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

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, New Adult Romance

My Review: Good Boy (WAGS #1): Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Publish Date: December 28th, 2016

Number of Pages: 282 Pages

Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Genre(s): Romance, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

If you’ve been following my reviews as they release on my website, you should definitely know by now that if Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen write and publish a book together, I’m going to want to read it! They just create amazing work whenever a cover shares their names. In case no one has read anything by them yet, here’s a list of what their works usually include:

  1. College Hockey Players
  2. Sassy and/or Quirky Heroines
  3. Hilariously Witty Dialogue
  4. Equal Amounts of Fluff and Steam
  5. Running Jokes That Always Have a Humourous Conclusion
  6. Adorable Romance

There’s plenty more to add to that list, but that pretty much sums it up. They write such amazing New Adult (NA) Romance books; they have great storylines and relatable characters that go through daily struggles, who don’t don’t simply fit a typical stereotype, or are held back by past traumas that are realistic; I just wish I could learn how the two authors co-write their stories. They’re usually told through dual point of views with the two main characters who are love interests. Do they stick to one character each, or do they just share a single doc and tag each other in? I’d love to find out their method of how they get it done!

Before I go deeper into my thoughts about this story, I feel like I should mention that this book is actually the start of a spinoff series that branches off from the authors other duology that I loved: Him and Us. To be fair, this book is just as enjoyable if you haven’t read those before this, but you do meet both the main characters of Good Boy in these books first, and you do get some context into the relationship between Blake and Jess, so I guess I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you feel like you need to start from the very beginning!

To see my review of Him – Click HERE

To see my review of Us – Click HERE

Personally, I was RELIEVED that Blake was much more bearable in this book compared to Us… He’s still somewhat obnoxious and makes (somewhat) terrible nicknames and phrases, PLUS he kept interrupting sexy time between Wes and Jamie when they hadn’t seen each other in forever, so that rubbed me the wrong way…. no pun intended with that. Luckily, Blake grows on you and becomes much easier to deal with in this book if you weren’t a fan of him in the last book like I was.

As far as this story goes, expect all that you would if you HAVE read their books before with the content, but I don’t think this tale will be anyone’s favorite of these author’s works. It’s not to say this isn’t a good book—it is!—but there wasn’t really anything to make this stand out amongst the other titles of there’s. I think the humor is still there, but I can understand that it may be a bit reaching, and won’t be for everyone. I don’t want to say it’s slapstick humor—I’m sorry, I had to add that in here somewhere—but the humor does still have it’s moments.

I felt like both characters really did have relatable issues, both external and internal, that seemed like real-world issues just about anyone could have to deal with. You definitely also see the two love interests grow throughout the story as their relationship grows with them, and I also really liked their chemistry. There was a subtle hint in the Him duology of the two main characters here had something go down off-screen, or page I guess in this case, so I’m glad I caught that and I was right! I’m getting better at catching small things in every book I read now a days *humblebrag*

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Hosting her brother’s wedding for an MVP guest list is the challenge of Jess Canning’s life. Already the family screw-up, she can’t afford to fail. And nobody – absolutely nobody! – can learn of the colossal mistake she made with the best man during a weak moment last spring. It was wrong, and there will not be a repeat. Absolutely not. Even if he is the sexiest thing on two legs.

Blake Riley sees the wedding as fate’s gift to him. Jess is the maid of honor, and he’s the best man? Let the games begin. So what if he’s facing a little (fine, a lot) of resistance? He just needs to convince the stubborn blonde that he’s really a good boy with a bad rap. Luckily, every professional hockey player knows that you’ve got to make an effort if you want to score.

But Jess has more pressing issues to deal with than sexy-times with a giant man-child. Such as: Will the ceremony start on time, even though someone got grandma drunk? Does glitter ever belong at a wedding? And is it wrong to murder the best man?

Caution: May cause accidental aspiration of tea or coffee. Do not read in a public place where loud laughter is inappropriate. Contains hot but hilarious hockey players, puppy cuddling and a snarky pair of underwear. 

What I Liked:

  1. Even though It’s a Spinoff, It’s Still Enjoyable for New Readers! This story actually continues past the duology I mentioned above, and while there are some instances where there is some context drawn from them too, I say this book is still able to be read if you haven’t read those books! I definitely think you should read them because they’re amazing, but it’s not absolutely necessary for this book!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Blake Riley’s Cheesy Lines…While his charm took awhile to grow on me, and him and Jess together are amazing, he still has his weird nicknames that he makes up and catchphrases that he thinks are so hilarious and witty… They aren’t actually all that terrible, but I did find myself rolling my eyes quite a bit, and not in a good way at all…

Conclusion:

Another greatly written NA Romance involving Hockey players from Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy; it has just about everything you’d love from anything written by them if you’ve gotten your hands on any of their other titles. While that is true, it’s honestly not their most memorable work, and nothing about it really stuck out to me like their other titles.

