New Adult, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: The Goal (Off-Campus #4): by Elle Kennedy

Publication Date: September 26th, 2016
Number of Pages: 334 Pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
Genre(s): New Adult Romance

***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers for this book plus the previous books in the series, continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!!***

To see my full review of book #1 – The Deal – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #2 – The Mistake – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #3 – The Score – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 2.25 Stars

Footsteps approach the kitchen. Garrett wanders in, wiping sweat off his brow. When he notices Sabrina, he brightens. ‘Oh good. You’re here. Hold on—gotta grab something.’

She turns to me as if to say, Is he talking to me?

He’s already gone, though, his footsteps thumping up the stairs.

At the table, Hannah runs a hand through her hair and gives me a pleading look. ‘Just remember he’s your best friend, okay?’

That doesn’t sound ominous.

When Garrett returns, he’s holding a notepad and a ballpoint pen, which he sets on the table as he sits across from Sabrina. ‘Tuck,’ he says. ‘Sit. This is important.’

I’m so baffled right now. Hannah’s resigned expression doesn’t help in lessening the confusion.

Once I’m seated next to Sabrina, Garrett flips open the notepad, all business. ‘Okay. So let’s go over the names.’

Sabrina raises an eyebrow at me.

I shrug, because I legitimately don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about.

‘I’ve put together a solid list. I really think you’re going to like these.” But when he glances down at the page, his face falls. ‘Ah crap. We can’t use any of the boy names.’

‘Wait.’ Sabrina holds up a hand, her brow furrowed. ‘You’re picking names for our baby?’

He nods, busy flipping the page.

My baby mama gapes at me.

I shrug again.

‘Just out of curiosity, what were the boy names?’ Grace hedges, clearly fighting a smile.

He cheers up again. ‘Well, the top contender was Garrett.’

I snicker loud enough to rattle Sabrina’s water glass. ‘Uh-huh,’ I say, playing along. ‘And what was the runner-up?’

‘Graham.’

Hannah sighs.

‘But it’s okay. I have some kickass girl names too.’ He taps his pen on the pad, meets our eyes, and utters two syllables. ‘Gigi.’

My jaw drops. ‘Are you kidding me? I’m not naming my daughter Gigi.’

Sabrina is mystified. ‘Why Gigi?’ she asks slowly.

Hannah sighs again.

The name suddenly clicks in my head. Oh for fuck’s sake.

‘G.G.,’ I mutter to Sabrina. ‘As in Garrett Graham.’

She’s silent for a beat. Then she bursts out laughing, triggering giggles from Grace and eventually Hannah, who keeps shaking her head at her boyfriend.

‘What?’ Garrett says defensively. ‘The godfather should have a say in the name. It’s in the rule book.’

‘What rule book?’ Hannah bursts out. ‘You make up the rules as you go along!’

‘So?'”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Goal”

This is merely a taste of the humor that is Elle Kennedy whenever you read a new adult romance by this amazing author! As I’ve said before in plenty of my past reviews of her work, It’s just so incredibly hilarious, heartfelt, steamy, and genuine; I wonder if she literally just sits down in her home and thinks up these scenes so full of banter? Maybe that’s what I need to start doing as a writer in order to even get close to her level and quality of craft.

Here we are at the fourth and final book of this college hockey romance series, and I’m sad to say that despite all the praise I usually give these books and the author in general, The Goal has to be my least favorite book of them all. It’s a damn shame because it’s the end and a book series should never have the final book be the weakest, it leaves such a sour taste in the mouth of the reader.

It’s not that I don’t think the two main characters, Tuck and Sabrina, go through their own growth and change throughout this book, it’s more just that I didn’t feel as connected to them compared to the others like Graham, Hannah, Dean, Allie, and Logan. I just found I wasn’t as interested in them; I like Tuck just fine, but that’s about it, I literally have nothing to add to him as a character…Sabrina was a hard-headed, strong willed female protagonist who is fiercely ambitious and determined to go where she wants to end up, but there just wasn’t really anything to make me care about her as much. This is all of course my opinion, but feel free to take all this criticism with a grain of salt.

