Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
I’m a romance reviewer. I fell into it over a year ago, and I’ve been working hard to build an interest in my blog. A couple of months ago, thankfully, a PR person reached out to me about Rebecca Jenshak. And, to this day, I am so thankful that PR person found me because Rebecca Jenshak has become one of my favorite new adult sports romance writers. She has this way of building your interest in the characters by walking us carefully through their stories and their motivations. When you start reading her books, you quickly fall into the lives of her characters, and she grows your love for them.
I have been waiting for her newest book, The Tip-Off. After reading The Assist and The Fadeaway, there were two characters who had revealed the least about themselves in those books: Zeke (“Z”) and Gabby. From those books, we knew that Z loved Tom Cruise, listening to music, and being solitary. When he spoke, he did it carefully and with great wisdom. His place was important, though, as the foil to characters like Joel. He was dependable for Wes, and he was always a solid presence, albeit a quiet one.
We gained a bit of Gabby’s story in The Assist because she is Blair’s (the story’s heroine) best friend. We learned that she was in a car accident that caused scarring, and it led her to forgo social situations out of insecurity. With Blair’s prodding, in The Tip-Off, Gabby has decided to attend Valley University in person. Since she has been taking classes online, she has missed out on the typical college experience, and she’s made a list to do just that: experience college. She’s looking for someone to help her fulfill it. That person becomes Z.
Since the beginning of college, Z’s life has been basketball. His goal is the NBA, and his life is balanced on the cusp of graduating college, going into the draft, and fulfilling his dream. Gabby entering his life complicates this because her need to live the college experience challenges him to see more than just basketball, to be more for himself. Gabby challenges Z to simply become a better, more well-rounded person. Will their journey end with each other?
Folks, The Tip-Off is a slow burn. At the end of The Fadeaway when Joel plans a prom for Gabby and Katrina, it seems as if the sparks are already flying off the page with Z and Gabby. There is clearly an interest there. However, the beginning of this book finds an irritated Z (he’s been roped into the “date”) and eventually, an embarrassed Gabby. While it seems like common sense to the reader that Z and Gabby would make a great pair, this does not happen for much of the book. But here’s the great part of this: when Z finally recognizes his feelings for Gabby, this couple becomes magical, like more so than Wes and Blair and Joel and Katrina. Their HEA is probably my favorite of the three books, and it made the slow burn of their coupling gratifying. So…be patient.
Additionally, Gabby is a gem. A true, true gem. I loved Blair and Katrina, but Gabby has this combination of emotional depth and humor where the other two heroines of the series don’t compare. Don’t get me wrong. I love them, but Gabby made me smile and laugh aloud many times in this book. Even in her insecurity, there’s an internal beauty to her character that makes you fall in love with her. She is both insecure and wise. She challenges Z, pulls him out of the protective barrier of basketball. She helps him see more than just his goal; she shows him life, something he hadn’t really been living until her. She is a fresh breath and a hope. And she reads like that on the page.
I think Z has been one of my favorites from the start. Wes is a bit too grumpy for me, and Joel is a bit too much of a flirt. Z’s solitary way of life connects with me. There is a headiness to his character even when he isn’t “living”. And he’s my favorite guy especially in the last quarter of The Tip-Off. His and Gabby’s happy ending is, I think, the best of the three. It has the most movement, and it’s the most real, at least to me.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Rebecca Jenshak’s stories are mini-universes. She crafts her characters so that her readers walk and breathe and love with them through their journeys. You know every thought and emotion and experience. In doing this, she draws you in and makes you, the reader, responsible for the love on the page. Z and Gabby in The Tip-Off are my new favorite Jenshak couple. Their story illustrates the truths that beauty is definitely better when it is internal, not on the outside only, and life is only lived when it is lived in moments with others. Zeke and Gabby craft these truths through humor, tears, and love.
“I want someone to love me for the ugly and the beautiful, and every shade in between. True vulnerability is being seen for everything you are, the good and the bad…”
In love and romance,