Have you met author Kennedy Ryan? (Or her books anyway?)

I’ve listened to two of her novels—GRIP and LONG SHOT—in the last month, and I highly recommend these terrific books (and hope to get to more of her titles myself soon)!

LONG SHOT is the first title in her HOOPS series, set in the NBA. Nominated for a RITA this year, it hits the mark for romance, though be warned, there is some graphic domestic violence in the book.

A forbidden love story set in the explosive world of the NBA….

Think you know what it's like being a baller's girl? You don’t.

My fairy tale is upside down. 

A happily never after.

I kissed the prince, and he turned into a fraud.

I was a fool, and his love - fool's gold.

Now there's a new player in the game, August West. One of the NBA's brightest stars.

Fine. Forbidden.

He wants me. I want him.

But my past, my fraudulent prince, just won't let me go.

Please note: Some aspects of this story may be sensitive for some listeners.

Iris meets August in a bar just before the NCAA championships and they have a serious connection. She recognizes him as her boyfriend Caleb’s nemesis, but she doesn’t tell him and he doesn’t realize it until  later. He’s smitten, but she’s practically engaged to Caleb, and becomes even more entrapped when she realizes she’s pregnant. Caleb is continually clipping her wings, but when he seriously crosses a line, she tries to escape with her daughter and ultimately becomes a prisoner in her own home. When she crosses paths with August again, he realizes something is seriously wrong and helps her escape, setting up an amazing relationship for the two of them, but an enraged Caleb who will do anything to keep them apart.

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There are race issues in the book—Caleb's wealth and white, charismatic, surface hide a monster, but he has to work half as hard and meets half the hurdles as August to get noticed. Also, the violence against Iris is severe, and her powerlessness is stomach-curling. So do not enter into this read lightly. However Ryan handles the situations with unflinching honesty, reminding us how easily women can be caught in traps when men are determined to get them there, especially when they are isolated and friendless.

August, of course, is the true prince, and proves it by his actions and character. We are gratified when the best man wins everything in the end.

Grip GRIP, which takes place in the Hip Hop music scene, features music manager Bristol and her client Grip, her brother’s best friend whom she’s loved since they met eight years ago. However, Bristol’s family life is cool and complicated, and she’s learned to fear love. Also, Bristol is white, and Grip is an African American rapper from Compton, so there’s a good deal of commentary on race and class issues, especially when you throw Bristol’s wealthy ex in the mix.

The book isn’t perfect. It’s feels a little long and sometimes repetitive as Bristol flows hot and cold. Grip’s womanizing can be a little problematic, even though we mostly forgive him since he convinces us he only does (did) that because he can’t (couldn’t) have Bristol. There’s a lot going on, but the writing and characters are compelling enough that we don’t mind, and the journey is full of thought-provoking situations that make us think beyond the plot. And the end of the book is a little over-the-top, but is another opportunity to contemplate how easy it is for men to trap women when they’re determined to do so—even the wealthy, successful Bristol. (And honestly, the twist that saves her is soul-satisfying.)

Resisting an irresistible force wears you down and turns you out.

I know - I've been doing it for years.

I may not have a musical gift of my own, but I've got a nose for talent and an eye for the extraordinary.

And Marlon James—Grip to his fans—is nothing short of extraordinary.

Years ago, we strung together a few magical nights, but I keep those memories in a locked drawer and I've thrown away the key. All that's left is friendship and work.

He's on the verge of unimaginable fame, all his dreams poised to come true.

I manage his career, but I can't seem to manage my heart. It's wild, reckless, disobedient—and it remembers all the things I want to forget.

Contains mature themes.

Ryan writes great characters, terrific plots and weaves real-life issues into stories that ratchet up the tension and conflict while reminding us that these social problems—race, gender and class inequality; the vulnerability women face when they’re with men who think of them as objects rather than people or at the very least, don’t have their best interests at heart; etc.—actually happen, everyday, to real people. Including such elements in her books makes them more realistic, but also more interesting and compelling.

So there you go! Another great writer for your (never-ending, if it’s anything like mine…) TBR list.