Overall Grade:⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
You must know, from the depths of my soul, that I adore Kandi Steiner. I don’t “know” her necessarily, although I have met her and she’s wonderful. But I always feel like I know her better because her romances, her stories, feel like little bits of her soul poured onto the page, and what she offers time and time again shows me the character of this woman.
In The Right Player, Steiner’s newest book, she offers up an allusion through the voice of her hero, Makoa. Her heroine, Belle, struggles with intimacy because she’s been hurt deeply by a past love. She covers her bruise with a temporality to her relationships with men; however, Makoa’s need and care for her draws her to him. As she explains to him her fear of wanting “more” with him, he promises her to live by the “campsite rule.” Belle questions him about that, and he says, “You know, when you go camping, you leave your campsite in the same or better condition than when you found it. No trash, no fires left burning.[…] What I’m saying is that it’s okay to be a little freaked out. We have no idea which way this is going to go.” This allusion traveled around and around in my mind, as I was thinking about Steiner’s story. And I think this is the reason that I adore her brand of romance. When you read one of her stories, one like The Right Player, you leave it feeling better, knowing better, and generally being better in the end. When you read The Right Player, the “better” is understanding the significance of vulnerability because her characters struggle with it, especially Belle, and it feels like an admonishment for her readers: that to be vulnerable allows for greater depths of love to be found.
When you finish this book, you walk away from it, like you would a campsite, better than when you sat down with it, and this is the reason you should be reading it right now.
For me, Makoa is a dream. Yes, he has his faults. I love that Steiner creates him with them. Without crafting a problem for him, Makoa is quite perfect. He is emotionally available unlike many romance heroes. He’s empathic and kind. Honestly, I was worried at his “softness” until I realized Steiner’s insistence on giving him layers. His name alludes to it, “bold man.” While he is a big teddy bear like his father, in the bedroom and out of it, he is pure dominance. He is both solid places with a soft underbelly, and he’s the perfect mate for Belle.
With Belle’s characterization, we also find layers. While she is Gemma’s best friend and wisdom-giver, she has also been the humor of these stories. Yet, as we know about people, they can often hide their wounds and bruises behind tough exteriors. Belle’s mask is beautiful. She’s a gorgeous, independent, talented woman. Belying that, though, is a woman whose wounds have created big walls to hide vulnerable undersides. Her journey over the course of this book is its treasure. It’s the crux of this book, and it’s the reason that The Right Player’s message is a profound one.
Together, Makoa and Belle are romance gold. Every moment of their journey carries you along, and you hate to look away from their love. They complete each other in ways that remind you why you read romance. They are a promise, a vow, a reminder that soulmates do exist. And Kandi Steiner, once again, reminds us that her true gift lies in campsite moments. The Right Player is a true addendum to The Wrong Game. Together, these two are clear powerhouses for Steiner’s brand, and it would be a shame if you didn’t spend your time in Steiner’s campsite.
In love and romance,