Fear not though… If this is what I consider to be their weakest book yet, that in no means makes this not something to check out, because it’s still a sweet, sexy romance that’s still probably a lot better than quite a few of the other titles out there.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

graphic novel, LGBT, New Adult Romance, YA Contemporary Fiction, YA romance

My Review: Check, Please! Book 2: Sticks and Scones (Check Please #3-4): by Ngozi Ukazu

Publication Date: April 7th, 2020
Number of Pages: 352 Pages
Publisher: First Second
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, YA Romance, LGBT

***Warning! This book review contains spoilers from the previous book, continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of Book #1- Check, Please! Vol. #1 – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

A fair warning is needed for anyone who’s about to start this next installment in the Check, Please! story: expect some tears. Expect tears both sad and happy to flow down those cheeks of yours because of how touching, how tender, how pure of a storyline this has come to be and just about everything else about it, but also because it’s coming to a close.

I was someone who’d discovered this story when the hardcover Vol. 1 came into the bookstore where I work one day, and I immediately fell in love with the cover and decided to give it a chance, then discovered something to truly fangirl over and completely stan.

The characters!

The banter!

The found family dynamic!

The coming of age tale!

The LGBT representation!

The slow burn romance!

All of it was just about perfect in my eyes, and these books were the YA LGBT graphic novel I wish I had growing up, or even just going through college myself. It makes me so happy to see so many more LGBTQ+ stories and books coming out for the younger readers that desperately need them in order to feel heard and understood.

After finishing the first book, I never really followed the webcomics posted (the original source of this whole story), and told myself to wait until this sequel was to be released in hardcover format almost a whole year later. Why, you may ask?…I’m not sure, but the best way for me to describe it is how I can’t watch a show by only viewing the one episode a week now. Netflix ruined that for me, and I’d rather just wait for it all to be released as a complete set rather than torture myself waiting to see what happens next with the little bit I’m given every week, if that makes sense? It’s all or nothing for me!

So fast forward, and it’s finally the time I can read this next volume, which contains main protagonist Eric “Bitty” Bittle’s Junior and Senior year of college. It felt like a reunion to get to go further into the story and see what happens after the VERY cliffhanger of that kiss him and Jack shared the day of Jack’s graduation! It was a whirlwind of past and present bunched together as we move forward in the story, but also are given lots of flashbacks to small scenes that happened before the start of book #2. It was a little jarring at first, but once the school year started, it was smooth sailing from there on. You’re reunited with a lot of familiar faces, and are also given a crop of new characters with the new incoming freshmen joining the team and Lardo trying to find her replacement once she graduates.

The bigger change in this book is Eric Bittle’s handling of his sexuality with his family, and I mean his biological family (I.E: his mom and dad). It has some heavier moments, but still keeps the usual lighter tone and mood of the whole series throughout, and leaves you with a sense of hope that our actual lives can turn out alright too.

There were a few issues I did have with the story this time around, which was odd for me considering I didn’t really have much if any from the previous book. One of which was the handling of a certain storyline involving Bitty and a newer face, Whiskey. I’ll go further into details with that below, but despite any issues I had, I still tremendously loved this book and was so happy with how it all ended: Where Jack goes, where Bitty goes, where their relationship goes, where everyone else goes, and just pretty much everything that happens.

Reading something like this can seriously help someone who’s struggling feel less alone in this world. It goes over so many issues that people around that age deal with: the anxiety, the pressure, the relationships, high expectations both set on yourself and others, love, thinking about your future, independence, leadership, and of course the joys and pains of coming to terms with your sexuality if you’re queer. Even if you’re not a hockey fan—or any sports in general—I feel like anyone who’s looking for a story like this one can enjoy it!

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Bitty is heading to junior year of college and though he has overcome his fear of getting ‘checked’ on the ice, he and Jack now face new challenges. They must navigate their new relationship while being apart, and also decide how they want to reveal their relationship to those around them. Not only that, but Jack and the Falconers are now a big part of the NHL–and Bitty’s life! It’s a hockey season filled with victories and losses.

