Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Kendall Ryan’s The Rival is a continuation of her Looking to Score series. In her newest book, the seeming “villain” of the first book of this series, The Rebel, Alex Braun gets his story. If you haven’t read The Rebel, then you’ll go into The Rival with only the understanding that Alex has suffered a breakup with his team’s owner and finds himself on some thin ice, pun intended, based on his former season’s antics post-breakup. What you miss is the almost acerbic nature of his character in The Rebel, which might make The Rival a bit confusing as this newest book shows a simple man looking for a simple life. With that in mind, he meets Aspen and finds more than he expects. However, Ryan shows her writing prowess in transforming Alex Braun into a likable character for those of us who read the first book of this series. As a reader invested in her series, Ryan could have disappointed in her characterization of Alex; however, in this story, she makes it clear that we don’t really know the real Alex Braun. Given that the first book is written through the points of view of Eden, the team owner, and her love interest, Holt, it makes sense that we can’t really trust that we know Alex. And it’s clear from the early chapters of The Rival that Alex Braun is a much better man than we expected. I personally loved this aspect of Ryan’s newest book; it’s the grit of his character that makes reading this newest book a bit more palatable.
The one thing I can say about Kendall Ryan is her reliability in storytelling. She writes characters whose lives feel so different from our own, specifically in occupation, yet the characters feel like us. They are relatable. It’s why I keep reading her stories because I love to see the journeys she crafts for them. However, this sometimes comes off as a bit anemic. In The Rival, there is a bit of repetition as she lays out Alex and Aspen’s challenges to be together. Add in some fairly innocuous $ex scenes, and The Rival feels a bit one-note. I love the continued development of the characters of the Looking to Score series, but I’m starting to want more from this series, especially given that she recently published stories in another hockey romance series, Hot Shots.
Overall, I read my way through The Rival, but I didn’t find a hat trick of a story. I keep waiting for there to be a stronger emotional connection to her characters, and it’s not quite there yet. Kendall Ryan’s The Rival is more of what her readers love: tropes that feel familiar and characters that seem relatable. They simply need more story.
In love and romance,