While the two main characters are rather subpar for my taste, at least all the others whom I mentioned earlier still make their appearances! It’s always good to see them continue to make wise-cracks and give each other a hard time like an actual group of friends, although Garrett Graham seems much more like a typical airheaded hockey bro when the story doesn’t focus so much on him. Nonetheless, him and all the others are always welcome to make appearances and live inside my head rent free.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

She’s good at achieving her goals…

College senior Sabrina James has her whole future planned out: graduate from college, kick butt in law school, and land a high-paying job at a cutthroat firm. Her path to escaping her shameful past certainly doesn’t include a gorgeous hockey player who believes in love at first sight. One night of sizzling heat and surprising tenderness is all she’s willing to give John Tucker, but sometimes, one night is all it takes for your entire life to change.

But the game just got a whole lot more complicated…

Tucker believes being a team player is as important as being the star. On the ice, he’s fine staying out of the spotlight, but when it comes to becoming a daddy at the age of twenty-two, he refuses to be a bench warmer. It doesn’t hurt that the soon-to-be mother of his child is beautiful, whip-smart, and keeps him on his toes. The problem is, Sabrina’s heart is locked up tight, and the fiery brunette is too stubborn to accept his help. If he wants a life with the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to convince her that some goals can only be made with an assist.

What I Liked:

  1. The Humor! This never disappoints whenever I read an Elle Kennedy novel, I can always count on her to make me laugh out loud at least once every time I open a book of hers, whether she’s written it by herself or if it’s with Sarina Bowen!
  2. The Return of All the Other Characters! It’s always a warm welcome to see characters like Garrett, Hannah, Grace, Logan, Dean, and Allie all make reappearances once again, even as their perspectives are no longer being centralized. It’s also adorable to see them as couples now that they’ve all had their little “happily ever afters” with their previous books.
  3. Plenty of New Characters! There’s a certain amount of new characters introduced by now that are worth being mentioned, most of them are underclassmen teammates like Hunter, Fitzy, and even Dean’s little sister. I guess I can kind of spoil this, but pay attention to these characters because they’ll be getting their own spin-off set of books!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. I Just Didn’t Connect With the Two Main Characters…Like I said earlier in this review, I just didn’t care as much for Tuck and Sabrina in this book. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just wasn’t as interested in them when compared to the others.
  2. How Was it Tucker Who Got Someone Pregnant?…For some reason, I always considered Tuck to be the smartest of the bunch, so I just find it ironic that he ended up being the one to get a girl pregnant first out of the four guys in that house! I would’ve pegged Logan for sure, or maybe even Dean, but I thought Tuck being the guy to get a bun in the oven first was a little unrealistic to say the least!
  3. Not As Memorable…To be honest, I’m not a big fan of these kinds of stories where, whoops!…someone ends up pregnant, and now the two must quickly learn to readjust everything in each other’s lives to revolve around that notion, plus navigated their now much more complicated relationship. I think babies are absolutely adorable, at least when they’re not crying, but I’m just not as interested in reading stories so heavily involving them so much.

Conclusion:

My goal, once upon a time, was to succeed. I didn’t realize that success wasn’t grades or scholarships or achievements, but the people I was lucky enough to have in my life.”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Goal”

I was disappointed with how much I didn’t care about the two main characters in this final installment of the Off-Campus series by Elle Kennedy, and I say that while literally everything she includes in her stories that I love are all included within this book: the banter, the humor, the friendships, the scorching romance, and I still wasn’t entirely sold on this!

Luckily, the story is actually NOT over entirely, and there’s going to be a spinoff series named the Briar U series that I know will star some of the newer side characters like Hunter, Fitzy, Dean’s younger sister, Summer, and plenty of others! While the original gang’s time is up and they’re all set to graduate, I’m so glad the fun at Briar University is not quite over yet!

I recommend these books to anyone who’s looking for a sweet, humorous, and sexy romance novel that’s light and easy to read through. Anyone who’s a fan of hot college jocks and the sassy female protagonists who put them in their place like the characters in these books will fall in love just like I did.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: The Score (Off-Campus #3): by Elle Kennedy

Publish Date: September 25th, 2016

Number of Pages: 354 Pages

Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

Genre(s): New Adult Romance, Romance

***Warning!!! This Review may contain spoilers from the previous books in this series, continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!!***

To see my review of book #1 – The Deal – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – The Mistake – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

‘You know, I don’t think we’re dealing with a Bella’s-magical-blood situation here.’

‘No?’