A collection of the second half of the mega-popular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones is the last in a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

What I Liked:

  1. It Truly Makes You Laugh & Cry While Reading! I’m not someone who gets overly emotional whenever I read something. I can get incredibly emotionally invested in some things, sure, but that’s different. I can 100% full honesty, full disclosure admit that I both laughed out loud and actually teared up when I was reading this. If something can evoke so much emotion from a reader, that only proves that it’s something worth checking out!
  2. There’s Great Closure! Lately over the last couple years, a lot of series for me have come to an end, and I’m always so deeply disappointed when I feel like something didn’t end well. The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, Game of Thrones, the IT movies just to name a few…but it seems like a lot of these popular books/movies/tv shows just can’t end on a perfect high note when the series itself was so spectacular through the journey. Check, Please! was thankfully not something I needed to add to my list of disappointing endings because the author actually did a great job of tying up all her loose ends, had the right endings for each of her characters, and it all just came together almost perfectly. Anyone who’s already a fan of the story will adore it!
  3. Bitty’s Development! Eric Bittle, or “Bitty” has really come into his own through the series. He’s become more confident in himself and his abilities on and off the ice, his relationship with Jack, his coming to terms with being gay, and to him all of a sudden being a senior on the team and is thrust into a position of leadership amongst the other players. I saw a bit of myself in Bitty sometimes along his journey, what with his whole self discovery and coming out in college amongst all his friends. He was a great protagonist to follow throughout the four years that they totally called it: they go quicker than you think!
  4. It Reveals Realistic Coming-of-Age Issues! I’d kind of mentioned it above, but this book tackles so many issues that really resonated with me, and I feel like relate to a lot of people around my age: anxiety, depression, acceptance, financial woes, fear and uncertainty of what comes after college and the future in general, coming out, friendships, first love…there’s plenty more, but if that doesn’t convince you, what will? Each issue is addressed and handled incredibly well; I’d almost even say there doesn’t even need to be a trigger warning for any of it because the book keeps its lighter tone throughout.
  5. The Found Family Trope! I’m such a sucker for the story arc of a group of diverse people coming together because of a certain cause or similar interest, and how they get closer over time and learn so much about each other…and eventually notice certain faults each person may carry, but loves them anyways! They support each other, they love to be around each other, and always enjoy each other’s company. The group also grows as more people join in over the years and the bond just continues to keep growing while they never lose touch of that original base that the group dynamic was founded on…I just love found/chosen family story tropes, they get me every time!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Too Many Flashbacks In The Beginning. The book starts off with many flashback scenes of certain things said or certain events that happened before the start of the book, all the while being mentioned or referenced in current time. I found this to be a little jarring, disorientating, and a confusing way to start for a graphic novel. Mainly, I think I just got a little overwhelmed and couldn’t tell what was past and present; maybe if the flashbacks had a certain difference in color tone or grading to make it visually less confusing, that would’ve been helpful!
  2. The Issue with the Player, Whiskey! Whiskey is a newer character introduced in this book, and he’s introduced as Bitty is talking about him to Jack over the phone, saying that the guy seems to want nothing to do with him and he has no idea why (kind of like how Jack first treated him tbh, but at least that got better). There’s a scene that happens at a college party, and then it’s entirely left alone until close to the end of the book when Bitty and Whiskey finally address it. To be honest, this whole storyline irked me a little bit! It never really fully gets addressed and felt like it’d gotten shafted under everything else going on, and even the final confrontation left a lot to be desired in terms of how is this going to be handled moving forward…Plus, it showed Whiskey’s character to not be in the greatest light, and I’d just hoped for more to come out of this whole storyline…

Conclusion:

It’s always sad when something comes to an end, and Check, Please! is no different than any other book, tv show, or movie that you adored and suddenly it’s over. What’s the hardest part is that hangover-like feeling of being lost and wondering to yourself: What now? Do you wallow and mope about how it’s over and worry if you’ll ever find something to love as much as you loved that story? Or, do you get excited at the anticipation of that hunt to find that next thing to obsess over? I guess it depends on the specific reader…

A truly great conclusion to an incredibly uplifting, joyful story of a little queer baker/figure skater/vlogger who turns into a hockey player, overcomes his fears, and finds true happiness with those he ties up his skates next to on the bench and shares the ice with. So many feels…but just what an amazing series! Can’t recommend enough!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Us (Him #2): by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Publish Date: March 8th, 2016
Number of Pages: 322 Pages
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Genre(s): New Adult Romance

***Warning!! This book review contains spoilers from the previous book in this duology, read on at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review for book #1 – Him – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Love is friendship set on fire.”

– Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy, “Us”

I absolutely adored the first book, Him, by these two amazing authors! They’re my go-to writers for anyone who’s looking for a funny, raunchy, well written, and overall entertaining contemporary new adult romance series to get into! Looking at a few reviews of this sequel, I was curious why some people were hesitant to start it…I mean, the first book could totally work as a standalone with how it ended, but if people loved it so much, wouldn’t they want to keep seeing what happens next? Sure, some people brought up the cash cow argument, and I can understand that argument, but kept an open mind as I’d opened this book and got back into the world of Ryan Wesley and Jamie Canning.

Overall, I wasn’t disappointed in this book and enjoyed it immensely! It had all the characteristics of what I’d enjoyed so much about the first book besides the obvious “second chance” and “friends to lovers” romance tropes. If anything, this sequel showed an incredibly realistic portrayal of the struggle of finding ones place in the world as the newly emerged adult group aged 18-25. The struggles of finding that dream job, financial worries, even still the coming to terms of one’s sexuality and their first serious relationship. The relationship is explored and shows how both people need to work in order to make the relationship work past its initial honeymoon phase.

While I enjoyed this book a lot, I can say I just didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book too. I felt like Him would’ve been just fine as a standalone novel, and despite the relatable issues the characters dealt with in this title, I felt like maybe this book was a way for the authors to possibly bridge into another project of theirs, and I’ll go more into that later on in this review. The main thing I dislike the most about this book was the issue of the lack of communication between Jamie and Wes, but it wasn’t for the same reasons I usually dislike that conflict.

There also was a big emphasis on a fictional lamb disease that was treated similarly to the bird flu and even the 2020 COVID-19 situation, but on a much smaller scale. I was scratching my head about this plot point, mainly because it really makes a bigger presence in the story than I thought it needed to, and with how the world is right now with the novel virus, I was hoping for less and less focus on this sort of issue…

There were a great amount of side characters, a lot more this time around than in Him which is great! The main characters had more people to really interact with that were around their age and for us to get to know and fall for too! Blake in particular is an acquired taste, and is a lot to take in at first, but he does eventually grow on you.

I would argue that this next title is actually a stronger novel than the previous book, but maybe because of it being too realistic with the real world issues, it’d diluted the entertaining factor and was less “fun” I think. That, along with repetitive issues we thought were solved in the first book, and with my thought on it being a bridge into more future projects amongst these authors, maybe that’s what people didn’t like as much this time around.

Despite all that, It’s still an incredibly well written continuation of an amazing queer love story!

What It’s About:

Book #2 has us brought back into Wes and Jamie Canning’s world five months after they reunited at the end of Book one. They’ve confessed their love for each other, they’ve moved in together into their apartment in Toronto, Jamie introduced Wes to his family, and Wes started his rookie season in the NHL and is absolutely KILLING it on the ice!

Everything seems perfect for the two childhood best friends-turned boyfriends in love, except for how they have to keep their whole relationship a secret…there’s never been an openly gay player in the NHL, and who knows how it’ll go if a rookie were to come out of the closet and cause a media field day. While it isn’t the greatest set up, Jamie and Wes both agree to wait with the news until his first season is over and their schedules aren’t both so hectic. It starts off easy enough, but soon the secret becomes a much bigger burden to carry on their shoulders.

Jamie’s job isn’t exactly what he signed up for either, and the hiding really takes a toll on him especially, but at least when it’s just him and Wes in their apartment, everything goes back to euphoric bliss and they can just be themselves…at least, until Wes’s noisy teammate moves in upstairs and pops up at their door without any warning!

The world seems to want to keep them apart, and is constantly throwing just about everything it can between the two of them, so can they overcome it all? Their relationship will definitely be put to the test…

What I Liked:

