The Graham Effect
Grade : C

Gigi Graham lives in the BEST world. Her father is the BEST hockey player of all time, with the highest rated hockey analysis show ever. Her mother is the BEST songwriter (she’s been nominated for multiple Grammys!), and her twin brother Wyatt is the MOST talented musician (he got into three top schools, including Julliard) and an amazing hockey player in his own right. Her ex is the BEST hockey player on Briar U’s hockey team. She grew up in the wealthiest neighborhood in Boston, she lives in the nicest dorm on campus, and her closest friends are all the best at their respective majors and activities. And most of all, Gigi herself is the BEST female hockey player ever. Don’t believe me? You don’t have to, because Gigi will tell you all about it.

We get gems like:

“Bethany might have played a good game today, but she’s nowhere near the caliber of player that I am.”


“Some rookies are showing potential, but for the most part there are only a few standout players among all the D1 programs. And I’m definitely in the top ten, if not five.”

Whether Gigi is likable or not is completely irrelevant because she’s the most obnoxious, full-of-herself braggart. I couldn’t stand her.

I’m not saying that Gigi can’t be a great hockey player. She can even be the best. But having HER tell us that? I don’t want to hang around these types of people in real life, much less spend my valuable leisure time with them. A little humility goes a long way. We are given some nonsense about her fear that maybe she’s gotten so far because of her father’s hockey pedigree (and his generous donations that benefit ONLY the Briar U hockey program), but it’s too little, too late.

Anyway. Gigi wants to be selected for the women’s national team and go to the Olympics, but she does have one area where she could use a little extra coaching. Enter Luke Ryder, a hot-shot hockey player from Briar University’s rival school, Eastman.

When Eastmen went belly up due to reduced enrollment, its hockey program merged with Briar’s, and a composite team was created. Ryder is reluctantly named co-captain, and he’s struggling along with the rest of the guys to learn how to communicate and work together as a team.

Not that Ryder needs to worry, since he’s already received a draft offer from Dallas’s NHL team and is poised to go pro after graduation. His future does have a cloud hanging over it, however. An incident in Ryder’s past has given him the reputation of being difficult. When he learns that Graham Garrett, Gigi’s father, is going to choose two players from the team to help him run a juniors hockey camp, Ryder figures this is a way to lock down his plans for hockey glory by proving he’s got leadership skills. Unfortunately, not only does Graham Garrett buy into the bad press he heard about Ryder, but their first encounter happens after a series of circumstances paints Ryder as not serious about his sport.

Ryder determines the best way to get past Garrett Graham’s completely unfair judgment of him is to kiss up to Gigi so she’ll put in a good word for him. While she sees through him – not that Ryder tries to hide his motives – she makes him a deal. If Ryder helps her improve her skills behind the net, she’ll talk him up to her dad and try to change his opinion of Ryder.

The Graham Effect features all of Elle Kennedy’s trademark hockey story tropes. Hilarious dialogue between the hockey players. A countless array of uber-hot, man-ho athletes with names like Case and Rand and Beckett and Shane. Copious amounts of sexy times, concerning amounts of bodily fluids, and extensive dirty talk. (Those hockey guys really, REALLY enjoy performing oral sex!) If you like her Off Campus and/or Briar U series, this is more of the same.

In fact, Gigi is the offspring of The Deal’s main couple, Garrett and Hannah. Garrett and Hannah’s story came out in 2015, so at best Gigi should be seven years old rather than a college junior. Don’t try to suss it out. Just go with it, because Gigi lives in a universe where Briar University is an Ivy League school and every guy who plays on the Briar men’s hockey team goes pro. Insert eye roll here.

In the end Gigi and Ryder have decent chemistry. Gigi constantly ruminates about how Ryder is grouchy and quiet and generally an old curmudgeon, but nothing we are shown in Ryder’s actions explains this viewpoint. Both Gigi and her father don’t know Ryder from Adam at the beginning of the story, other than a brief encounter Gigi has with him in the prologue, in which Ryder accuses her of being a – gasp! – figure skater. And yet, both Gigi and Garrett judge the poor guy endlessly. I liked Ryder a lot more than I liked them, that’s for sure.

My issue with this story is that so much of it isn’t necessary. Why is Briar a fake Ivy? Why can’t it just be a normal college? Why does every single Briar hockey player have to go on to play in the NHL? In fact, exploring how an elite athlete faces the end of his/her career once they graduate would be fascinating, because it can be a very traumatic adjustment. Why does everything in Gigi’s world have to be the best? I get that readers love a touch of fantasy, but this is farcical. I would have really liked this book a lot more if everything had been toned down a few dozen notches.

As I said, if you enjoyed Kennedy’s other hockey player books, The Graham Effect is fine. But it’s more of the same, so if you are looking for something new… keep looking.

Reviewed by Jenna Harper

Grade: C

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : October 31, 2023

Publication Date: 10/2023

Review Tags: Campus Diaries series

Recent Comments …

  1. Thank you . I read the free sample and the nonsense you expound on above was sufficiently grating to me…

  2. I was Shane when l was 10 ye old l love the theme song what a thing between Shane and…

  3. This is on sale today for $1.99 You can shop for it using the AAR link

Jenna Harper

I'm a city-fied suburban hockey mom who owns more books than I will probably ever manage to read in my lifetime, but I'm determined to try.
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