Cover Image: Common Goal

Common Goal

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3.5* A good story, but this series peaked with Ilya and Shane's tale, and everything that comes after will be found willing! But, I'd still read anything this author puts out.

This is another nicely written tale in this series, which I suspect ends here, unless a certain less-than-pleasant character who suddenly appeared and got a bit of page-time before disappearing, is being introduced for a tale of his own. If so, that'll be interesting as this guy is likely to be the worst offender - a guy who's in denial about his sexuality, and thus has a MO of hurting others with his attacks and aggression, and with his physicality on the ice. At the same time, if the series did end here, it would have done so with a gentle tale and a slow-burn romance, which suited me fine.

I'm not sure that I believed in the attraction between the leads, but I did believe in their unlikely friendship and in Eric's awakening to his sexuality. In theory, there were aspects that should have given rise to more angst than there was in the tale, and that there wasn't ,was a bit of a let down for me, as the tale plodded along a little too comfortably. It's not to say that the tale was lacking, but it didn't have anything that really stood out. I think that because Ilya and Shane's tale and romance was so strong in comparison, the series peaked there and this was a little more ordinary in comparison. I think, too, that the (welcomed) cameos from Ilya and Shane perhaps overshadowed this tale, as their story is either happening concurrently or has just taken place before this, with those guys a bit more obvious about each other than they're perhaps aware.

The leads were decent guys and both seemed open and honest (well, Eric as much as he could be in the beginning) which is why their friendship and trust in each other grew quickly and made them work despite the lack of an overpowering attraction that jumped off the pages. 

It ended in a good place, a year or perhaps just over, since the leads met and realistically, too, which earned it bonus points. It is a v...e...r...y    s...l...o...w... slow-burn romance, though it does have its fair share of sex, which I ended up skipping as it was the tiniest bit tropey.

ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Carina Press, for my reading pleasure.
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This was almost close to wonderful you can smell it. It was two MCs figuring out their relationship through sex and their limited open communication. Kyle as the man in charge and Eric as the older man seeking new experience was a great way to tell their story. They were fun together. 

This was well on its way to being my second favorite until the dark moment, which I actively disliked. My biggest issue was that dark moment - I seriously didn’t like that they broke up and didn’t like that their separation went on for so long. It kind of ruined the last part of the book for me. It didn’t been to happen and didn’t feel authentic to the characters’ growth. And then the ending was like WHAM. PLANS. LOVE. HEA. No make up sex for a couple whose relationship was built on sex. No I love you scene. Just. BOOM. HAPPY. MUCH PLANS. THE END. 

Note to self: skip the dark moment when you reread. 

We did see lots of Ilya and some Shane too which I cannot resist. (If they break up in their next book as the dark moment, however, I will not handle it well. At all. Down with that infuriating and unnecessary part of a romance. Burn it to the ground.)
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Common Goal is such a sweet romance with the loveliest characters. I love Eric and Kyle, both individually and together. This is my first book in the Game Changers series, and I will definitely read the first few books in this series.
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Lack of communication ✔

Characters didn't become a couple until the end ✔

Those two things typically kill a book for me, but surprisingly enough, I stayed engaged in the story the whole time. That's not to say I never got frustrated, because I did, but I was able to overlook them and just go along with the flow.

The story had:

-Lovable main characters
-Dual POVs
-Age gap
-And Rachel Reid's smooth writing style.

Despite being worried initially, this would be the first RR book I wouldn't like; I ended up enjoying a lot.

4 Stars
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I'll start off with saying that Rachel really set the bar with Ilya and Shane's story in Heated Rivalry. And I've already dubbed it for any other couple in this series unable to beat those two out. However, I definitely enjoyed the heck out of this one. I wasn't really expecting the slow burn, but once things start heating up, it's best to get a fan to cool yourself off ;-)

It took me a little to get through the first half of the book, I've been staying away from slow burns because I just haven't been able to focus on my reading. Thankfully my reading has been going great so far, so I was able to push through with this one.

Another trope that I haven't read about in a while is friends with benefit, they make me extremely nervous since feelings get involved. And one almost doesn't realize their feelings until the very last moment; it drives me crazy.

