Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
I have a massive book hangover from Kandi Steiner’s Palm South University series. I’ve spent the past month preparing for the newest book in this series, Ritual, and every open moment has found me invested in the lives of Steiner’s characters: Skylar, Bear, Adam, Cassie, Erin, Jess, and Ashlei. Let me say this here: if you ever think about the money you spend on books, and some books feel like you don’t get your money’s worth, look no further. There is so much story in Steiner’s Palm South U series that it feels lie a bargain buying one of these books.
Ritual, the newest book of the series, is no different. Here we find our favorite sorority and fraternity brothers continuing life in South Florida. Like the first four books in the series, they are met with drama, fun, and lots of time “Netflix and chilling.” I think what I love most about this series is its connection to reality. Many of the blurbs that speak to the “reality television” aspect of this series aren’t wrong. I teach college writing for a living and one of the reasons I didn’t jump into this series after reading Black Number Four (the book that crosses over the PSU book, Legacy) is my need to avoid college-aged students’ lives outside of my classroom. My mind allows me to see them as “kids” when I know this isn’t the case. This series makes you acknowledge the often precarious situations college students might find themselves as they learn to navigate the adult world. However, as I’m a BIG Steiner fan and wanting to read her booklist, I decided to embrace the Palm South U series on the advent of Ritual’s release, and it did not disappoint. If this is Kandi Steiner’s take on “reality television,” then sign me up if she ever gets it made into a series. Through her storytelling and commitment to reality, she has made me fall in love with her Palm South characters.
So why read Ritual:
- It’s hot. With seven different characters, there are seven different points of view and stories, landing them in the bedroom sometimes more than we see them in class.
- Steiner hits on real-world college stories. Ritual does more of this as a few of the characters will be graduating and entering the work world. We already see Ashlei in her internship with Okay, Cool. However, if you think Brandon and Ashlei are settled after book four, there is more coming in Ritual. Her internship illustrates the complication with workplace relationships, and it’s possible that Brandon and Ashlei won’t find their happy ending. We need these stories, laden with heartbreak because they remind us that every age endures pain. Oftentimes with romance, we read stories of billionaires or people settled in their lives. The Palm South series and, by extension Ritual, illustrates the challenges of finding yourself as you grow more deliberately into adulthood, and trauma and heartbreak don’t miss this age group.
- The diversity of characters in this series makes it compelling. There are different colors, different sexualities, different socioeconomic backgrounds, and different levels of maturity in this story. In Ritual, we especially see Bear and Becca’s challenges as black people. This is also important as it reminds you that romance is not only white; it’s diverse and different.
- Steiner takes her time in telling these stories. Like I said earlier in this review, you feel like you get your money’s worth and more because the storytelling is dense. That isn’t a negative here. It means that with Steiner’s careful storytelling you get the depth and breadth of story that can be missing in your average romance book. It’s impressive when you feel as though you know the characters well because Steiner takes care to fully develop their lives. It’s why they feel like people you know because their stories feel grounded in reality and like our own. That is definitely my favorite aspect of this series, of Ritual.
Now, what would I love to see in the next book of the series, Hazed? (If you haven’t read the series, don’t read further…run and READ this series.)
- Kade and Jess grow into “a thing” in Ritual, but I really, really want her with Jarrett. If that isn’t meant to be, then I want Jess to have her space to challenge Jarret’s actions from book 3 in the forthcoming book.
- More of Kip and Skyler. I fell for them first as I read Black Number Four before this series, so I want to see their happy ending progress.
- Definitely more of Adam and Cassie. I know romance requires tension to build towards a climax and offer up the falling action, but these two need to “just be” for a bit given their constant challenges in their relationship.
- I would love to explore Erin and Bear more. I know this is a big part of Ritual, but there is more there, and I need it.
- If at all possible, Ashlei mends her broken heart. She’s one of the most interesting characters of this series as she is Steiner’s bisexual character, and her relationships seem more fluid and interesting than the others, as they question attraction. I’m curious to see the direction Steiner takes with her.
Had I known the wealth of storytelling in the Palm South University series, I would have dived in sooner. Thankfully, Kandi Steiner’s newest book, Ritual, is here, and I was forced to embrace college life. However, this has also left me bereft, as I. NEED. MORE of this series. As a college prof, if you think this series is only fiction, you are incorrect. The stories of these characters are the lives of my real-life students, and the challenges Steiner highlights in Ritual illustrate that trauma, heartbreak, and love are not exclusive for billionaires or the late 20/early 30 set. Love, life, and melodrama can be found anywhere. And thank goodness for that…
In love and romance,