Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Tropes: Coach’s daughter; sports romance; hero falls first; forbidden romance; close or forced proximity; reverse grumpy/sunshine
“He lived for the loved ones he’d lost. I self-destructed for mine.”
I fell hard for Kandi Steiner’s Red Zone Rivals series from its first book, Fair Catch. I loved that story because any time you have a heroine successfully living in a predominately men’s world, I’m in. I adored Clay and Giana in the second book, Blind Side. The virgin who captivates the player-esque football player, and he “teaches” her what she needs to know to “get her man” is pure romance decadence. But something about their story kept me from giving it a perfect score. But Quarterback Sneak is, to me, the piece de resistance of this series.
Kandi Steiner’s Quarterback Sneak leaves me without words. Well, that isn’t entirely true. There are words to describe its beauty: emotional, impactful, erotic, and compassionate. Underlying Quarterback Sneak is a treatise of sorts on grief. Having personally experienced and observed grief, I know there is a reality behind it: everyone processes death differently. Steiner deftly and intentionally captures that truth in this story. Through the journeys of her hero, Holden, and her heroine, Julep, she shows her readers how death either focuses or fractures us. Juxtaposing her main characters, Holden and Julep fill in the holes left behind by the people they loved and lost, and Steiner crafts the beauty of their relationship as they struggle through their truths. Could I tell you that I loved the steam of their relationship? Yes. Is it lovely to reconnect with the main characters from Fair Catch and Blind Side? Absolutely! But it’s Julep and Holden’s relationship, the ups and downs of it, the complication of it, that kept me reading chapter after chapter when my life was spinning out of control. I simply couldn’t leave them alone because I pined for their individual growth and their happy ending.
For a bit in Quarterback Sneak, I was annoyed with Steiner. She allowed Julep’s father to create distance between Holden and Julep. I kept speaking to my Kindle as I read her story: “how can he make this call? What about Julep’s autonomy?” Honestly, I did this for much of the story, but it was simply a plot device that leads to one of the most powerful moments of the story (which I refuse to divulge here). It’s a necessary moment for Holden, and it brings his character development to full maturation. It’s moments like this that remind you of Kandi Steiner’s immense capacity to develop character and story as a means to engage her readers while also challenging them beyond their preconceived expectations of her stories.
I lost myself in Quarterback Sneak. I gave up grading time amidst a very busy season because Holden and Julep put a “hold on” me, and I hated for their story to end. I believe there is another story in this series, maybe, so hopefully, we’ll get glimpses of these two. Simply put, they are two special characters who illustrate the power of love to overcome grief and its effects. And that feels like an important message for today.
In love and romance,