New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: The Risk (Briar-U #2): by Elle Kennedy

Publication Date: February 18th, 2019
Number of Pages: 432 Pages
Publisher: Elle Kennedy, Inc.
Genre(s): New Adult Romance

***Warning! This review may contain spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

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

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

A kiss, at its very core, is an emotional experience. Or at least it is for me. Anyone can give me an orgasm, but not everyone can touch my soul. One kiss can make me fall in love with someone.”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Risk”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

A sexy standalone novel from New York Times and international bestselling author Elle Kennedy. THE RISK takes you back to the world of hot hockey players, feisty heroines, bro banter, and steamy scenes…

Everyone says I’m a bad girl. They’re only partly right—I don’t let fear rule me, and I certainly don’t care what people think. But I draw the line at sleeping with the enemy. As the daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, I’d be vilified if I hooked up with a player from a rival team.

And that’s who Jake Connelly is. Harvard’s star forward is arrogant, annoying, and too attractive for his own good. But fate is cruel—I require his help to secure a much-coveted internship, and the sexy jerk isn’t making it easy for me.

I need Connelly to be my fake boyfriend.

For every fake date…he wants a real one.

Which means this bad girl is in big trouble. Nothing good can come from sneaking around with Jake Connelly. My father would kill me, my friends will revolt, and my post-college career is on the line. But while it’s getting harder and harder to resist Jake’s oozing sex appeal and cocky grin, I refuse to fall for him.

