I am a sucker for a sports romance. It doesn’t matter if it is football, baseball, hockey, soccer, whatever. I love it. I especially enjoy sports romance when it is more about the people in the story than the sport. Finding that balance is key. While I love sports, I don’t necessarily want the details of the sport in my book. I want the “behind-the-scenes” relationships.
A. S. Teague does this well in The Hardest Route. The story follows Griff and Brooke. They meet in Las Vegas, spend an amazing night together, and go their separate ways: Brooke back to her job as an engineer and Griff to his burgeoning NFL career. However, their one-night stand produces a baby, and this book follows them through that journey.
What I find intriguing about Griff and Brooke’s story is that they didn’t have an insta-love story. In other words, Teague doesn’t rush them into couplehood. Instead, they become parents to their daughter, and friends, and I found this refreshing. Oftentimes, in this situation, you imagine the author creating a relationship between the two. But Teague doesn’t. She grounds this story, to a degree that you can in a romance, in reality. These two do not know each other. To put them immediately into a relationship would be unrealistic and foolish. Teague grows their friendship through parenthood first, and this sets this book apart from other one-night stand baby-daddy romances.
I also love that Brooke is older than Griff. She’s a career woman, intelligent, and grounded. He’s younger, starting a new life, and he shows his youth through his inability to compromise. This dynamic sets up the fireworks of their relationship. However, it also grows them into friends, which is probably the sweetest part of this book. Again, this dynamic makes this story different.
I think the biggest issue with this story is all of its moving parts. There is enough to unpack between Griff and Brooke that the final “surprise” of the book, quite frankly, seemed unnecessary. I don’t want to spoil it for the reader, but I think it seemed tertiary to Griff and Brooke’s relationship. While I know it was meant to grow their romance (and it inspired the title for the book), it felt ancillary to the story, an after-thought.
Also, there is humor in this book in the form of Griff and Brooke’s best friends. They add a level of hilarity that adds layers to the story. And this book can be sexy, but it is another ancillary part of this book. If you’re looking for heat, this isn’t your book. Instead, Teague focuses on developing the romance between Griff and Brooke in more meaningful ways, which can be refreshing in a genre that oftentimes overdoes the heat.
I would definitely recommend The Hardest Route. It teaches us that the person who is closest to us, who really knows us as a friend, is oftentimes the one we’re meant to love forever. It suggests the friendship before love creates a stronger foundation for an eventual HEA. The Hardest Route offers a beautiful showing of friendship, devotion, and love.
In love and romance,