  1. The Hint of More to Come! What I mean by this is there is a spinoff book series that gets going that I definitely saw coming after a few interactions between two secondary characters: Wes’s teammate, Blake, and Jamie’s sister, Jess. There’s a few moments between them that had me guessing, but then they both disappear for awhile, and part of me wondered what’s going on there…turns out, plans for them to start a spinoff were happening! The first book is called Good Boy, and based off some other characters, there’s a slew of stories coming our way for the WAGS series these authors have going for us!
  2. What Comes after the HEA! We all know the first book could actually totally be a standalone with how much of a Happily Ever After we get with Wes and Jamie! This book showed us what goes on after that moment, after the honeymoon phase, and how a relationship needs work in order to survive. Both guys try to do so much to make each other happy, and both realize how hard the real world can be, even for a pro hockey player. I thought the idea of them trying different things and trying to work at their relationship was an intriguing and realistic portrayal that anyone in the New Adult age range can relate with, queer or straight.
  3. Just as Sexy as Book #1! While there’s plenty of fluff to melt out hearts with the soft and tender confessions of the heart from both male main characters, BUT there is plenty of raunchiness and sexiness in this book that smut lovers can also appreciate.
  4. Great Secondary Characters! There were actually quite a bit of fun side characters that added to this sequel, and more people closer to Wes and Jamie’s age than the coaching staff at the camp, and the teenage players they coach. There’s Blake, Wes’s teammate who moves into their apartment complex (I go more into him below), there’s Jess Canning who is always finding some new business venture to try out, and there’s Wes’s other teammates who tease him for his bright green dress shirt. They added a lot to the story, and I can see some of them starring in the spinoff WAGS series I’d mentioned above too!
  5. Jamie Canning’s Struggle! Wes was kind of the star of the first book for me, so I’m glad it got switched over to Jamie for book #2. Let me also make it clear that I’m not happy about Jamie’s suffering in this story—I’m not really a sadist, masochist or whatever term you say—but more with how it was handled and the issues that were brought up. I get Jamie’s growing frustration with him and Wes having to keep their relationship under wraps. With it was a growing fear of losing each other, and whether they’ll be able to overcome all the adversity, and some of the communication issues with that. A lot of people struggle with talking about that emotion: fear. Those fears turned to doubt on both the situation and themselves: Do I sound unreasonable?…Am I being selfish?…Is it worth bringing it up?…Am I asking too much?…Do I love the person enough to put them through this?…Do they love me enough to stick by me not matter what? Both guys ask themselves these questions, and both are terrified of ending up having their hearts broken in the end, and adding the fact that they hardly see each other as much as they’d like, neither guy wants to bring up these heavy topics with the time they are allowed, and thats totally valid and a realistic worry we all can relate to. These communication issues I can get behind…
  6. Jamie’s Mom! The woman continues to be a total saint who doesn’t change this time around in the net book, and continues to be a great mom for both Jamie and Wes, especially for Wes since his parents are pretty much MIA and have left him behind to rot.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Repetitive Lack of Communication…Now, I usually get annoyed by this being a big issue in ANY romance novel, which is ironic because I know I am someone who is terrible at communicating my feelings. I am such a moody bitch sometimes, and will do the passive aggressive act with the silence or the “I’m fine.” line—I can’t help it, it’s a character flaw of mine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t lie awake at night kicking myself for it—and for a m/m romance I can see why it’s an actual plot point. Speaking as a guy myself, I can say that guys are not the greatest when it comes to sitting down and communicating that stuff…it’s just the way we’re programed, and I’m not trying to make this a toxic masculinity thing; it’s just not all guys like talking about that stuff, even if they’re queer. Not all girls like to either, so don’t get at me! The issue I have with the communication issues in this book in particular are because we’ve already dealt with the same issue in the previous book. They’d already gone through it, so I’d hoped they’d learned their lesson this time around…yeah, not so much I guess.
  2. Blake’s Immaturity…I like Blake; he really grows on you. At first, he’s pretty obnoxious and does the text lingo in his dialogue and gives people lame nicknames (example: Jamie is “J-Bomb“… #lame) Plus, he’s yet another obstacle that gets in the way of Jamie and Wes’s happiness, so that alone instantly makes you annoyed with the guy. Like I said, he grows on you, but it takes a while for that to happen.
  3. The Use of Illness and Medications for the Plot…Maybe it’s because as I’m typing this, America is in a pandemic with COVID-19 and I’ve been in the whole isolation and #socialdistancing, but this whole part of the story didn’t resonate all that well with me, and also just became a bigger thing than I thought it needed to be. I understand the whole thing that happened with Jamie and his meds, it’s happened to me in the past and is an actual side effect for certain people and medications they’re prescribed, but it felt like the whole thing could’ve been handled differently to make it better for the story.

Conclusion:

A good sequel to an iconic LGBTQ+ m/m sports romance, but not as strong as its predecessor; I still enjoyed the real world struggles Jamie and and Wes faced not only with themselves, but also their relationship and the steps they both needed to take in order to keep their relationship still working past the HEA. It felt incredibly realistic and is completely relatable to anyone who’s close to their age and trying to find out where they exactly belong in the world today as a new adult. The issues they both face are great examples of the emerging genre between Adult and YA, and prove it can be more than just the angsty romance that has filled a lot of the genre itself.

While showing more of Jamie and Wes’s relationship, it also lays some easter eggs for the next project the authors are working on, which is a WAGS series that most likely will star the notable side characters you meet in this book as well, which just means us readers can remain in this world of queer hockey players, and the romance on and off the ice!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell