore. And then when Nicole gets accepted to her dream school, she believes she’s leaving Brayden and their old friendship behind. Except, Brayden’s going to the same school to play hockey and Nicole has absolutely no escape from this boy that she used to like, but now wants to punch the first chance she gets.
Open Lanes was all kinds of charming, but also so much fun. The story is told through first person dual POV, but we get to see and hear from Nicole more than Brayden. Which is interesting, because it’s clear that Nicole dislikes Brayden and wishes he would catch fire and die; while Brayden has been secretly obsessed and in love with Nicole for years. After all the stuff he did to her in high school, Nicole in right in wanting nothing to do with him ever again, but that’s the interesting part – it was all a way for Brayden to keep Nicole away from the bad guys and a-holes in school. Not my favourite reason to be ‘mean’ to someone – protecting them from the bad guys – but that’s what drives their friendship apart and leaves a bad taste in Nicole’s mouth when it comes to Brayden.
When Nicole’s boyfriend leaves her stranded on the side of the road on her way home, Brayden accidentally swoops in to save the day. But not in the way Nicole was hoping – he’s on a road trip from Maine to Florida and her only choice is to join him on this adventure if she wants to get home. Nicole is the grump to Brayden’s sunshine. I love how he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a hockey player, because he’s all excitement and wanting to do fun things and just explore the world. While hockey is his focus right now, it’s almost like it’s not the entire world for him and that was an interesting take on Brayden. Nicole is the best. She has zero time or patience for Brayden and she’s trying to soften that blow as much as possible, but not really succeeding because she keeps snapping at him even if he’s constantly trying to do nice things for her. Plus, she wears the coolest t-shirts ever! I wish I could get all of her t-shirts and add it to my wardrobe, it would make my life.
One of the things that I absolutely loved about this story was just how sex positive Nicole is. There are multiple scenes of her getting herself off and that is something you just don’t see in romances. It’s not just implied, Nicole’s brain might be full of Brayden, but she’s giving herself orgasms and enjoying every single one of them. And because orgasms can send happy signals to your brain, it reduces the number of times she snaps at Brayden too, which gives their relationship a chance to evolve and grow. That is always a treat to watch.
I’ve never wanted to go on a road trip across a country more than after reading this book! I enjoyed all of the places they visited and I loved how Brayden thought of places keeping Nicole in mind. It’s obvious that he’s been in love with her forever and remembers every little thing about her. Brayden isn’t even being subtle half the time, but Nicole is so riled up and frustrated that he’s being charming that she’s the opposite. But with every place they visit, Nicole’s walls start to crumble and she starts letting Brayden back into her life a little more each time.
The conversation they have about what happened when they were younger and where Brayden went wrong was definitely needed and I’m glad that they talked about it. I’m also glad that Nicole didn’t just shrug it off and say it was okay, because it definitely hurt her. There was so much depth to their relationship and I love the growth these two characters went through over the course of this book.
Bonus love for their friends, because Jess (Nicole’s roommate) is an absolute riot and all of Brayden’s hockey teammates are so amusing. I am most excited to see what Tattoo gets himself up to, because it sounds like it’s going to be a wild ride!
Thanks to Mary Morano for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.