I've loved the pairings that Rachel gives us with every single book in this series. With a bit of an age gap and being so different, they worked perfectly together. I hope we get to see more of Eric and Kyle in the books to come.
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it's nice to be back in new york, seeing kip and scott from game changer navigate their committed relationship. and eric is a super fascinating hero, like he's so disciplined and grown up. it's like the opposite of chaotic trickster ilya, who makes a couple of delightful cameos in common goal and okay i'm going to be honest i really kind of just wanted more ilya. 

i enjoyed eric and kyle's story. i really did. i just wasn't transported by their story. i think maybe i'd have liked it better if kyle was part of the hockey world? but instead he was an art history major who moonlights as a bartender while working on a degree he's not interested in and had passing interest in kip but that obviously wasn't going anywhere. 

kip and eric connect and kip is basically eric's tour guide on the gay side of life. and it's a perfectly good story. i liked it just fine. i just...i just didn't fall in love the way i loved heated rivalry and that's a me problem not a problem with the book.

**common goal will publish on september 21, 2020. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/carina press in exchange for my honest review.
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Eric Bennett just hit the wrong side of forty and is feeling it. He has good games and bad games, but realizes retirement is probably in his near future. He is divorced, lonely, reserved, and wants to maybe start dating and find companionship. But he also wants to explore part of his sexuality that he never really has...being with a man. But with little dating experience, his flirting game is off, he is awkward, insecure, and lacks confidence. 

Kyle has been crushing on his best friend, Kip, for a while but has to finally realize that Kip is getting married(to Eric's friend and teammate, Scott). He is in his mid-twenties but has a thing for older guys, but also has a bad history with them and has come to expect the worst. He is flirty, fun, smart, and outgoing. He is scared of a real relationship and has never really had a healthy one. 

These two cross paths due to their friends, but find common interests. They kind of play at flirting, friendship, and even try to be each other's wingman. But there is this simmering attraction between them that leads to a friends-with-benefits exploration situation. But they think they want opposite things and that they are not right for each other despite the attraction and connection they both are feeling but hiding. 

This is a slow-burn, opposites-attract, age-gap romance. I liked both of the characters and it did develop at a realistic speed, even though at some times I might have wanted it to move along a bit faster and maybe a bit more couple time in the end. They definitely had some issues as far as their fears, insecurities, misconceptions, and communication. Sometimes I wanted to just yell at them to say what they are thinking or feeling. They had great chemistry and sexy times were not an issue, but they really needed to get out of their own heads and talk it out. But I loved them together and at least I could see they would make a great couple even when they were too afraid to admit it. 

Fans of the series will enjoy cameos, but it can be read as a stand-alone as well.
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Eric and Kyle's story is emotional, captivating, and hot. Everything I've come to expect from Rachel Reid. This is actually my second favorite in the series (Heated Rivalry will forever claim the top spot). If you love age gap, miscommunications, and mutual pining, this is the book for you.
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This was an ok read. Nothing can surpass the second book unfortunately. I just wish there was more tension between the characters. I just found the story rather boring.
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Let's be honest here, nothing can surpass the greatness that is Heated Rivalry (I mean, it made my all-time favorites list, so enough said!), but Common Goal is solidly the second best in the series, and is a powerhouse romance in it's own right.

First of all, we get an age gap, sexuality discovery story with a hockey player MC. That combo can only mean greatness, in my book. Rachel Reid sure know how to tick my boxes!

The MCs were charming, even if they weren't as dynamic as some of the other pairings. Eric was a very interesting character, and I fell for him right away. I loved how intelligent he was, and I adored his love of fine art. I was an art history double major in college, and a man who can appreciate and invest in art is big draw for me. He was an older MC, shyer and on the edge of retirement, and I liked his quiet, introspective nature.

Flirty Kyle was a great counter to Eric, and I thought they had great chemistry together. My only wish is that they had more page-time as a couple since a lot of their back and forth felt like work that could have been solved with better communication. I wanted more couple moments. There were also some times where the book felt a little sluggish, but those moments were few and far between.

Common Goal was a sweet, lovely romance, even if Ilya stole the show whenever he made a cameo. The writing and character development made the story a win, even if it had some plot flaws (communicate!!). I think all fans of the Game Changers series will be pleased, and I can't wait to see what Rachel Reid comes up with next.

*Copy provided in exchange for an honest review*
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Giving this one 3 stars, because Reid's writing is, as always, really, really good. She writes great sex, great emotions, the characters were well thought out. I didn't care for the story all that much though, didn't find enough tension between the two of them.
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First, ya’ll I apologize. I’m in a strict hockey headspace because the Stanley Cup and HOCKEY IS BACK!!

