This was a delightful surprise. I can’t remember where I first came across this book but when I read this description “frenemies-to-lovers, college sports romance about a women’s soccer star and her surly lumberjack lookalike classmate” I knew I wanted to read it. There was more depth to this story than I expected and I found the romance to be sweet and realistic.
From Goodreads: Ryder: Ever since she sat next to me in class and gave me death eyes, Willa Sutter’s been on my shit list. Why she hates me, I don’t know. What I do know is that Willa is the kind of chaos I don’t need in my tidy life. She’s the next generation of women’s soccer. Wild hair, wilder eyes. Bee-stung lips that should be illegal. And a temper that makes the devil seem friendly. She’s a thorn in my side, a menacing, cantankerous, pain-in-the-ass who’s turned our Business Mathematics course into a goddamn gladiator arena. Willa: Rather than give me the lecture notes I missed like every other instructor I’ve had, my asshole professor tells me to get them from the silent, surly flannel-wearing mountain man sitting next to me in class. Well, I tried. And what did I get from Ryder Bergman? Ignored. What a complete lumbersexual neanderthal. Mangy beard and mangier hair. Frayed ball cap that hides his eyes. And a stubborn refusal to acknowledge my existence. I’ve battled men before, but with Ryder, it’s war.
This was a fun and cute slow burn romance so you have to be okay with a story that takes its time to develop to really enjoy this book. But if that’s your thing, you’ll like the time this story takes to show Ryder and Willa changing from enemies to friends to something more. The tricky thing with enemies to lovers romances (and something that a lot of authors fail at) is getting the enemies part right. Too many stories have the characters treating each other horribly and in ways that would, in real life, make someone never want to see the other person again. Then the reader is expected to somehow believe they fall in love? Liese does a great job of making the beginning of Ryder and Willa’s relationship believable and their “hatred” for each other is superficial and understandable enough that you believe it when their relationship changes. Both Ryder and Willa are interesting characters and Ryder in particular has a trait I’ve never before seen in a romance novel (I won’t spoil it here because the reveal in the book is great). While Willa isn’t your typical romance heroine, her anti-relationship views got a little tiresome. This didn’t take away my enjoyment of her though and I liked that she wasn’t someone who would give up her dreams for a man. There aren’t too many sex scenes in this story, mostly a lot of lusting and pining; the development of the relationship is the focus and the eventual reveal of the romantic feelings. While this book is mostly fun, I will warn readers that a subplot does involve a terminally ill parent so there are scenes of grief that get emotional. This fits into the story and development of one of the characters so it isn’t out of place but I wouldn’t want anyone to be caught off guard. The minor complaints I have about this book have mostly to do with the editing. Some of the transitions from chapter to chapter were a bit disjointed and some of the storylines could have been tightened up and more concise but these are small issues and didn’t impact my overall enjoyment of the story.
This was my first Chloe Liese book but it won’t be my last. I’m usually not a fan of slow burn romances but this one was cute and I liked the inclusiveness of the characters and the believability of the relationship. I would recommend this book to romance fans, especially if you like books by Penny Reid and Jen DeLuca.
Favorite Quote: “Think about it. We don’t bother with people we’re indifferent to. We provoke and prank and tease those who get under our skin and make us feel, people who incite our passion.”
Author: Chloe Liese
Published: March 27, 2020
Rating: 4 Stars