‘No. I think you’ve imprinted on this girl’s pussy.’

… ‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean you’re facing a Jacob quandary. You imprinted on her pussy, and now it’s the only pussy you can think about. You exist solely for this pussy. Like Jacob and that weird mutant baby.’

– Elle Kennedy, “The Score”

I mean, what else is there to say that I haven’t said before about this NA Romance series? It’s definitely up there in terms of high quality and utterly binge-worthy reads. They’re the perfect balance of humor and sexy and heartfelt. They’re so easy to get into and become absorbed by if they’re the type of book you want to read.

It’s been fun to read how each boy living in the house who we met all the way back in The Deal starring Garrett and Hannah are getting their own story, and this time it’s the blond, ultra rich lothario on the hockey team: Dean Di Laurentis. Something about him has made me interested when he’d get the spotlight, so I was so happy to finally get his after Garrett and Logan both got the spotlight for their bit. I was also happy to see that his love interest turned out to be Hannah’s roommate and best friend: Allie Hayes. The two of them have never really interacted up until this point, and I personally thought Sabrina was going to be his love interest based off their history, so I was curious as to how the author was going to bring them together, and I can definitely say she didn’t disappoint! Allie and Dean had some wicked chemistry that scorched the pages in all honesty.

The story itself flows pretty smoothly with it feeling like you could stop right at about the 50% mark and call it good there, and that’s just because right then and there everything seems to be going smoothly for the two main characters, so why read on and see it all fall apart, right? By that point, I was head over heels for both characters, and I was convinced this was my favorite book out of the bunch.

‘I’m adorable, first off. My sense of humor is stellar—obvs.’

‘Obvs,’ she echoes dryly.

‘I’m extraordinarily skilled in the art of conversation.’

She nods. ‘When it’s about yourself, of course.’

‘Of course.’ I pretend to think it over some more. ‘Oh, and I’m a mind reader. No lie. I always know what the other person is thinking.’

‘Yeah? What am I thinking right now?’ Allie challenges.

‘That you want me to shut up and fuck you again.’

She shakes her head in dismay. ‘Goddamn it. That’s actually what I was thinking.’

I smirk at her and tap my forehead. ‘Told ya. Mind reader.’

– Elle Kennedy, “The Score”

Sure, the formula isn’t the most original, but we readers can all attest that a book doesn’t need to be immensely unique and a totally unheard of idea in order to be successful story! For this, we have the playboy jock who meets the sassy girl next door that knocks the guy on his ass unexpectedly, and (surprise) he’s the one who ends up pursuing her. Eventually, she caves in because he’s, like, sooooo hawt and BANG! Friends with Benefits, cuz that always works out… Inbetween hot sex sessions, they both realize there’s more to the other person and deny how they’re seriously falling for them. Outside forces, or their own inner insecurities come between them and for a while they’re convinced they’re better off without each other, but then get their heads out of their asses and realize that’s whack, so que HEA moment! It’s predictable, it’s familiar, but goddam does Elle Kennedy still somehow make a great story out of it!

This time around, the issues that the characters both face felt more realistic than the past books, and I felt they were also just handled a little better with more care too. You don’t have to have someone be a sexual assault victim in order to garner sympathy for them, so it’s great to see the writing get even better in that regard. The author is able to add a lot of depth to her characters in this regard and makes it feel like they’re actual people in your life that you’re experiencing everything happening with them.

Besides the romance, I love that this books also included more scenes about friendship, especially amongst all the male main characters who all live together. They tease each other, they get into actual fights, but at the end of the day they all know they have each other’s backs and know they’ll be there for each other when life gets incredibly heavy.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

He knows how to score, on and off the ice…

Allie Hayes is in crisis mode. With graduation looming, she still doesn’t have the first clue about what she’s going to do after college. To make matters worse, she’s nursing a broken heart thanks to the end of her longtime relationship. Wild rebound sex is definitely not the solution to her problems, but gorgeous hockey star Dean DiLaurentis is impossible to resist. Just once, though, because even if her future is uncertain, it sure as heck won’t include the king of one-night stands.

It’ll take more than flashy moves to win her over…

Dean always gets what he wants. Girls, grades, girls, recognition, girls… he’s a ladies man, all right, and he’s yet to meet a woman who’s immune to his charms. Until Allie. For one night, the feisty blonde rocked his entire world-and now she wants to be friends? Nope. It’s not over until he says it’s over. Dean is in full-on pursuit, but when life-rocking changes strike, he starts to wonder if maybe it’s time to stop focusing on scoring…and shoot for love. 