That being said, this cover, uh, yes please, thank you. I need all the gorgeous goalie covers in my life. I have a soft spot for goalies and their quirks. Like, the goalie head-bumps at the end of the game? I LIVE for those moments.

Eric, veteran goalie, recently divorced and he is exploring his bisexuality for the first time. He’s seen several other players find the type of love he didn’t think he could have and he’s finally found someone who he wants to experience these moments with.

Kyle is getting over his long time crush and offers his expertise to Eric. As he and Eric end up in each other’s lives more often than not, it would be hard not to form a friendship. That relationship steadily develops the more time they spend with each other.

What I absolutely loved? Eric, just one hundred percent Eric. He had a kinship with the goalie posts and it reminded me of all the moments I caught of a goalie tapping their goal posts after a save, or pregame as they’re getting into the zone. There was more to him than being a professional hockey player. He has a love for art that he wants to share with people (which just so happens to be Kyle). I enjoyed the party scene where he and Kyle were off on their own connecting with each other. Even in a house full of hockey players, it still felt intimate.

Kyle,  oh I felt for him. I just wanted to give him all the hugs. Like I know what it feels like to be in those shoes, crushing hard on someone only to find out they’ll never return those feelings. I just wished he would have had more faith in Eric instead of being stuck on the age difference.

They were such a great pairing though. Their chemistry as both friends and lovers was off the charts. They communicated, tried new things and enjoyed themselves when they were together.

I have so much love for this series! If you are a hockey fan, give these a read because they don’t let you down At all.
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I'm just gonna start by saying that I'd like to write more reviews in english, here on Goodreads ... Actually, I wrote some during lockdown, but I still go back to the easy (and lazy) road and write in my maternal language, which is french, even if if I'm fluent in english (but oh so shy and awkward when it comes to reviewing a book).

Anyway ... in this book, we meet Eric a.k.a Benny, superstar goalie of the hochey Admirals, he's 41, divorced, he's about to retire AND embrace his bisexuality (yayy!) ; we also meet Kyle, who's younger (25), works in a gay bar called Kingfisher with Kip (lead character in book #1), and he has a weakness for older guys.

I liked this book very much, it was well written and engaging. I loved how Kyle & Eric went from friend to friends with sexy benefits. From the 1st time they rolled in the sheets, we could feel the true intimacy, the true chemistry between them. For me, it's delicious to read about a man (and a mature one !) who embraces his new sexuality and discovers what it's like to have sex with a man. The sex scenes are very sensual & sexy (Kyle is a sexy and creative teacher, and Eric ic an eager student ^^), and once again, we can really feel how close the characters are, we can already feel that between them it will always be more than just some steamy moments.

Unfortunately, there's this age gap between them (16 years) and Eric is not confortable with it, so of course, it leads to frustrating lines and painful decisions. But, for once, I found this totally relevant & believable : he's a 41 years old man, he's divorced, his career is almost over, so of course he's gonna question himself, of course he's aware of the differences between a 25 years old guy and him ! Usually, I find this kind of miscommunication/plot twist articifial and often too much ; to be honest, it's one my pet peeves, but Rachel Reid writes so well that we can only understand where Eric is coming from. I loved how she handled it.

Ilya's cameos were one of the highlights of the book, I swear, this guy steals the show every.f*cking.time ! I just love him, period. Oh and I can't wait to read more (way more !!) about him and Shane ...

So yeah, I loved this book, it was a perfect balance between slow burn and steamy moments, very well written, even if I agree with some reviews I read *** SPOILER**** I would have love to see more of them as an established couple !****
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Basically whenever I find out there’s a new book in the Game Changer series I always think “yes, go on forever”. I still think that after this most recent addition.

I will be honest and say I don’t typically gravitate towards romances with an age gap. The age gap between the two main characters, Eric and Kyle, is 16 years. Eric just turned 41 and Kyle is 25. This does have an impact on the plot as Eric is painfully aware of their age gap, especially as he is considered ‘old’ by hockey standards. Another factor to it is how Kyle is typically attracted to older men. Couple this with an experience where he was groomed by his married boss at 18, this creates a certain amount of conflict.

I have mixed feelings with how the age gap was handled While Eric does treat Kyle as his equal for the whole book, because he is thinking a lot about their age gap, and Kyle at times too, you as the reader is made to think about it. Both of them aren’t initially completely comfortable with it at first and that affects the reader as well. In the end, I did think this was a better handled age gap romance, although I still will probably not revisit the trope much.

