Bad Boy Images are Hard to Kill – Review of “The Rival” by Kendall Ryan

A bad rep can be trickier to shed than the last ten pounds of your diet and pro hockey star Alex Braun hasn’t always made the smartest choices. Some say the rep is well-deserved but isn’t the press always looking to juice up an otherwise insignificant incident? Maybe in the past he’s been his own worst enemy but now management has informed him he’s skating on thin ice and it’s past time to shed his party boy image and grow the hell up. So he plans to spend the off season at a teammate’s cabin in Ottawa and do his best to stay out of trouble. Alex wants what most people do, a comfortable home and someone to come home to. He wants to matter to someone.

Meanwhile Aspen is pulling a long face because she’s basically homeless after her breakup with Dale the Douchebag and she’s temporarily bunking in with her boss, Eden and her new fiance. Eden is also Alex’s boss since she is the team’s owner and Aspen is desperate to find other accommodations. What a mess! Alex is sensitive to her situation and convinces his teammate to hire Aspen to clean up his cabin in Ottawa, giving her temporary housing and pay sufficient to dig herself out of the financial hole she’s in. It’s a cozy arrangement for both and they quickly settle into a comfortable routine with Alex demonstrating his culinary skills and Aspen enjoying the results. When Mr Grumpy But Gorgeous Hockey Player and Ms Hardworking Off-Kilter Assistant fall into bed together, someone is bound to get burned by the blast and the fallout could be disastrous.

Both Alex and Aspen were introduced in Book One but we really get to know them in “The Rival”. Character development is the key that unlocks this romance. Alex is at first a little off-putting because of his public persona but the real Alex is soft as a marshmallow inside and generous to a fault. It goes without saying that he’s drop-dead gorgeous and his heart is big as a mountain. Aspen’s ex did a number on her, chipping away at her self-confidence until it’s almost non-existent so it’s no wonder she’s continually second guessing herself. But her relationship with Alex helps get her on track right up until the press does a number on him and Aspen gets blindsided by the fallout. Can they recover after the disaster?

“The Rival” is Book Two of the ‘Looking to Score’ series by Kendall Ryan which follows the major players of a fictional Boston pro hockey team. Of course they’re all too handsome for words, with adoring fans and the requisite puck bunnies  traveling in their wake. Author Ryan picks at that thread for this series and lays bare the intrusive but symbiotic relationship of the pros, the press and the fan base and the sometimes deleterious effects on the families of the players. If that sounds too heavy for the lovers of the light-hearted, relax because it’s not. It’s a well written story with a solid plot, characters you’ll fall in love with and satisfyingly sexy scenes to spare. I’m already hooked on this series and Book Three “The Rookie” is scheduled for release July 20, 2021. You can pre-order at your favorite book sellers. Four stars.

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