Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
From her first book in the Hot Jock series, Kendall Ryan has hooked me. If I knew more about hockey, I’m sure I could use some simile or metaphor to allude to the series’ impact, but I’m not that astute. I could easily say, though, that this series in general is a clear goal putting a win in Kendall Ryan’s column. And her last book, Taking His Shot is the hockey stick to knock it in there.
Let me be clear, though. Of the series, this book feels the most innocuous. With the other books in the series, the tropes are clear ranging from best friend’s sister to sexual abuse survivor to forbidden (I see you Morgan) to reverse age gap. Quite honestly, there is a book in this series for any reader of romance. With Taking His Shot, I think what Kendall Ryan is offering us is a two-fold goal: (1) given that we’ve been dealing with a professional hockey team, we need a story with the coach’s daughter (I’ve read enough sports romance to know that this is often forbidden) and (2) she needed one more story to neatly wrap up this series.
Let’s talk about that second point. What Kendall Ryan has done with Taking His Shot is bring us back into the other players’ stories. I love that all of them are represented in the book. That isn’t the case with the other books in the series. Even more exciting is the way that Ryan has framed this series. The first book offers the story of Justin and Elise, and she crafts their happy ending in this book. I love when writers book-end their stories, and it’s clear that Ryan planned this from the beginning. This epitomizes her writing ability. Besides Justin and Elise, though, she gifts us with more of Owen, Grant, Morgan, Teddy, and Asher. We know who is married now, who has kids, and where each of them is going. When you end Taking His Shot, you feel ready for it. Kendall Ryan has created a complete series, and the only sadness lies in having to say that final goodbye. However, Kendall Ryan being Kendall Ryan, we know there are more stories in other worlds ahead for us, so don’t feel too sad.
Now, let’s deal with my first idea: a story with the coach’s daughter. Beyond that storyline,Taking His Shot is basic contemporary romance: boy meets girl, boy tries to bed girl, girl resists, boy has to win her over, boy wins girl over after quite a bit of work but quickly proceeds to muck it up, boy has to work to win girl over again while both of them are depressed over losing each other, and boy and girl finally reconcile and live happily ever after. Who doesn’t love that storyline? This is Kendall Ryan’s niche; it’s her superpower in the world of romance. Now, complicating this is the idea of pursuing the coach’s daughter. In most sports romance, this is a forbidden storyline, and Ryan touches on that briefly, but that isn’t the situation in this romance. Instead, Jordie, the hero, is forthright in his pursuit of Harper. In being “mostly” honest with Harper’s father, the coach helps Jordie, and he acts as Jordie’s “father figure.” This upends that common sports romance trope, so, instead, this story becomes about two people fighting each other to find a relationship. It’s in this fight where the chemistry builds, eventually pouring off the page. Ryan’s ability to evolve Harper’s interest is a nod to her craftsmanship. She takes a character who is “anti-hockey players” to a mighty degree and offers up a beautiful relationship between Harper and Jordie. This is where Ryan impresses you the most, I think.
Even more, Ryan weaves in lessons about fathers. Both Jordie and Harper’s fathers have imprinted themselves on their worldviews. As they are drawn together, they must challenge what they’ve learned to get to the root of their issues. The personal evolutions of Jordie and Harper are insightful and suggest that we could all look inward, challenging our personal biases.
Am I sad to say goodbye to Kendall Ryan’s Hot Jocks series? I mean, I wouldn’t be upset if Ryan, in the future, crafted a bonus scene to update us on our favorite Seattle hockey players. However, she shows her writing acumen in Jordie and Harper’s romance and her ability to invest her readers in her characters. While Jordie and Harper end this series well, I think Kendall Ryan was her best earlier in the series with Owen’s and Grant’s stories. In the end, though, she made me fall for this band of professional hockey players. If you love sports romance, Ryan is a great place to land.
In love and romance,