NB. Overview review of Off-Campus series – contains minor spoilers.
The Deal, The Mistake, The Score and The Goal follow four (male) college ice hockey players as they find their Happy Ever Afters. Don’t be put off by the ice hockey storyline – as a Brit I know absolutely nothing about ice hockey and am totally disinterested in most sports – but Elle doesn’t overdo it with the sport descriptions and I even learnt something. The extremely appealing fit, sexy, male bodies the sport gives them is also a definite win.
These are laugh out loud funny in places but also sweet and poignant. As far as I’m concerned, a romance is not a romance without sex scenes and Elle definitely delivers here. Also, I’ve read (or attempted to read) too many badly or not-at-all edited self-published novels. Elle’s done these properly; they’re well-structured, slick from good editing and have great covers.
Each book is charmingly unique given they all have the same underlying structure – ice hockey stud meets his match that makes the faithful life win out over multiple hook ups. The POV alternates between male and female so you have great insight into both sides of the story. It would have been very easy for all four men to have come across as slightly different versions of the same person but each have their own goals and motivation with solid character differences. Their other halves are also feisty and have a credible depth and breadth. I genuinely cannot pick a favourite couple from this selection; they’re all wonderfully appealing. If pushed, I’d say Tucker’s story was my least favourite but that’s only because he really does seem just a little too perfect and he puts up with a lot of shit from Sabrina that would’ve made most men walk away. Dean’s story is probably the most satisfying because he was the biggest player.
Apart from the above, the thing that’s kept me returning to these books several times throughout the last year, though, is the realism. And it’s done in such a way that it adds to the story rather than detracts from it. Adulthood isn’t one big party, sadly, shit things happen and actions have consequences. The best bit of realism is the incredibly believable male characters but also the fact that Hannah didn’t get her courtroom victory and Logan didn’t make the main team straight out of college. Every girl likes to think she can tame a rake, as it were, but I’ve seen this done so unconvincingly in too many romance novels that it’s captivating when it’s done right. These guys like to fuck, swear, play jokes on each other, fantasise about each other’s girlfriends, are cocky and competitive and are utterly devoted to their sport. When you’re a college sport stud, with women constantly throwing themselves at you due to your celebrity status (these women are affectionately known as puck bunnies in ice hockey, it turns out,) it takes a lot to give that up, especially at a prime oat-sowing time of their lives. I actually believe that these guys would rather be with their girls than having a threesome and that’s immensely satisfying.
I stumbled onto Elle Kennedy through a Goodread’s vote for Romance of the Year. I voted for Sylvia Day but thought I’d check out some of the other books and was glad I did; Elle’s now a bookshelf staple. Well, actually, she’s convinced me that reading on an electronic device instead of a real life paperback is worth it, which is high praise indeed.