Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Rebecca Jenshak’s Tutoring the Player is a sweet story about a young woman who is most comfortable on the perimeter of the party and a young man who is often the life of it. Jenshak’s newest story returns us to her eponymous Valley U and its hockey team. As the first book of her newest series, Campus Wallflowers, it has everything you love about Jenshak’s romances: an easy story, a female and male protagonist who engage you, and a romance with very little angst. In this story, Daisy is a shy physics/art major who watches life from her treehouse overlooking Jenshak’s iconic White House. She pines for Liam, a Valley U hockey player, from afar, thinking they are fated. However, she will never act upon it due to her shyness. When she finds herself in a physics class with Liam and his teammate, Jordan, there’s an opportunity to finally talk with him. Since her lab partner dropped the class, she requires a lab partner. Due to the classroom seating, her professor asks her to join Liam and Jordan for the semester. Little by little, Daisy becomes more comfortable with both of them, but as time progresses, she finds herself drawn to Jordan, her seeming opposite. Over time, Jordan is captivated by Daisy. When he realizes her crush on Liam, he decides to discourage it, but he creates a situation where he can get closer to her. He tells her he requires her tutoring, and their love connection begins. As they begin to fall for each other, Jordan must confront why he eschewed relationships, and Daisy must stay unattached because Jordan is known to be a player. Is this a love match? Or are they a momentary dalliance?
Much of Tutoring the Player illustrates the reasons to read Rebecca Jenshak’s romances. She has crafted a universe of college students from different places on campus, which entice you into her romances. Daisy and Jordan seem like real people, causing you to connect with their stories. The relatability that Jenshak infuses in her characterizations of Daisy and Jordan holds you fast. I found myself in pieces of Daisy, that feeling of never feeling comfortable in the whirlwind of attention. If I can imagine myself as Daisy, then I can see myself through the course of her story. As she grows, I grow. And there is a realism in the characters of her expanded universe, even if they are professional basketball or hockey players. Their challenges are our challenges.
In her characterization of Jordan, we’re confronted with the truth of death. Frequently, it causes us to create protections that distance ourselves from meaningful relationships. We lower our expectations in life because we can’t guarantee that one’s life won’t be gone in mere seconds. Jordan’s player status results from the loss of his best friend, and Liam, his roommate and “new” best friend, forces him to encounter his truth later in the story.
The power of Tutoring the Player is its expanded character list. Jenshak has the promise of more great future stories in this new series since Daisy’s roommates require their own happily ever afters. There is also the suggestion of returning to the White House and its basketball players, along with other options throughout Jenshak’s Valley U campus.
If there is any limitation to Jenshak’s romances, it’s the low angst of her stories. I know that’s her signature, but, as you read her romances, the inciting incident for creating the tension between her female and male protagonists oftentimes feels too dramatized or manufactured. If you’re writing main characters who seem realistic, their problems should feel more real, if that makes any sense. That being said, I enjoyed every page of Rebecca Jenshak’s Tutoring the Player. She is a solid 4-star romance writer for me, and I find aspects of myself in her characters…even as a middle-aged woman far past her college years. That, to me, is a win for her and her future romances.
In love and romance,