That’s the one risk I’m not willing to take.

~~~

Once again my love for fictional college hockey players in books written by Elle Kennedy is lit up like a spark on the Fourth of July because this book was another absolute hit for me!

I tend to switch back and forth between the Romance and Fantasy genres, hopefully both having a little steam to them too, but when I get done with a Fantasy book or series that’s so rich in worldbuilding, an intricately laced together plot, and lots of emotionally driven angst from both the characters and me as I’m reading it, switching from that to a lighter toned, easy read like these books are such a relaxing change of pace for me. they’re the kind of book I can enjoy at the beach now that the summer months are upon us where I’m located as I’m typing this, and they’re easier to put down and come back to several times in a day if needed. They don’t require my full attention in order to fully grasp everything, and that is seriously such a great thing all in it’s own! I certainly appreciate books like that just as much as my thicker and heavier and darker themed Fantasy books too.

Back to this story, this was another Elle Kennedy college romance story that I absolutely devoured, and was a title I enjoyed even more than the previous one! I really enjoyed the pace of it better, I think I related even more to the characters and the issues they faced this time around, and the romance was once again scorching and I couldn’t get enough of it!

This story revolved around Brenna Jensen, who is the daughter of the head coach for the Men’s Hockey Team at the fictional Briar University. She’s got an edge to her with confidence to spare, a mouth that has no qualms about telling someone off when it’s needed, and doesn’t follow orders very well. Hockey has always been in her life and is also one of her big passions that she wants to pursue in her own way.

Next there’s Jake Connelly, whose the captain of the Hockey team at Harvard, who also happens to be one of Briar U’s biggest rivals. He’s a senior who also already has a contract pretty much set up for the NHL once he graduates, so he takes his position very seriously. He plans to have his team go all the way and win the frozen four, and will do whatever it takes to make sure him and none of his teammates get distracted, least of all by girls on the side of the enemy who flirt with his teammates and is possibly gathering intel.

Brenna wants to become a sports broadcaster and has an interview for an internship that is an incredibly opportunity that could also really open some doors for her down the road. Unfortunately, her interviewer and possible future boss is a gigantic sexist pig who already questions her on how a woman has a place in the sports industry, like how much knowledge would a female have about Hockey anyway, right? Brenna does her best to not slap the bejeezus out of him and stay professional, because again this is the opportunity of a lifetime for her, but her hopes and dreams are starting to disappear until the guy admits he’s got his eye on a particular incoming rookie to the NHL, a particular captain of the Harvard hockey team named Jake Connelly. Since they’ve already been talking—well, he’s been warning her to stop distracting his teammates, not that she was really going to listen to him—and hatched a plan to put her even further into that door and lies that Jake and her are a couple and can have them meet! From there, the fake dating and enemies-to-lovers romance tropes commence!

Jake and Brenna quickly became one of my favorite couples that Elle Kennedy created for her books, and I can say I felt the sparks between them even back when they first met back in the previous book. Neither of them wanted to admit it, or maybe weren’t even aware of it at the time, but there was instantly something there! I loved their chemistry, and was a little surprised at how there were some reviews on Goodreads that said the opposite! Not to knock them or their opinion that doesn’t match mine, but you know that strange feeling you get when you feel so strong about something but someone has the complete opposite thought about it than you and you just can’t comprehend it? Well, to be fair, it almost felt like there was the possibility of setting Brenna up with Hollis, one of the Briar-U players who’s also a total comedic relief, but I liked her and Jake much better!

I am honestly starting to question evolution. We went from cavemen, to homo sapiens, to this incredible society of great minds—Alexander Graham Bell inventing telephones, Steve Jobs inventing…everything. And now we’re devolving. We’ve travelled back to cavemen, only nowadays we call them fuckboys.”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Risk”

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance Tropes! We’ve got fake dating, we’ve got unlikely allies, we’ve got sleeping with the enemy, forbidden love, and it all just makes this story so much fun to read!
  2. More Smut Than The Previous Book! Yes, The Chase was such a slow-burn with that you don’t get as many sexy scenes as you’d probably like, but this book had a lot more that might make a lot of fans of the author’s books happier in that regards. Brenna and Jake had some really good chemistry in my opinion, and the whole “sleeping with the enemy,” forbidden-ness of them being together certainly added some flair to the mix. These two were smoldering towards each other ever since they ran into each other in the first book, and it was only a matter of time before something erupted between them!
  3. The Comedy and the Banter! I mean, I think I point this factor out with literally every Elle Kennedy book review I’ve done by this point, but it’s seriously such a highlight for me everytime I open one of her books! The back-and-forths her characters have always have me chuckling on the side and also making me believe in the credibility in the romance between them. And Elle Kennedy also always has some running joke that continues throughout each book; this time it’s the….interesting relationship between Hollis and an incredibly extra freshman, Rupi. I didn’t hate their side relationship to the story, and it certainly made me laugh a few times, but it was a lot all at the same time.
  4. The Realistic Issues! The outer issues the characters face in the Briar-U series are so much better done and much more realistic than the ones in the Off-Campus series! Not that I didn’t love some of the drama back then, but I can admit that sometimes it got a little over the top. Once again Elle Kennedy tackles a heavier subject matter that a lot of women of all ages face: misogyny in the workplace. Brenna’s goal is to get an internship for her sports broadcasting dream career, but her boss is such a narrow minded prick when it comes to women and their roles in society, like part of me couldn’t even fathom that women all over actually get treated this way! This book also deals with the guilt one feels after a traumatic past experience that haunts them even years later, AKA survivors guilt. People make bad decisions all the time, and just because you love—or loved—someone at the time when they were making those bad life choices in no way should reflect upon you no matter what you may tell yourself. It’s an actual thing, and many people have probably suffered this in their lives over something, and I thought it was an inner issue that was handled well in this book, and sheds a light on a condition that honestly doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition but like I said, a lot of people have probably experienced it at some point in their lives and haven’t addressed about it as much as they’d have liked. The strained relationship between Brenna and her father was also another issue that was a great addition to the story, and the development of it throughout this story is something to take note of!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Jake’s Childhood Friend, Hazel…I just didn’t see much of a need to include her in the story to be honest. I thought there was a strange amount of emphasis put upon her when she came into the story, and part of me thought it meant that she was going to be a future love interest and/or main character for one of the future books. Luckily for me, that’s not the case, but all in all I just didn’t really care much for her addition to the story. I felt like she just added unnecessary conflict to the plot that could’ve done just as well without her.

Conclusion:

Yet another fun, hilarious, and sexy novel written by one of my favorite New Adult Romance authors, The Risk has everything you love about her books for those who are familiar with her work, but also is easy enough to jump into for those who are newer and just starting out with her as well!

