Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
I’m certain that the ability to become vulnerable will forever be a keen romance trope. Vulnerability is difficult for anyone; it requires you to trust that someone won’t take advantage of one’s willingness to show their fears. Charli, Sarina Bowen’s heroine in Shenanigans, her newest Brooklyn Bruisers’ story, has had to build tall emotional walls as protection. As a young girl and then a young woman, she has been taken advantage of, physically, emotionally, and mentally, by so many in her life, some of whom should have protected her. When we meet her in Bombshells, she’s fierce and funny and independent and willing to put anyone in their place. She’s also protective to a fault. Her banter with Neil in that book made me curious about Shenanigans. How would Sarina Bowen take a seemingly clueless hockey player, one who can’t seem to filter his thinking, and pair him with this brilliant woman? Well, if I had any doubts, they were wiped away within the first couple of chapters of Shenanigans.
You see, underneath their seeming differences, lies a couple who enchant you. Charli and Neil together are a revelation. For one, Neil brings light to Charli’s heavy world. Charli challenges Neil to think beyond himself and his own experiences. Neil is actually passionate about more than hockey. And Neil has the capacity to love the hardest parts of Charli. It’s those moments that make you fall in love with them. In fact, there are two moments between these two, one where Neil challenges Charli to live life fully and one where Charlie reminds Neil that hockey is all his own that best illustrate their friendship before their romance.
I think what I loved the most about Charli beyond her ferocity at living life on her own terms is her struggle with being vulnerable. Her story arc is painful because she’s been hurt so much in the past; she’s been made to feel like she is no one’s “first choice.” Living with that message, your heart hurts for her. Bowen makes that struggle palpable.
Neil is a soft landing space for her. He’s funny and cute and charming. He’s also rich, so he can spoil her, but he knows that can’t be his default with her. It takes him a bit to also be vulnerable with Charli. Once he determines his plan, though, Neil is a swoon-fest.
Sarina Bowen’s Shenanigans brought some light into my busy days. I didn’t think Neil and Charli’s story could achieve that. I was waiting for Neil to insult Charli more, but the laughter and fun between them, along with their steam, I couldn’t help but devour this book. Sarina Bowen fans, this is exactly the book you expect from her. There is so much more to it that my review will do it justice, but it’s exactly the story you should read right now.
In love and romance,