Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Tropes: second chance romance, brother’s rival, forced proximity, soulmates/fated
“It feels like it started when I was born, and everything in my life brought me to him and him to me — like all the times we were apart were held breaths, and here together, in each other’s arms, we can finally breathe.”
I’ve been sitting in reflection after reading Kennedy Ryan’s The Close-Up a few days ago. Firstly, if you have not yet read her Hoops series, seriously, what are you waiting for? To this day, and I believe it has been two years, Long Shot still sits in my soul. I will never be over that book and its siblings. Kennedy Ryan has this immense capacity for storytelling. She is easily one of my top three writers in romancelandia. From her style to her character development to her story flow, she owns me as a reader. I knew The Close-Up would have Kennedy Ryan’s magic sprinkled all over it, and I was absolutely correct in that. I mean, what’s not to love about a story set in her Hoops and Reel worlds? To revisit old friends who still hold portions of your heart and soul is decadent. To read the marriage of these Kennedy Ryan worlds is divine. And that isn’t even the best part of this book.
Kennedy Ryan writes the h*ll out of MMC. Seriously. She has this talent for writing masculine heroes who humble themselves in adoring their heroines. Let me say that again for the people in the back: if you want to read a man who knows to his toes who he is and one of those things is both an alpha and submissive to love, then you MUST…honestly, I implore you…you HAVE to read The Close-Up or any other book Kennedy Ryan has ever written. Her male characters, especially in The Close-Up, live their truth while loving and living for the women they adore. In this newest book, it’s Nazareth. This man. THIS MAN, y’all, is pure romance male character heaven. He has confidence and a sense of self and a strong call to duty and a fierce determination to have Takira. For goodness sakes, he calls her Kira. He loves her in her truth. He accepts her as she is. And he dotes on her knowing she doesn’t need it, but that he wants to give it to her all the same. I’m not over the way that Naz loves Takira. I’m not over how all of Ryan’s other male characters love their significant others too. These men advocate for the women they love; they are alpha enough to potentially steal their voices. Yet, this never happens in a Kennedy Ryan book. Her MMCs, ones such as Naz, amplify their women; they give them the full breadth of space to soar. And that, my friends, is the reason I shed tears during my reading of The Close-Up. This is profound for the world we live in where TikTok and other media show us men who minimize women in relationships.
Amplification of voices is the key to changing the world. Kennedy Ryan does this stoically in The Close-Up, not just through the support of the MMCs, but also through Takira’s $exuality. There is a fluidity here that scorches the pages of this story, but it also provides an opportunity to recognize the spectrum of $exuality. Ryan offers an opportunity to consider more than the binary presented in many romances. In doing this, she allows us to accept this more, create more space for it in romancelandia, and ease people into greater acceptance. This message isn’t overt; Ryan has seamlessly woven it through her story. Don’t miss it, though. Because, again, it’s an opportunity to expand the world of romance and, by extension, our world.
Kennedy Ryan is a master storyteller. Even in short form, she weaves magic into the written word. I HATED leaving Naz and Takira and the rest of their Hoops and Reel crew. Kennedy Ryan’s gorgeous style coupled with her capacity to draw characters that steal hearts makes her a must-read.
In love and romance,