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Monday, February 23, 2015

The Deal (Off Campus #1) by Elle Kennedy

A Review by Wendy
5 Face Palming, HardCore Loving Stars 
* * * * *

Elle Kennedy has been a go to author for me whenever I wanted something with an easy to follow plot and a very sensual, spicy, sexy man. The woman would be complete, not weak, focused, either on work, relationship... or lack there of... and have friends to back her up. Real people... with love stories that were HOT! In all of her work I have read...I felt she had a very keen grasp on what worked for these stories. In other words, if I was reading a Kennedy... I knew I was in good hands. 

Well, Ms. Kennedy has written on of the best New Adult "college" stories I have read. She has taken all of the normal conflicts...and then raised the bar. Because her characters are two complete, fully formed adults. They have purpose; they have attainable goals. They have experienced individually horrible situations and through their inner strength worked to be as Whole as they can. They do not whine; they do not play "the woe is me card"... and they would have every single reason to. No... they confronted their demons, worked to "get over" them and are ready to get on with life.

Let's pause for a moment and give thanks... ok.

We have Hannah; from a small town with two loving, everyday parents. They both work and support the career goals of their talented singer/songwriter daughter. They were middle class, worked hard to own a home and be part of a community. Due to a horrific event with Hannah... they lost everything... they lost their financial security, their standing in the community and church and their freedom to leave due to the housing crisis. They cannot sell, so both parents are working low end jobs and getting by. 

With all of that, though, they stand behind their daughter... give her the emotional support she needs and just are there for her even though they are miles away. It is with this type of love, Hannah is who she is. She is a girl who has been challenged like many... hurt like many, yet through counseling and fortitude, learned to do as she was guided... "Take Baby Steps". She is a very pretty, natural girl. Extremely talented in the musical arts and when she sings the world drops away. She is a junior in the music program at Briar University on full scholarship. This does not pay for her food, books and other living expenses. She also waits tables at a 50's inspired diner not far from campus. She shares her dorm room with her friend who is always trying to get her out and to parties. They both look after each other. 

Hannah has had some experience with guys but nothing has given her the feelings she is able to get on her is like she is blocked... or in her words... broken. The only interest she has had lately in the opposite sex is this new Football player on Campus... he fights the usually image by letting it be known he loves Hemingway! Hannah has a class with him... stares at him from behind pages and gets tongue tied whenever an opportunity should happen for to talk with him. 

She is in a this daze when Garrett Graham knocks into her...UGH...he is the Big man on Campus... Captain of the Hockey team and gorgeous... pantie- dropping-I-want gorgeous. Every woman on campus wants him; whether as a Puck Bunny... because of the status of doing a player... or because he is beautiful man meat...and the status of doing him and what he will be in the future... Because he is on the fast track to Pro Hockey... at least he was until this friggin class with this sub teacher... A class which was supposed to be easy but now is going to ruin his GPA and keep him off the team. 

Garrett comes from Hockey royalty... his father is famous..a record breaking  professional player with an image the public loves... to bad the public doesn't know about the private person; the controlling, abusive man who drilled Garrett day in and day out since he could hold a stick. For Garrett, he hates the man for what he has done to his mother, to him and to the game...but the one saving grace is the ice and game... for his real family is his team. He is a senior and soon he will be on his way... able to fly on the ice, able to breathe finally away from the control of his dad... so he cannot let any F mess with the goals so close with in reach.

With an F to make up and the scattered mess he made of Hannah's stuff... he sees an A on her midterm paper. Garrett knows what must happen... he needs Hannah to tutor him for the make up exam... and he is determined to have her do it. When he makes up his mind about anything... there is no end until he reaches his goal... 

Hannah has no use for Garrett. She has no desire to be around him or help him. She has experienced with her arts/drama click how the "Jocks" treat them... no thank you. She has other things on her mind... like pursuing her football guy.

She shuts down Garrett as nicely as she can... and he is stunned... he uses the puppy dog eyed look..nothing. He uses the sweet smile... not a budge... he will have to re group. He goes to her diner and sits in her area. Damn... she has to wait on him... again... nothing he says is working... she won't take money, says she has no time because of her winter program contest with a $5,000 win...he is getting flustered...and then it hits him....

Mr. Football... He knows she is interested in this guy...and knows he has the the bait... he will pretended date her so she is seen as taken, popular and out of reach... everything a guys sees and makes him interested. It takes some convincing but finally Hannah is on board. She will only tutor him for this one make up mid term...he will take her around to a frat party he knows this guy will be ... make it look like they are together and hook her up with a date with her goal guy. Easy peasey....

Except we all know what is coming... don't we...

Well, what happens next may follow the outline of these types of college stories... But really doesn't because what happens next is written with such humor, crass, fun and then most importantly Grace... yes grace...

Because both these two have scar tissue to work through... hidden secrets which are revealed each other... and in this getting to know one another...a true and authentic friendship develops over time. Joking and hanging out. Becoming friends with Garrett's team members. Garrett appreciating all the beauty and talent which is Hannah... no affectations... no hidden agendas, just an amazing woman who is honest and caring. Who see him not as just the hockey star but as the guy who is smart, loves history and applies himself. 

There are secondary issues addressed in this story besides the love story of these two... and they intertwine seamlessly. They address all of the ugly in the world; parental violence, domestic abuse, sexual violence, bullying and drugging. All of these factors could have been over done or felt like an add on... but as I said earlier... this story had  the deft hand of Kennedy and we were lead through all of this well. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention how sensual, hot and down right bookorgasmic the scenes were between Garrett and Hannah. This was not inst-lust... this was a slow build to real. Garrett was a dream man... and the care and instincts he used in handling what was presented to him by Hannah was perfect...and hot and steamy... and laundry inducing.

So what we have here is a New Adult book which treats its readers as if they are smart enough to follow a story without being manipulated unnecessarily. Is there some angst... yes. Is there some conflict... yes. BUT is it resolved without gut wrenching long drawn out mindless crazy. It happens and then it is fixed.

The fantastic news is this is the first in a new series for Kennedy. All of the secondary characters here were interesting and have enough personalities to give us stories to come. I cannot wait.

Do most NA books make you want to bang your head against a wall?

Do you get annoyed with male and female characters who should just know better and get a clue?

Well, I am here to announce Elle Kennedy has broken the barriers of the NA curse... She has written a smart, compelling and real book about college seniors who you fall for hook, line and sinker at first meeting....

Oh... did I mention our guy is the captain of the Hockey team...and the gal... the best little singer/musician with wit, charm and strength.

And meet them you will... closer to review time...

A gifted copy was provided by author/publisher for an honest review.

A RITA-award nominated author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.

Elle currently publishes with Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Harlequin Blaze, Samhain Publishing, and NAL. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!

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