These books are just such a nice change of pace sometimes from the darker and heavier themes I read in a lot of my Fantasy genre books, I’d just finished The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout as I’m typing this, and while I absolutely adored it, I have to admit I need a little space from Fantasy for at least like three books. I think I actually need a recovery from a book, and that is such a strange feeling for me!

Elle Kennedy’s college romance books are just lighter, easier, and remarkable in a way that’s way different from those other books, but I love them all the same and appreciate them in my life! For those who also read these, Hunter Davenport is the star of the next book in this series, and with his story arc so far in these books, it’ll certainly be interesting to see him center-stage and (of course) get his own little HEA.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, New Adult Romance

My Review: Him (Him #1): by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Publish Date: August 2nd, 2015
Number of pages: 360 pages
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, LGBTQ+ (M/M)

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

This was something that everyone can enjoy; a simple feel good story! I enjoyed this title, which was the story of two friends reuniting and discovering that sometimes it’s worth testing those bonds and moving into a deeper and more romantic territory. I know the subject matter isn’t for everyone: an LGBTQ+ love story (M/M specifically), and it being revolved around sports (Hockey specifically), but anyone who can enjoy a love story with two great characters that have such great chemistry and obviously just belong together, this is a title to look into!

The two MC’s complemented each other quite well, in my opinion, and were easy to get behind and support, and were overall just a delight to read! I especially enjoyed the self discovery that one character went through in order to accept himself and how things happen in the story. It wasn’t as angsty as other books have been, which is different, but not an all that bad choice. It still felt genuine and natural with the turnout still being oh so satisfying.

This is only part 1 of a duology, but I still felt that it stood as a standalone with how things turned out in the end. There were still some things left up in the air and had a few easter eggs of what was to come, but the ending is heartwarming nonetheless!

What It’s About:

Our mouths fit together so perfectly. Everytime we kiss, I fall even more in love with him, and it has nothing to do with sex or lust. It’s him. His closeness and his scent and the way he soothes me.

– Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, “Him”

This story stars two college hockey players, Jamie Canning and Ryan Wesley. They’re total opposites; Jamie’s the golden boy from California with laid back, lazy good looks while Ryan’s demeanor is tattoos, piercings, and smart-ass remarks that tries to hide his disdain for his east coast aristocratic background. They met at a sleepaway hockey camp when they were 13, and had become friends over the years until the summer they turned 18. The final night of camp, something happened, and they became cut off from each other. Alcohol and a stupid bet got involved, and then eventually confusion and regret.

Years later as they’re about to graduate college, Ryan and Jamie run into each other again at the Frozen Four finals in college Hockey, and all the memories and anxiety come rushing back to the surface as they come face to face once again. Ryan is now out and proud, at least to his teammates and coaching staff (his parents know too, but thats a different story), and always regretted how far things went that last night at camp years ago with Jamie. He honestly never thought he’d get the chance to try and make amends, but he does, but the lingering feelings he had for his straight friend come back stronger than ever.

Jamie has always been frustrated at the situation at that final night years prior, mainly for never getting a response or any sort of answers. Fate ends up giving them a second chance, and they wind up being coaches and roommates at the very same camp where they met, years later for the summer after graduation.

It will be there that they reconnect, and Jamie gets some answers, but new ones rise up along the way, including one about the kind of person he is…

What I Liked:

  1. It’s A Sports M/M Romance! It’s becoming a favorite romance-genre niche of mine, but I’ve figured it’s because jocks are my personal preference in a potential lover. This story is definitely one of the best ones I’d read within this specific genre, but even someone who’s not into sports can enjoy it; it never gets too wordy on the mechanics of hockey, so no worries there!
  2. The Hot Sex Scenes! For fans of smut (like myself, no shame…) there’s plenty of steamy scenes between the MC’s to fog up the windows, hand against the glass and slides down and all that… I can only shrug and laugh at this one honestly! While hot, it was also fun to read Ryan and Jamie’s connection and see how vulnerable they get with each other as they peel away layers and become their true selves with each other and develop deeper feelings.
  3. The MC’s Are Both Incredibly Likeable! Both Jamie and Ryan are great main characters to follow as you read their story. The story switched back and forth between their point of views, and it worked fairly well; it was easy to distinguish between their two voices, they have some great qualities to make them great MC’s for the story to revolve around.
  4. Ryan’s Unrequited Love Story-Arc! What I mean by this is that Ryan has known he’s gay for a long time, and he also knew he was in love with Jamie since when they first met, even when Jamie still considered himself straight. Part of Ryan always thought it’d never work out; that he was absolutely pathetic for being in love with his straight friend who’d never return those feelings. I loved it later when they start to be together and Ryan would step back and remember all those sad thoughts, but then gaze at Jamie when he thought he wouldn’t notice, wondering how he got so lucky after all. It was such sweet and tender moments in the story, it gave the hopeless romantic in me the major feels!
  5. There’s Plenty of Humor! Just what I expected with Elle Kennedy, but there were plenty of hilarious moments in the story! I won’t give too much away, but some of it does involve coming out to parents and siblings through a Facebook group chat, a condom-couch, and two jocks trying to hook up in the back of a (really) small car!

Loved you every summer since I was thirteen years old. Love you even more now.”

– Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy, “Him”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Dialogue Can Be Juvenile…Elle Kennedy is so great with hilarious and witty dialogue between her MC’s in her romance titles, and this one doesn’t fall below that expectation, but I can say at some points in the story that it gets a little eye-roll worthy…BUT try to remember that while these guys are gay, they are also 22 year old athletes/jocks and have grown up around that locker room talk between the bro’s and the guys and all that; jocks are just kind of like that! I can attest to it; it wasn’t far off from what I’ve heard in a high school locker room while prepping for Football Games under those Friday night lights. The two authors get it pretty spot on and really, it doesn’t really mean anything; it’s pretty innocent. Luckily, things get much better when it’s just the two of them.
  2. There’s One Homophobic Character…So maybe a trigger warning, but there is a part of the story where the two MC’s have to deal with an older homophobic minor character. I kind of saw it coming; the setting for most of the story is a small lake-town (the kind midwesterners go visit whenever they spend a weekend at the cabin), so storyline-wise it was bound to happen, especially amongst a bunch of men playing a sport where homosexuality is still a sensitive subject depending who you talk to. It’s still such a bummer that similar situations still happen like that in real life, that two men who have feelings for each other can’t even hold hands for fear of judgment or persecution from other people’s ignorance and inability towards acceptance…Hopefully we’ll evolve past that someday… Luckily, I can happily add that not all the adults/coaches/parents/PR agents are like that in the story, and I give Coach Pat a huge shoutout!

Conclusion:

A definite feel good, low angst, New Adult M/M sports romance that anyone who’s looking for some more LGBTQ+ titles can enjoy! Like other titles I’ve read by Elle Kennedy, it’s filled with witty banter, funny and relatable characters, steamy love scenes, and heartwarming fluff on top of it all. It was harder than I thought it would be to get my hands on this book, but it was worth the battle; it’s a definite shelf-keeper for me!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell