Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It began with curmudgeonly, yet compassionate Wes. Then, we were given playboy, yet kind Joel. After Joel, there was Zeke, the silent, but soulful type. And now, Rebecca Jenshak has crafted the piece de resistance of her Smart Jocks series with Nathan Paynter. Seemingly aloof and hiding secrets, what we find in this new hero is the essence of the romantic hero: a romantic heart.
I would love to say that I, Professor A, would choose any of these heroes over the other, but I can’t. I believe in my earlier reviews of the first three books of this series, The Assist, The Tip-Off, and The Fadeaway, that I fell more and more in love with her characters. Yet, the reality is I love them all. Each of the couples offers these romantic stories of struggle, perseverance, and love. It would be easy to put them within the confines of a specific romantic trope, but that isn’t what Jenshak is doing with this series. She’s simply telling a story about a basketball jock and his lady-love. And this reviewer has loved EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. THEM. I cannot say this for every standalone series I’ve read. There is usually a weak link. After reading Jenshak’s newest tome, The Fake, I can’t find one. There is not a weak one in the bunch.
There are many reasons that you should read this book. Firstly, know that you do not need to have read the first three books of the series to understand this book. It’s truly a standalone, complete with a heroine we haven’t met before this book. That being said, if you’ve read the first three books, it makes the book more special. Nathan has been an interesting character since we first met him in The Assist. We’ve known that he was hiding secrets. Boys being boys, nobody (none of Nathan’s team members/roommates) felt compelled to interrogate his nightmares or his curious source of money. As a reader, we knew there were issues, so this book has been, by my estimation, one of the most anticipated. What the first three books add to The Fake is they make the story more fragrant because you will know the ancillary characters of the story. Yet, we really know very little of Nathan and Chloe, the hero and heroine, until this book.
So WHY should you read this The Fake? Here goes:
- Nathan Paynter. This man, even with his foibles, is a romantic. He’s a letter-writing, sweet-talking, unassuming romantic. He has secrets, and they threaten to derail his story (I’m not telling his secrets; you need to read this story for them), but his ability to fix his mess also paints him well in this story. He’s a hero unlike Jenshak’s other heroes, and there is something lovely about that.
- Chloe. Chloe represents some of the students whose parents have recently been indicted in fraud for college admissions. Her parents don’t defraud her former college. Instead, they buy her way in, and this leaves her unsure of her abilities. She’s a volleyball player, a student-athlete like Nathan. One of my favorite moments of the book is a “date” when they work out. She is Nathan’s perfect match, yet she fights it for the first third or half of the book. As it begins to frustrate the reader, Jenshak is brilliant to release us from that pain. She succinctly builds the tension of Nathan acting as her “fake boyfriend” to win over friends with their growing “like” for each other until you don’t think you can take it anymore. Then, Jenshak releases it and decides to build a struggle elsewhere. Through the character of Chloe, Jenshak reminds us that we should always live our truth. People-pleasing will always let us down.
- The moments of the story. I am not going to name them here, but there are so many incredible moments in this story between Chloe and Nathan. There is a sweet moment towards the end of the story where, if I was a swooner, I would have fainted. It’s sweet and charming and everything you love in a contemporary romance. Jenshak bombards us again and again with the chemistry of these two, along with Nathan’s natural romantic heart. I ate up every page of this book.
Like Rebecca Jenshak, I love sports. I don’t love every single moment of a game, match, etc. But I love the athleticism and mental challenge of sports. Jenshak has crafted these stories of college basketball players that pull at your heartstrings and engage in ideas about jocks. She’s illustrated in each of her books that these men are smarter than we consider them. They aren’t just book smart; these are men whose emotional struggles build to an emotional maturation that allows them to love their heroines deeply. Honestly, I think Nathan and Chloe’s story is the cherry on the sundae for this series. Ultimately, Jenshak’s newest book, The Fake, suggests that living your own truth and being honest with the person you love is all that matters in life.
In love and romance,