Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Tropes: second chance romance; forced proximity; enemies to lovers; sports romance; neighbors to roommates; slow burn; angsty tension; new adult college romance
Kandi Steiner’s Hail Mary is a masterclass in enemies to lovers, second chance, sports romance. Attempting to find the words to describe the fearlessness of Steiner’s writing is difficult. There is great intentionality in her storytelling which creates in her readers a rabid fandom and adoration over her books.. Initial reviews pour out high praise for Hail Mary for good reason. Just as her MMC Leo Hernandez catches a hail mary pass attempt in a crucial game against their rival, Steiner’s book is the hail mary ending of her Red Zone Rivals series. Like most hail mary passes, this book is a thing of beauty, inspiring big emotions in its readers. If you do nothing else right now, grab this one. Here’s why:
Steiner writes the heck out of a sports romance. She mixes in real football with off-the-field shenanigans. She doesn’t overwhelm her readers with the sport; instead, she sprinkles it over the relational journey of Leo and Mary.
The pacing of Hail Mary pulls the reader in and keeps them engaged. Steiner creates delicious tension through the first half as Leo and Mary negotiate past wrongs. This is where Steiner shines. For me, Chapters 22 and 23 are the chef’s kiss as they bring Mary and Leo’s attraction and disdain to a boil. After that, the story finds its cruising speed as Leo and Mary’s attraction evolves into more. In each step of her story, Steiner dictates her readers’ emotions, winding heartache and humor, pain and pleasure together into a story that clings to you days later.
Even though Hail Mary can be quantified by so many tropes, two truths are foundational to this book: the Red Zone Rivals community adds depth and breadth to sports romance and two, romance can be more: bigger than second chances, forced proximity, enemies to lovers, sports romance. In this romance, Steiner uses Mary’s characterization to spotlight autonomy in two ways: personal choices vs. parental expectations and the consequences of $exual harassment for its victim. These messages underpin Leo and Mary’s romance, and they suggest that authors can write romance that marries steam with social responsibility. Steiner doesn’t overwhelm her readers with these messages; instead, she deftly weaves them within a story that is an emotional and $exual powerhouse (I think the spice level of Hail Mary and Blind Side are tied).
Don’t miss on Kandi Steiner’s Hail Mary or its predecessors. This series is some of my favorite sports romances of the past year. Leo and Mary’s story simply offers up a stellar ending to this spectacular series.
In love and romance,