Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I am a glutton for a sports romance. For a sports romance to “work,” I don’t need the sport to infiltrate the story. I mean, it adds some layers to the story, but it’s really the hero and heroine’s connection that gets me. Usually, sports romance heroes have this self-assuredness that can translate as “cockiness” which comes closest to my favorite type of hero, the alpha-hole. In my reflection, I think that’s why I love sports romances so much. However, there is my second favorite type of hero: the type of guy who is incredibly masculine but who has a special kind of compassion and empathy that he, to a certain degree, sacrifices a bit of himself to care deeply for his heroine. They aren’t “soft,” just caring to a degree that makes a woman swoon.
With Kendall Ryan’s Hot Jocks series, she has offered us a variety of heroes. Prior to her forthcoming book, Wild for You, my favorite Hot Jocks hero has been Owen. Part of this has to do with his relationship with Becca. Given her background, Owen who was formerly a player falls deeply and embodies the hero I’ve described above. He becomes transformed, still incredibly masculine, but nurturing and thoughtful as a way to help Becca overcome her past. He made my heart expand and open as he loved Becca hard through her pain, and I have declared him the BEST hero in the Hot Jocks series. Until now.
Wild for You offers us Grant, the captain of the team. From the other books in the series, we know he’s broody, sullen, quiet, a man of few words, and he tends toward being a loner. He’s absolutely dependable. Yet, it’s difficult to get a read on him because he keeps to himself…until he doesn’t. In Down and Dirty, Kendall Ryan reveals a bit of Grant’s nature: he’s a caretaker. When Ana, one of the girlfriends of a newer player on the hockey team, is abandoned by her mean-spirited boyfriend, Grant steps in and takes her home. It’s a revelation that there is a deeper layer to Grant than previously believed. As we know, grumpy heroes typically hide a depth not initially seen.
As Wild for You begins, Ana finds herself in a problematic position with her boyfriend. Once again, Grant steps in and manages the situation, as a means to help her through it. We realize quickly that Grant carries a torch for Ana, but his integrity keeps those feelings in check. As the story progresses, Grant’s character is revealed, and he is NOW my favorite Hot Jocks hero. From page one until the end, Grant is a dream. He is a nice guy, but that persona is wrapped in a protective barrier of grumpy quietude. As such, it gives him enough edge that the “nice guy” doesn’t read anemic. There is so much to love about him that, in my opinion, he’s the best part of Wild for You.
Now, I hate to ever disparage a heroine. I rarely do since there is usually something important about her journey. This is definitely the case with Ana. There are moments in the story where you find yourself frustrated with her because she keeps Grant at arm’s length. She makes it difficult for him to be his best person. However, her story is an important one. <spoiler alert> Ana’s former boyfriend was abusive. Given this situation, she has a need for independence. While we, the readers, see the incomparable Grant as her soulmate, Ryan intentionally creates space between these two so that Ana has the space to heal, eventually ending up with her soulmate. This space can be frustrating in the storytelling, but it’s necessary towards developing more layers in Ana’s character. It also creates the tension of the story which moves us through the story quickly, ravenous for their happy ending.
I have enjoyed each of the books in Kendall Ryan’s Hot Jocks series, but Owen and Becca’s All the Way had held my top spot over the other five. Then, Grant poured his heart all over Wild for You, and this big sullen guy stole my heart and the top spot from Owen. For me, this is the best book of the bunch (there is one more coming, but it’s going to be a hard sell to uncrown Grant). It has the depth of story like Owen and Becca’s as it handles the important serious topic of domestic abuse. However, while Owen’s transformation was profound, Grant’s compassion and care for Ana, hidden behind his walls, made my heart ache for him over and over again. I’m going to be sad to see this crew of hockey players and their significant others go, but Kendall Ryan is leaving some of the best for last.
In love and romance,