REVIEW: Time to Shine by Rachel Reid
Content Note: grief over death of a close family member
Dear Rachel Reid,
Oh I’ve missed your books! It feels like ages since there was a new one. (In reality it’s been 18 months. But it feels longer.) The best news is that Time to Shine was definitely worth the wait. It’s a delight.
Landon Stackhouse is a goalie playing in the AHL for the Calgary farm team in Saskatoon. He is called up to the NHL team when their backup goalie is injured. He expects to be in Calgary a very short time and then return to the Saskatoon Bandits. He’s 24 and eager for his shot in the NHL but he also doesn’t think it will really happen for him. In Saskatchewan he’s a big deal and his team are championship contenders but who doesn’t want a chance in the big league?
He loves his parents dearly but they have a somewhat strained relationship following the death of his older sister when she was 18 and he was 16. He perceives they’re constantly scared he will be hurt because of what happened to his sister and there is a lot of shared baggage they haven’t dealt with. He’s starting to feel it might be time to do something about that, maybe.
Casey Hicks is a 23-year-old winger for the Calgary Outlaws. He’s the scion of hockey royalty, naturally talented and friendly – like a giant puppy. He’s the shortest member of the team by a couple of inches at least.
His official listed height was five-nine, but Landon suspected that number had been stretched a bit.
Casey is super friendly and immediately welcomes “Stacks” to the team. Landon, who is extremely reticent is a bit nonplussed by this but he appreciates Casey’s efforts. Casey is not the sharpest tool in the shed but what he lacks in book smarts is more than made up for in kindness and generosity. He’s genuinely interested in people and very, very likeable. He’s also pretty random and very goofy – which only made me love him more.
Casey was struck by a great idea. At least he was pretty sure it was a great idea. Sometimes he thought ideas were great and they turned out to be terrible, like the time he stirred peanut butter into his coffee.
Casey is bisexual and has a lot of good-hearted, friendly sex. He doesn’t like to be alone, he’s not a big fan of silence. He’s also afraid of the dark. Not as a result of some big childhood trauma; he just gets scared in the dark. It’s something he hasn’t confessed to any of his teammates. Mostly with them he’s an open book but this is something he guards carefully as he’s embarrassed by what he sees as a childish weakness. Casey is almost always optimistic and upbeat. He takes a Ted Lasso goldfish-type approach to games – no matter what happened in the last game (good or bad) the next game is going to be the “best game ever”. He’s wildly talented on the ice, intuitive and skilled by equal measure.
His dick was not big by anyone’s measure, and he knew it.
Which I mention because he’s totally okay with that and both things are super rare in romance. So, yay for representation.
Casey has recently bought himself a big house and made what he now realises is the big mistake of moving into it alone. He hates it. So, when Landon joins the team and it becomes apparent his tenure will be for a few weeks at least, Casey offers him a place to stay in lieu of a hotel room. Mostly it’s self-interest; he hopes Landon will be company for him. So he’s pretty disappointed that Landon picks the bedroom furthest away and keeps to himself.
I got the impression that Casey maybe had ADHD and I felt Landon was neurodiverse though neither were specifically labelled so in the text. Landon thinks he might be gay but he’s also clearly demisexual and I had the impression he was possibly also somewhere on the ace spectrum (though I’m far from an expert here so that last is perhaps a bit rubbery). Landon is tall and lanky; Casey is shorter and compact (but muscular because: hockey). Landon has no sexual experience and Casey has tons. Casey is tactile and talkative; Landon is standoffish and reserved. Romance readers know what that means of course.
Casey is too sweet and charming for Landon to dislike him and before he really knows it, Landon is spending more and more time with his house/team mate. Landon starts to wonder what it might be like to kiss Casey. To do more. Pretty soon, Landon has it bad.
If Landon were built differently, maybe he and Casey would hook up one night. Maybe one thing would lead to another, and they’d both say, “Hey, why not do this? Might be fun.” Maybe it wouldn’t mean anything more than watching TV together did; just something to do before bed.
But even imagining that filled Landon with so much anxiety he wanted to tear his skin off. He didn’t want to hook up with Casey.
So what the fuck did he want?
He supposed it didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to get it. He needed to pull himself together, go back to his seat, and pretend to be a much more laidback person than he was.
At least he and Casey would be separated a bit on this trip. They were in different hotel rooms, and clearly Casey had his own plans for their free time. Maybe distance would clear Landon’s head.
But when he returned to his seat, and Casey smiled at him and randomly asked if he thought walruses were weird, Landon really doubted it.
Even though Landon doesn’t really like to be touched and isn’t a touchy-feely kind of guy, he soon learns that it’s different with Casey. Casey’s touch becomes one he craves. They start cuddling before they do anything else and over time, the mutual lusting becomes overwhelming and, ever so slowly, Casey and Landon move from friends to lovers.
There were explicit conversations about likes and dislikes and consent and Casey was incredibly careful of Landon’s inexperience and his desires.
Of course, they fall in love. I mean, this is a romance. They think they’re stealthy but they don’t hide it well at all.
“Hey! Your couple name could be Sticks,” Westy said unhelpfully.
“I’m not in love with him,” Casey grumbled. It felt like a lie.
Oh no. It was a lie!
“I might be in love with him,” Casey amended.
(Seriously. Casey is just adorable. There was one thing Casey said to Landon in the book that had me laughing out loud for days but to quote it here would not do it justice. It’s kind of a “you had to be there” thing but it still makes me smile. It was just so completely Casey.)
But Landon is headed back to Saskatoon when the backup goalie returns from injury and between their two careers they would barely see each other. Landon doesn’t see a long distance relationship working. What to do?
There are sad things in Time to Shine. Landon and his parents have things to work through and they’re all clearly still (and will continue to be) grieving the death of Landon’s sister/their daughter. But overall, the book is very uplifting (even the grief storyline is uplifting in its way) and delightful.
There is more to Casey than a similarity to a Labrador puppy with separation anxiety and there is more to Landon than reticence. The two of them complement one another wonderfully.
I did wonder if there might be a problem on their horizon as it seemed to me that Casey and Landon’s sex drives were not very evenly matched. But then I thought: how much of Casey’s hookups were really about him not being alone? And, maybe, Landon isn’t on the ace spectrum at all and his sex drive is just awakening. I choose to think positively about their future.
Time to Shine is a feel good read and it left me smiling.