I did overall really like this book. One thing that I did really enjoy was the appearance of other characters, mostly Kip and Scott from the first book in the series and following their engagement. Kip and Scott remain my favourite couple in the series and this book has really made me want to reread the first book (as well as Heated Rivarly).

I think this was an overall good book. I did find the characters a little dull at times but the characters did make up for it. I also liked seeing Eric embrace his bisexuality after his recent divorce with his wife. I really do love this series and I’m looking forward to more overall.
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Common Goal is a great addition to the series.  I loved that Benny finally got his HEA.  Eric struggled e early on in this book, he was coming to terms with his age, his divorce and his career..  He was also smitten with Kyle and he finally is willing to focus on him.   Despite Kyle having a crush on Kip he agrees to befriend Eric to help him navigate his new normal.   
The pair is hot together but really struggled as neither wanted to share their feelings.  
While I enjoyed it there was a lot of hurt before they got their HEA.  

I received a copy of this book for a honest review
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almost shook since 'Tough Guy' was terrible and I had expected the same with this. Thank the reading Gods above for blessing this novel because I was ready to drop this like a hot potato.

'Common Goal' slow building romance initially won me over. I just couldn't help but root for Kyle and Eric's bubbling relationship. The chemistry, the sexual tension, and banter were everything. Though age gap romances are not a fan favorite of mine and I typically stray away from them—when it came to Eric and Kyle's relationship it just worked. I can't really explain it but it just did.

For the obviously reasons this was a better followup to the 'Game Changers' so there is still hope for this series. Fingers crossed 'Role Model' is a keeper too!
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This book was a great addition to the serious. Deeply likable characters, good dialogue, and a man who is discovering his identity, and who and what he wants in his life. Sexy and affirming and just charming overall
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The burn was slow, but it was so good. The teacher-student is becoming one of my favourite tropes, and this one was interesting because it was the younger one who was more experienced, helping Eric navigate both his bisexuality and getting back into the dating world after his divorce. The roadblock they had to overcome felt realistic and understandable, and the writing hit the mark for me. It was cute but not cheesy, and both the steamy scenes and the game-time scenes felt real and natural. Rachel Reid’s been on my list for awhile now because I like romance and I like hockey, but this was my first of hers. The previous books in the series are definitely getting moved to the top of my list!
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Do you continue to pick up books in the Game Changers series because you want Ilya cameos? Because hi, it me.

“<i>Ilya Rozanov wants to hang out with you tonight? At a gar bar?</i>“
“<i>That guy is so weird.</i>“

Just kidding. I’m also here for the hockey and the romance. And surprising no one, in a series of hockey romances, we had both here.

<i>Dating a much younger man would pretty much make him a walking midlife crisis, and Eric really didn’t want that kind of attention. He couldn’t stomach the idea of being a recently divorced man rebounding with a pretty young thing. And then there was the fact that Kyle was a man.</i>

This was definitely the strongest in this series post, and pre, HEATED RIVALRY, and I’m so relieved about that. The dynamic of this couple, the age gap and the fact that it’s the older man needing guidance as he explores his hitherto unexplored attraction to men, was so sweet without ever getting into book one levels of sucrose. I think what really helped this romance for me was that I believed in the friendship that was the foundation for what later bloomed. And, honestly, the first kiss? Heart eyes. Pure heart eyes. This is actually one of those romances where I was less into the hot and heavy scenes and more into the burgeoning affection between the leads. 

“<i>Not that I’m not happy for Scott, but I’ve been thinking about my own wedding, I guess.</i>”
“<b>You can remember back that far?</b>“
“<i>Shut it.</i>”
“<b>I forget. Was Holly a war bride? Was she your nurse after the Germans shot you?</b>“
“<i>All right, I’m going home.</i>“

As I’m forever saying, I’m a sucker for an ensemble, particularly when it’s a sports team ensemble. These players? I adore them. There were so many hilarious little moments and yes, as I teased above, Ilya was at the center of a lot of those funnies. Getting those moments with him, particularly when sharing page time with Hollander, and knowing we’re finally getting a sequel? I’m trying to cram my expectations into a small box but it’s hard, yo.

