Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I met Kendall Ryan at Book Bonanza this year. To say I was effusive over meeting her is an understatement. Specifically, I jabbered away about this book, All the Way, with her. I had just finished the ARC of Playing for Keeps and had read the first chapter of this newest book in the Hot Jocks series of standalones. I was colored intrigued by Owen to say the least.
See, in Playing for Keeps, I wasn’t a fan of Owen’s. He represented the prototypical jock: womanizer, too protective of his sister, hyper-focused on his sport, etc. I especially struggled with him because it was clear, in that book, that Becca had “a thing” for Owen, and he seemed blissfully unaware, hopping from woman to woman. Not to mention, I hated that he was too protective of his sister, Elise. I thought he shouldn’t have any say in dating or not dating his best friend, Justin.
But then, Ryan presented the first chapter of All the Way, and I laughed. Like full-on belly laughed at the absurdity of his experience with a drunken Becca. I mean, c’mon…who allows a woman who you’ve seen as only your best friend to touch your “man meat.” And he does it in a way that almost makes him a victim. It’s hilarious, and I told Kendall Ryan at Book Bonanza. She promised me that I was going to love this new romance. That it is one of her favorites, and I’m pretty sure I laughed it off. C’mon….this is Owen. But…she did it. She made me fall in love with him, more than I loved Justin in his book. Even more, she made this book about something bigger than hot hockey players and romance. This is the reason why you need to read All the Way, why it is an important book in the world of romance:
- Ultimately, Kendall Ryan’s new romance is a book about consent. Period. The reason I fell hard for Owen is his maturity in this book. Becca is a victim of sexual abuse. (Yes…trigger warning). It has been years since she has been intimate with a man, and she’s tired of her fear. She enlists Owen’s help in awakening her $exuality again after her trauma. At first, Owen is reticent, but he is suddenly aware of Becca in ways he had never been before. He decides that he wants to guide her through this journey except that they need to try to maintain their friendship. Owen doesn’t engage in relationships. Through all of this, Owen and Becca negotiate. He is careful with his actions, asking for permission at every turn. He checks in with Becca emotionally as they progress through the development of intimacy. It is intentional throughout the entire story, so much so that Owen shows a level of maturity that he failed to show in Playing for Keeps. And I fell for him: for his ability to protect Becca, for his need for her, and for his compassion. The Owen of this book is NOT the Owen of the first one. Remember that.
- It is clear Owen’s growth comes about because Becca is the type of woman who allows him to grow. She provides him with opportunities to be a better person. She challenges him, and she allows herself eventually to fall for him. Instinctually, the friendship between Owen and Becca grants them permission to fall in love. Honestly, this book doesn’t dwell too long on their confusion over their feelings for each other like some books do. Ryan crafts it as such that it’s momentary. Instead, this book tells a story of personal growth, while love blooms.
To me, Kendall Ryan is one of the hardest working writers. It seems as though she releases books once a month. What I find impressive about her, especially after reading All the Way, is the way her books are maturing. Just in the first two books of the Hot Jocks series, her storytelling evolved and offered us a lesson: the reminder that people can be more if it’s expected of them. Owen is more than I ever thought he could be after Playing for Keeps, and revelling in their romance was one of the best parts of my weekend. Read All the Way; share it with your spouse or significant other. This should be required reading.
In love and romance,