Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“I’ll bring my chaos into your calm.”
I am fairly certain that most romance readers love the “opposites attract” trope. More than anything, this trope brings about the greatest insight into the human experience. It highlights our differences but reminds us that those differences are complements to each other. This idea runs thoughtfully through Helena Hunting’s newest book, A Secret for A Secret. If you’re like me, you ran for this book because (1) Ryan Kingston, the “perfect” friend to Shippy in Hunting’s second book of the All in Series, A Favor for a Favor was dreamy, but needed mussing and (2) Hunting was going to do what she does best: bring a heroine to mess Kingston up. And man, did Hunting deliver in this book.
What do we need to know? Ryan Kingston or King for short, is a good guy: ever-present, always thoughtful, straight-laced, a great friend, khaki and white polo shirt wearing, consummate milk drinker. There is nothing he does wrong because his life is controlled down to the food he consumes, his sleep schedule, and the cleanliness of his home. He is the kind of guy you want to take home to your family.
Huntington’s heroine in this story, Queenie, is King’s opposite. She hasn’t figured out her life. The goals she previously set for herself are derailed through her choices. She’s an artistic type who is messy, colorful, and a bit of a loner. Queenie is struggling to find her path in life. As she investigates this, she moves home to live with her father and work as his personal assistant.
One night, Queenie and Kingston meet in a bar, and there is an instant attraction. Both of them commiserate over some life challenges. As one drink leads to another and another, these two end up together for the night. When Kingston wakes up the next morning, Queenie is gone, and he believes he won’t see her again. Until he does. On the first day of practice for the season. And she’s the general manager’s daughter. These two have a keen chemistry from the start, and Kingston, the everpresent good guy, wants to do everything right, but Queenie and her little bit of chaos try to derail it. Are Queenie and Kingston a match made in heaven? If you believe in the law of opposites attracting, then you know the answer.
First off, let me say that I adore Helena Hunting. I think I signed up for an ARC of A Favor for A Favor, and this began my Helena Hunting binge-read fest. When I first began reading romance, I read Hunting’s Pucked and fell in love with her storytelling, but I hadn’t read any of the other books in the series. After AFFAF, I jumped in fast. I quickly, using a combination of e-books and audiobooks, gobbled her Pucked and All In series. She does what others such as Penny Reid do: create these grand universes of characters who interact with each other in new books. That’s my crack in the romance world. Seriously. Nothing makes me happier than for older characters to show up in later books. Think Violet and Alex in A Secret for A Secret. It illustrates Hunting’s ability to know her readers and write romance that feeds their spirits. Secondly, it’s obvious she’s able to envision her fiction beyond one book. It shows a long-game plan, not a short-term enjoyment.
Secondly, Hunting makes me laugh. Out loud. There are so many moments (one especially) that tickles your funny bone in this new story. She finds the hilarity in simple life situations. Whether it’s an allergic reaction or a dad’s reaction to his daughter with a player, there is something funny in everything. Hunting’s genius as a storyteller, though, is her ability to balance her comedy with the gravity of life. Both Kingston and Queenie are dealing with various levels of expectation. Kingston’s family expects that he will make certain decisions, while Queenie’s struggle lies in her perceived expectations of her father and the verbal abuse of her mother. This dichotomy creates moments of despair for her, as she simply doesn’t feel “good enough” under the weight of those expectations. The depth of this reality conspires with the hilarity of Kingston and Queenie’s coupling to remind readers that life is full of ups and downs. How we handle those determine what we get out of life.
Add into A Secret for A Secret...well, secrets, and you have a story that is compelling and engaging. This ARC had been sitting on my Kindle waiting for me to finish ARCs that had an earlier release date. It taunted me because I knew Kingston’s story would be a good one, and Hunting did not disappoint. While the story is a seemingly simple one: straight-laced hockey player falls for the boss’s daughter, it really isn’t. There are heavy feelings of inadequacy due to parental verbal abuse and poor decision making. The constant in this story, the one thing that makes you turn the page until the book is finished, is the way that Kingston determinedly loves Queenie. Period. While there is seeming strife between these two, Hunting has crafted a hero in Kingston that propels you into their story because his love for Queenie is vast and beautiful. He loves every part of her, even though she is different from him. I loved Hunting’s articulation of it as their story grows, so much so that I binge-read the entire book in half a day. To read Kingston love Queenie as she needs to be loved is the glory of A Secret for A Secret.
True to form, Helena Hunting has offered up another glorious hockey story. I can imagine as an author this might become boring. As a reader, though, reading Hunting’s hockey players feels right: every. single. time. She brilliantly exposes the truth of the human experience through the heroes who light up the ice and the heroines who warm their beds. At the very least, the fact that Queen and King are the heroes of A Secret for A Secret should make you run to download their story fast.
In love and romance,