What I Liked:

  1. Dean’s Douchebagery! Yeah I know…It seems weird that I’d put this under the “like” section, and to be honest I’d probably hate Dean in real life if I ever met him, but I have to give it to him that he owns up to it. He’s not a complete douchebag, I’d say he just more has douchebag tendencies. He’s got confidence and cockiness galore—which isn’t always a bad thing—he’s rich AF, and pretty much an Abercrombie/Hollister model straight out of the catalog, BUT at least he doesn’t use his looks or money to put others down or be a bully in any way. He’s not the greatest when it comes to women, but he is at least honest and upfront about his expectations going in, so you can’t exactly knock him for that either. At first he appears like the typical blond, rich player type, and he still kind of is, but there’s more below the surface and he never apologizes for who he is.
  2. Dean and Allie’s Chemistry! Elle Kennedy always is able to nail the romantic chemistry for her main characters, and this pairing was one I absolutely did not see coming until I started reading the book. While I was blind to it going in, very quickly was I all about the dynamic that develops between them. They’re thrown together in an odd situation, and then it ends up being Dean pursuing her, and Allie really makes him work for it before she gives into temptation. While it was hot and steamy, their relationship really went through a lot and they really become close as they glimpse into each other’s lives and accept each other for even the less than stellar moments. It was the perfect mix of humor. steam, and heart.
  3. The Scene in the Bathtub! In typical Elle Kennedy fashion, there’s a hilarious ongoing joke that happens in this book involving Dean in the bathtub. Can’t give too much away, but I absolutely howled when I first read this glorious scene, and loved all the crap Dean’s friends gave him because of it.
  4. The Realistic Inner and Outer Conflicts! Both characters felt so fleshed out in the issues they both dealt with while exploring their newfound relationship. Dean has always been dead set on going to Harvard to get a Master’s in Law because that’s just been the family expectation but begins to question what he really wants when he’s pulled into coaching a junior level kids team in his free time. Allie wants to become an actress and is trying to secure something past graduation all while getting over her ex of three years. One thing I also love was the inner dilemma of when the two main characters are worried about their real lives causing separation between them so they wonder how things will work out, but of course figure out some solution in the end!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Character Death…It’s not that it was a poor idea or horrible addition to the book itself, it was more just how sad it was! Someone dies in this book, and it truly shakes some of the cast to their core.

Conclusion:

‘You’re lucky I love you, babe. If any other girl had done this to me –“

‘You love me? You just said it.’

‘I … Well, damn. I guess I did.’

‘Did you mean it? I want to hear it again.’

‘Aw shit, babe. Don’t make me say it again. It’s bad enough I said it first.’

– Elle Kennedy, “The Score”

Another amazing addition to an amazing NA Romance series that I’m so glad I discovered when doing research on books similar to my current WIP. I definitely need to take tips from how Elle Kennedy writes romance, because I consider her to be top notch!

Now that Dean and Allie’s story has been told, it’s now officially onto the next and final book in this book series: Tuck. He’s the quiet ginger-haired chef of the house with southern charm to spare, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for him!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: The Deal (Off Campus Series #1): by Elle Kennedy

Publish Date: September 26th 2016
Number of Pages: 376 Pages
Publisher: Createspace
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, Romance

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

The first story in a total of four books in a New Adult (NA) romance series; these books sizzle enough to melt the ice these boys play on (I know, slightly painful punny metaphor). It’s funny, I just happened to discover these books when I was doing research for my current Work in Progress (WIP), and it showed up when I was looking for popular titles that took place on a college campus. I honestly had no idea I was going to enjoy them as much as I did!

What It’s About:

Hannah Wells is incredibly smart, she can get an A+ on a paper without having to try, but dating and putting herself out there with painful memories from her past really makes it more difficult than she likes it to be. She’s finally found someone she’s willing to try it all again with, but he hardly notices her (of course), so she unwittingly gets some help from the big man on campus and Division 1 Hockey Team captain, Garrett Graham.