“<i>Who knew Rozanov had such a big heart?</i>“
“<b>I had a hunch. I think he might secretly be a big softy.</b>”
“<i>He does a damn good job of hiding it.</i>“

Back to COMMON GOAL, I want to mention how awesome it was to see dialogue about consent and expectations about intimacy between two men because even in m/m romances I don’t think that’s really talked about. Safety, protection? Sure. But feeling obligated to put out, or return the favour, especially if you aren’t comfortable or as enthusiastic as you might have been? We love to see that. Also the discourse around the validity of bisexuality even if you haven’t explored part of that spectrum? Fabulous.

<i>Toronto was a team of weirdos</i>. <– this quote isn’t included for any context, it just made me laugh

Overall, I had a really good time with this read and would definitely recommend fans of this series who may (or may not) have been a little less enthusiastic about book three, particularly in the wake of Ilya and Hollander, to give it a go. I was also about to suggest those missing hockey to dive face first into this to get your fix but hockey is, like, back now? But weird? In August? 2020 man, it keeps on keepin’ on.
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Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows how much I adore Rachel Reid's Game Changer series, especially the last two installments (Heated Rivalry and Tough Guy). It was like Christmas when Carina approved my Netgalley request for the fourth book, Common Goal; a gift that came just at the right time. Although, let's be honest, there is never a wrong time for sweet, sexy books about hockey players.  This age-gap romance was a delight, that sold me on a trope that I have struggled with before. 

Eric Bennett is the long-time goal-keeper for the New York Admirals, a legend in the game and a statistical outlier in terms of the length of his career. He's about to turn 41 - basically 100 in hockey years - and although everyone around him seems to think he can go on taking pucks to the ribs forever, he's ready to hang up his pads. He's just finalised an amicable divorce, bought himself a townhouse, designed with cool simplicity as a backdrop for his art collection, and started to acknowledge his bisexuality.  The rest of his life stretches out in front of him, terrifying, empty, full of potential, and lonely. 

Kyle is at a crossroads too. He's working on his MA in ancient art and archaeology, but he's not sure what he wants to do in the long term. He has all the components of a great life: a job he loves at local gay bar, the Kingfisher; a swish flat paid for by his parents; great friends. But something significant is missing. He originally came to New York at 18 nursing a bruised heart, and many years and many hook-ups later he still hasn't found the confidence to accept and give love again. Now he's in his later 20s and beginning to think something fundamental is broken.

Eric and Kyle meet at the Kingfisher through their mutual friend Scott Hunter, the star hockey player and hero from Game Changer, the first book in the series.  Scott's public romance with Kip Grady (Kyle's best friend and long-time crush) transformed the professional hockey world's attitude towards LGBTQ+ players. He's one of the reasons that Eric has started to think about coming out himself.  At first our protagonists are wary of one another. Eric is absolutely Kyle's type - older man, serious, thoughtful, a little bashful - but he's still wearing his wedding ring, and Kyle wants nothing to do with that.  Kyle is equally Eric's type, but he seems terribly young and experienced. Eric has never acted on his attraction to men and the whole idea is daunting.  Surely he'd be better of starting out with someone his own age, who is a little bit less vibrant?  They have great chemistry though, and a lot in common. Kyle suggests a no-strings attached friends-with-benefits solution - they will enjoy each other's company and Kyle will teach Eric about sex with men in a non-judgmental, safe way. What could be the harm in that, right?

Common Goal does a great job of exploring the psychological dynamics and power dimensions of the age-gap trope.  While their physical and intellectual compatibility is undeniable, Eric and Kyle both acknowledge the challenge of being together in the long term: how it will look to other people; their differences in life experience; what the 12 years between them will feel like in the future.  I dropped a star from my rating because the angsting got a little repetitive by the end, and the resolution felt rushed in the context of the overall pace.  But the way they slowly and tentatively allow themselves to imagine their HEA is frankly adorable, especially because Eric is such a naive and reticent man. Rachel Reid's trademark style is plain and straightforward, with sharp dialogue, and as in previous books a lot of character and plot-work happens in and through the sex scenes. This is something I love, and particularly in this case because the scenes are also damn hot. Heated Rivalry levels of hot. 

Characters and reference points from other books in the series are woven throughout in organic and careful ways. Common Goal returns us to the leads of Game Changer, and not only Scott and Kip but other team mates too. It also features a couple of delicious cameos from everyone's favourite, Ilya Rozanov, including a tantalising glimpse of him with long-term lover Shane Hollander. Ryan Price and his boyfriend Fabian Salah get a shout-out too. It feels like coming home to hockey's queer family, and the series remains a stand-out favourite.
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