Desert Isle Keeper
Narrated by Teddy Hamilton and Seraphina Valentine
Kennedy Ryan was a new-to-me author when I picked up Long Shot, the first book in the Hoops series. I loved it. It devastated, surprised and delighted me in equal measure, and it was one of my favorite books in 2018. I didn’t think the follow-up, Block Shot, could top it, and while it doesn’t, it’s every bit as good in its own wonderful way. Starring Jared Foster, step-brother of Augustus West (the beta hero of Long Shot), and Banner Morales, the girl he briefly had and then lost in spectacular fashion, Block Shot is sexy and smart and sharp – just like its principal characters. The story moves at a fast clip as these two opposites slowly, inexorably find their way to a happily ever after together. Roadblocks – blocked shots – whatever you want to call them, plague this pair from start to finish. It’s an entertaining and exhausting journey, but well worth your time. The audio is similarly good – although Teddy Hamilton steals the show. Seraphina Valentine is good, but her narration skews slightly younger and more innocent than the character on the page, and lacks some of the fierceness the story demands.
Jared Foster and Banner Morales met in college. He was the hot, intelligent, popular guy with a laser focus on his future as a successful sports agent; she was the insecure, brainy, curvy latina he fell for the first moment he heard her voice in a shared sports management class. She had the same dream and the same laser focus. Jared bided his time waiting for the right moment to confess he wanted more from her than friendship, until the night she told him she was leaving to take a coveted internship in a far-away city. He took his shot during a late night study session at the laundromat where she worked. Despite Banner’s surprise and doubts, they wound up naked together and the sex was incredible… until. Well, let’s just say the night ended in disaster. Jared still wanted Banner and she wanted nothing to do with him. Ever.
Fast forward several years. Jared and Augustus own a powerful sports agency newly headquartered in Los Angeles, and their biggest competitor is the agency where Banner Morales is queen. Jared is ruthless, powerful, and now that he has Banner in his sights, determined to win her regardless of the obstacles in his way. Banner – still sometimes plagued by insecurity about her appearance and size – is a badass who doesn’t have time for Jared or his attempts to win her back. She wins clients and keeps them with her signature mix of mothering, tough love, ferocious talent and intelligence; Banner is the best agent in town and doesn’t intend to let Jared win her clients or her heart. She’s also engaged to a famous basketball player who loves her to distraction. Banner has moved on and intends to block every shot Jared takes; Jared has Banner in his sights and he won’t – can’t – let her block this final shot.
Right, you’re rolling your eyes at all the sports metaphors. That’s okay. I feel you. They are a bit over the top in this second Hoops novel – but it works, I promise! Because Jared is over-the-top; he wants Banner and it’s a full court press as he goes after her. Ordinarily I would think this character type is on the slightly creepy side… but Jared isn’t. Via his often painfully honest PoV, it’s clear how deeply he loves Banner and regrets their painful past. Jared loves EVERYTHING about Banner. From the beginning it’s clear he understands her – the insecurities, doubts, fears – and wants her to see herself the way he does – beautiful, good, smart, kind, wonderful, passionate and brilliant in every way. His passion and devotion to Banner is powerful and profound. I’ll concede, he’s also a conceited dick; but in his defense, he’s hot, he works hard for his success and deploys all the skills and tricks at his disposal. He also loves Banner and regrets what happened when they were in college (which isn’t what Banner thinks). I sort of loved how he ruthlessly goes after her and anything in his way. It’s awesome.
Banner is a heroine you can identify with and admire. She’s a woman full of a doubts and insecurities – real and imagined – but she doesn’t let them hold her back. She’s succeeded in a male dominated field because of her own unique strengths, determination, intelligence and passion. Her way isn’t their way. It’s better. Unlike the men she competes against, Banner isn’t money or fame obsessed, she’s whip smart, confident and passionate – and she gives 100% to everything and everyone around her… even as she struggles to love herself. She never understood why Jared wanted her, and didn’t stick around to listen to his apology the night they parted as enemies; Banner fights her attraction to Jared as a form of protection, and uses her relationship with her fiancé to keep him at a distance. That relationship is similarly complicated – but Jared is undeterred and unwilling to see it as an obstacle to his own affections for her.
Block Shot is sexy and romantic and filled with Ms. Ryan’s trademark sharp wit and clever storytelling. It doesn’t flow quite the way you expect it to – Jared is like a battering ram that just keeps knocking down every defense Banner constructs, and whenever they’re together, their chemistry fairly steams the pages. The sex is intense and passionate and naughty and just perfect. I loved the chase, the catch and what comes afterwards, and much like Long Shot, the affair between Jared and Banner is complicated and difficult and satisfying and… it’s just better than most contemporary love stories in every way. I couldn’t put it down and even when I was frustrated with the principal pair, I rooted for them.
I haven’t listened to a lot of NSFW audio books (I listen on the drive to/from school with my son), and had to sneak Block Shot in during solo outings and during workouts. I couldn’t stop sneaking away to listen to it! Teddy Hamilton nails Jared’s innate confidence and intense focus on Banner, and his smug satisfaction when things go his way. You’d fall for Jared based on the narration alone – that smoky, husky, deep voice perfectly matches my image of this character. I wasn’t quite as fond of Ms. Valentine’s interpretation of Banner. The voice was a good match for her PoV in college, but once Banner is in Los Angeles, the character sounded too young and didn’t match the woman I imagined Banner to be – tough, sharp, smart, and outwardly confident. I liked her scenes with Jared, but that youthfulness didn’t quite work for me. That’s a very minor criticism though, because the narration mostly enhances this excellent story.
I’m often disappointed by the second book in a trilogy, but Block Shot is just as good as its predecessor. Hoops has quickly become one of my favorite sports romance series, and with Hook Shot arriving in a few short weeks, it has an excellent chance of taking the top spot.
Breakdown of Grade: Narration: B+ Content: A
Running Time: 14 hours 3 minutes