Garrett, who is most likely going to the NHL after graduation, needs some extra help bringing up his grades in order to keep that dream alive. He discovers that Hannah, who’s in his class, could help him out by becoming his tutor. In return, he’ll help her make the guy that she’s into a jealous wreck by pretending to be in a relationship with himself. Seems fair? All they have to do is ignore the feelings that they both secretly develop for each other, and they can be on their separate ways…sounds easy right?

“How about a date?” I offer.

That gets her attention. She straightens up like someone shoved a metal rod up her spine, then swivels her head in astonishment. “What?”

“Ah. I’ve got your attention.”

“No, you’ve got my disgust. You actually think I want to go out with you?”

“Everyone wants to go out with me.”

She bursts out laughing…“Just out of curiosity,” she says, “after you wake up in the morning, do you admire yourself in the mirror for one hour or two?”

“Two,” I reply cheerfully. “I kiss each one of my biceps and then point to the ceiling and thank the big man upstairs for creating such a perfect male specimen.”

She snorts. “Uh-huh. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. Perfect, but I’m not interested in dating you.”

What I Liked:

  1. The Banter! Garrett and Hannah are both incredibly sarcastic characters, and they have some pretty hilarious conversations throughout the story. He writes her off as the cynical, prudish music major, and she does the same by assuming he’s just another dumb, buff jock. I appreciated the snark that they both throw at each other; it’s pretty obvious when you read it in context that Garrett only says that stuff because he knews that she just assumes he’s a cocky, arrogant, dumb jock. They do learn a few things from each other, and it was super great to see their relationship (that came to be entirely by accident) change from enemies, to reluctant allies, to friends, to lovers. There was plenty of Banter with the other characters too from both of their inner circles that makes the book enjoyable to read.
  2. The Humor! This had to be one of the funnier of any novels that I’ve read; the author does an amazing job with hilarious situations or one-liners that made me actually laugh out loud.
  3. The Never Gets Old Romance Trope of Fake Dating! This book has the story arc that could be considered as cliché: the fake relationship arc. In my opinion, it never gets old as long as the author still makes it entertaining to a degree. I will enjoy any book that includes it because it usually leads to some hilarious/sexy scenes.
  4. The Romantic Chemistry! The author really excelled at the relationship between the two main characters; to keep this different from #1, It was felt that Garrett and Hannah had some great chemistry that neither could resist each other after a while. They had some sizzling scenes along with some that were more tender too; they really are a great couple!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Conflicts…One thing that I absolutely detest about romance novels is that a huge problem that the couple faces is so completely simple, or could have a really easy fix: working on their communication. I can’t tell you how many issues could be solved if they’d just talked it out with each other; to not just assume the worst, and not dance around it; JUST TALK IT OUT, COMMUNICATION IS KEY!! If you couldn’t guess by now, this sort of issue comes up in the story, and this is one overused conflict that I get tired of. Sure, part of it also involves an outside source that causes it, but it doesn’t make me change my mind. Also, while they are important topics that are so incredibly important to understand in today’s world, I feel like it’s a shame when things like sexual assault and domestic abuse are used as a plot device in a ROMANCE novel…They should be dealt with in a much better, more sensitive way. In a NA Romance, it felt stretched, forced and unnecessary to include into the story. These issues didn’t really drive the story, it was how their relationship evolved over time that did.
  2. So Many Clichés…I guess going off the first one, there are plenty of clichés in this story: there’s a hot, college athlete who’s a manwhore and is also rich, there’s the quirky & sarcastic brainy girl who no one would’ve thought a jock would ever like, a ton a dumb sorority chicks who want to screw athletes because they’re hot and boost their social status, the “it’s so big, is it going to fit?” line when they have sex for the first time (I know, what a face smacker, so cringey), but at the same time…its a freakin’ romance story. What do you expect? It’s like someone going to see a Godzilla movie expecting it to have a good plot. Um….no, you go to see it for awesome, badass, explosive scenes with a barely there plot to tie it all together because thats just the reality.

Conclusion:

Overall, it was perhaps one of the better romance stories that I’ve read, purely for the snarkiness of the characters, the overall humor, and the chemistry that I saw between Hannah and Garrett. Is it perfect? Oh god, absolutely not, but it’s fiction, not real life, so keep the two separate, you’ll be happier about it and get more out of the books that you read. Anyone who loves a good fake relationship story arc will adore this title, and probably the rest of the series too!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell