Overall Grade: More than 5 ⭐️. One of the top reads of 2020.
Remarkably, but not surprisingly, Kennedy Ryan has, once again, woven a romantic tapestry of ideas that challenge our thinking about identity, inclusion and diversity, and womanhood in her newest book, Queen Move. Sometimes, unbeknownst to the reader, opening and reading a Kennedy Ryan book is a step in activism. Her heroine’s father raises his children with the ideology that “big moves make big waves.” When you take one step into a Ryan romance, you are choosing to align yourself with the possibility of making big waves. Each Ryan story is intentional and grounded in hours and hours of her research about societal issues, challenging us to expand our knowledge and our thinking. As Kimba, her heroine, suggests “simply being myself is an act of resistance.” Likewise, simply inhaling the words of a Ryan romance is also a call to change.
To begin, the absolute power of this story is Ryan’s heroine, Kimba. She is the quintessential Kennedy Ryan heroine. At the very least, you should read Queen Move as it exemplifies the power of her heroines through one of her most impressive ones, Kimba. One of my favorite parts of reading certain authors is their surety in developing their voice and their “brand.” I don’t even know if “brand” is the right word, but their voice and style have evolved into creating archetypes specific to their brand of romance. And Kennedy Ryan’s heroines are an archetype. In the world of romance, they are a necessary character type. In brief, a Ryan heroine is always intelligent first, beautiful second. They are not perfect; their power comes in embracing their weakness and finding strength in the hero to support that weakness. Notice I didn’t say clarify it or correct it or complete it. Her heroines’ weaknesses are acknowledged and accepted by her heroes. Even more, Ryan oftentimes monopolizes on it and turns it into power. In Queen Move, this looks like Kimba’s stutter. I remember reading Ryan’s All the King’s Men duet and telling myself that Kimba’s words of wisdom for Lennix were always profound, insightful. As you read Queen Move, this is even more clear. Interestingly enough, Ryan gives her the weakness of a stutter. So, in the Ryan universe, the weakness of a character is the power of the greatest moments of her story. The stutterer is the most eloquent when it’s needed. You see this same thing happen over and over again with any of her heroines. She empowers their weakness. And in my most inarticulate of ways, that’s pretty da$n impressive.
Through Kimba, Ryan introduces us to the bits of her messages in Queen Move: the struggle of being a woman and the expectations for us to oftentimes sacrifice parts of ourselves to follow a dream. In Queen Move, infertility becomes a front and center message, along with the juggling of identities that women so often engage in. As Kimba moves from political strategist to daughter to sister to lover to woman, Ryan calls for us to recognize that feat. It becomes a reminder that the expectations for women feel sometimes more profound, and we sometimes sacrifice aspects of those identities as we inhabit the others. And that sacrifice oftentimes feels like a “lack.” Kimba encounters this feeling over and over again in this story that when one of the biggest moments comes in the book, Ryan has constructed this profound moment of emotion. It rolls over you tying your heart to her story. I would like to say that this is accidental or momentary or specific to this book, but it’s part and parcel for Ryan’s heroines. Her ability to craft of heroines is one of the many impressive tools in her writing toolbox.
Along with the Ryan heroine comes the Ryan hero. Now, there is a bit more diversity of this archetype. Quite often, they are incredibly alpha, always $exually adept meeting the deepest needs of their heroine, and intelligent (oh and don’t forget, handsome and virile). This intelligence isn’t only in terms of thinking; so often, they have an emotional intelligence that girds their maturity. They might make a rash decision (we see you Maxim), but they learn quickly from their mistakes and work diligently to rectify the situation. Like her heroine, these seem to be the innate qualities to her heroes. However, there are some differences in terms of traditional expressions of masculinity. With Ezra Stern, Ryan is playing with this idea. Ezra is a special brand of hero. Yes, he is traditionally masculine. Yet, Ryan molds him with soft edges. Fatherhood is a primary identity for him, and he wears it well. He offers us a complex mix of fathering with tenderness, insight, and awareness. He makes comments about guiding Noah to speak out his emotions. Ezra is the 21st-century father. He wants his children to express themselves and bring more into the world than take from it. As such, his children are aware and mature. It’s all of these traits that make it easy for you to fall in love with Ezra Stern. Add to that a willingness to be careful with his words, using them sparingly so that they are weighted. Kimba’s trust is easy with Ezra because his words are the commerce of his integrity and love.
Additionally, through Ryan’s creation of Ezra, one of her other messages finds its home: the idea of identity and diversity. This is one of the biggest messages of the story, and (not to undermine Kimba’s travails) it’s most profound. We live in a culturally, racially, $exually diverse society oftentimes at odds with each other. There are more and more instances of insensitivities to people’s differences, and an almost disinterest by certain segments of our society to be open and inclusive. Ryan’s solution, as outlined in Queen Move, is embracing it. Fall into each other; try new foods, new cultures. Be open; communicate. Recognize it. Know it. Read about it. Talk about it. Quite literally in this book, marry it and bring it all together. Ryan gives us her truth in the end when she says “[a] cacophony that from the outside looking in probably seems discordant and sounds like a mass of noise. But to us it makes sense, all the notes fitting together. Harmony where there would be chaos. The tastes, the sounds, the stories, gathered from distant lands, borne by our blood, blended in our bonds.” Through Ryan’s hero, Ezra, we are treated to the gravity of this message beyond her typical heroic archetype, and it should challenge us all to be better, to think better, and to do better.
Queen Move is a story of soul mates, a standard of Kennedy Ryan romance. Ezra and Kimba are Lennix and Maxim or Grip and Bristol or any of the couples of the Hoops series. They are fated. As such their journey is never easy, and that’s the masochistic fun in reading Ryan’s romance. One minute, you find yourself falling over yourself at Ryan’s powerful exemplifications of Ezra and Kimba’s love for each other, and the next minute, you find yourself crying at life’s disruptions to their journey. It’s this evil rollercoaster ride that a Ryan Reader embraces. You throw your hands up and live for the valleys and the highs because the story feels lived in for you. Their chemistry, their $exual attraction, their almost feral, base pairing adds more height and depth to their journey. Queen Move is just as fiery as her other books. That’s the magic of her pairings, and one of the many reasons we buy books like Queen Move.
When it comes to Kennedy Ryan’s style, there are few who touch her, in my opinion. There is a consciousness in detail after detail of her storytelling. The eloquence, the lilt, the rhythm of her words push you further and deeper into her story. It’s the cadence of her romance. The words equal the kisses and the emotions and the passion of her story. She knows how to build chemistry through pacing and her ability to create pictures, and it grounds you to her romance. Every word is intentional, and if you’re like me, you end her book with too many highlights in a variety of colors. For me, Kennedy Ryan’s voice slays me every single time, and Queen Move manifests this as all of her other books do. As I was reading this book, I wanted to shout to the heavens my adoration for Ryan because her prose flows through me like some type of life force. When I read and review books, there are very few times when the words for my review begin to come to me as I’m reading the story. My next comment is not hyperbole: Ryan’s style inspires the words of my reviews that they spring from my mind onto any scrap of paper or Google Doc that I can find while I’m reading her book. Her words quite simply inspire me and make me cry at their beauty.
When you choose to read Queen Move or any of Kennedy Ryan’s books, you are taking action: “an act of resistance.” What is involved in that act? Acknowledging that romance can be more than $ex or love or happy endings. Instead, romance books such as Queen Move can challenge our thinking and push us to be more, think better, and embrace change. Without any doubt, Queen Move is a “big move” sure to make” big waves” in a world of happily-ever-afters.
In love and romance,