A college hockey player finds his vow of celibacy tested when he meets the campus beauty.
This final installment of Kennedy’s (Bad Apple, 2018, etc.) Briar U trilogy focuses on a supporting character from the earlier volumes: hockey star Hunter Davenport. He’s so bitterly disappointed that Briar’s hockey team “didn’t make it to the national championship” that he’s decided to take a vow of sexual abstinence until the end of the season. It’s tough on him (“I take out all my sexual frustration on the ice,” he thinks, but readers won’t believe him). And his pledge doesn’t stop him from appreciating all the lovely women at campus parties. But in a psychology class, he meets smart, gorgeous Demi Davis. Demi immediately notices how handsome he is (“too attractive for his own good”), and soon she and Hunter are paired in a psychology experiment in which she plays the doctor and he the patient. In short order, strong sexual tension builds between the two. Hunter doggedly maintains his “monk” status even as the chemistry between them heats up. Demi admires his stunning looks and is amused by his quick wit (When setting up their next class meeting, he texts her: “Make sure you’re wearing tight spandex pants so I can objectify you”). But she has mixed feelings about Hunter (“He is either the best or the worst. I still haven’t decided”). Kennedy unfolds the story with smooth confidence and a great deal of sure-footed humor. The book’s whole supporting cast is well developed. And both Hunter and Demi are sparkling, enjoyable fictional creations, often unpredictable but also entirely believable, dealing with each other in the sexually frank manner that characterizes notable contemporary romance titles. Hunter’s resolve about his love life feels overdone in the novel’s final third, but the author’s prose is so energetic that only the pickiest readers will find it distractingly unrealistic— in fact, they may love the character all the more for it.
A funny, frank, and refreshingly mature take on the familiar will-they-or-won’t-they romance template.