Series Name: St. Cloud Hockey, # 1

Review By Veronica

Faceoff is a fabulous and addictive rivalries to lovers romance romp!

Favourite Quote:

Somehow, I manage to keep my cool as he lifts me up and wraps my thighs around his waist. And even when he stares at me, as if daring me to crack. I brace against his shoulders and wait.

I expect another desperate clash of lips. Instead, he tortures me by placing a slow, soft kiss on one corner of my lips. Then on the opposite corner. From there, he leaves a hot trail to the center of my lips. I squeeze my eyes tight, trying to rein in the urge to sigh.

Goodreads Synopsis: 

He’s the cocky captain of the men’s hockey team, and now we’re stuck together for a class project.


The days in my hockey career are numbered after an accident years ago that left me with chronic pain. Now that I’ve become the captain of the women’s team at my jock-hating ivy league college, the last thing I need is any distractions from school or hockey.

But then something that can only be defined as a meet-disaster with Max Cassiano, the men’s team captain, leads to open hostility between our teams. Fortunately, that whole mess helps me ignore how freaking hot he is.



I might seem like the hottest prospect to everyone in town, but I’m chopped liver to my massive Italian family. My focus has to be on my hockey career if I want to wow them, and I’m sure being named captain of the men’s team is the ticket.

Until a snobby professor pairs me up for an assignment with the one distraction I can’t seem to shake: Luz, the captain of the women’s team. And she’s way cuter than anyone who hates me has a right to be.

Sparks fly when we faceoff off the ice, but can we win this game if our teams hate each other?

I love a good sports romance, and this book knocked my romance socks right off my feet. Mari is the pen name for Marianna, who wrote As Long As You Love Me (one of my favourite reads from 2023). Mari’s books are perfect for bookworms looking for a book with no sex or swearing. Now, don’t think that because there is no sex, there is no spice or heat, and there is plenty of spicy tension in this book. This college sports romance is told from Luz and Max’s POV. I enjoyed this book and ended up reading most of it in one sitting. Plenty of things make this book great: the story is interesting, there is plenty of depth, and the characters and the problems they are dealing with are real and relatable. 

This story follows Luz and Max, who both attend the same college and are captains of their hockey teams. Luz and Max get off on the wrong page right from the beginning, mainly because there is this rivalry/hatred for each other’s teams. These two teams do not get along, and some hilarious and unhappy antics ensue. I have always loved books that have antics, so this was right up my alley. This book takes place at the college Luz and Max attend, so be prepared for some college drama. There are parties, boy/girl problems, roommate problems, class drama, and, of course, delicious high-tension library scenes. I enjoyed the academic setting; Mari really knows how to write an interesting and relatable college romance. The problems and situations these characters face feel real, and I really enjoyed watching friendships form as the academic year progressed. Both MCs have very complicated and complex relationships with their families. Watching as Luz and Max try to deal with these complicated family matters gives their characters depth, especially Max’s character. 

Luz and Max are wonderful characters. Luz has a strong and fierce personality. She is quick to anger and will defend those she cares about with all she has. I adored Luz’s strength. It was what made her shine in this book. Her back story is one of overcoming all odds to continue doing what she loves. Sorry, I know that is a bit vague, but I don’t want to give any spoilers away. Her character also deals with chronic pain, and I loved that representation in this story. I have a family member who also lives with chronic pain, and I see how living with that condition can dictate how you can live your life. Mari really handles this issue with thought and care. Max is a big old cinnamon roll. He was just so delightful, and I loved being around him. People around him often say him as being the dumb jock, but there is so much more to his character, and I loved peeling back those layers and learning more about him. 

As I mentioned before, this is a closed-door romance. There are plenty of make-out scenes, but nothing progresses further than that on the page. I loved the romance in this book. Luz and Max have this intense spark between them right from the moment they first clashed on the ice rink. The chemistry is there, and so is the rivalry. The first bit of this romance has Max and Luz trying to beat each other at various games and also trying to stop those feelings they are starting to have for each other. Things progress to a hidden relationship because of the feud between their two teams. I liked everything about their relationship. Some moments had me chuckling, swooning, and falling in love. There is still plenty of heat between these two, and Mari knows how to build up that tension. 

Faceoff is a fun and fabulous sports romance, and I cannot wait to read the next installment of the series. 

Thank you, Mari Loyal, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.