I’m quite picky when it comes to contemporary romances. The story has to contain something very special in order to catch my attention, and the loads of internet buzz surrounding the release of Kennedy Ryan’s latest novel, The Kingmaker, counts as special in my book. So with great anticipation, I dove into this politically-charged, sexy romance, and I was immediately captivated.
Before I get into the meat of my review, I want to make it clear that The Kingmaker ends on a huge cliffhanger. Fortunately, the sequel was released in mid-November, so readers aren’t required to suffer through a long wait. Even so, cliffhangers aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, so exercise your own judgement before deciding to buy this first installment.
Lennix Hunter is a woman with her feet firmly planted in two worlds. The daughter of a Native American woman and a white man, she’s no stranger to what it means to be part of a marginalized group of people. Even the privilege that comes from being half white isn’t enough to shield her from the more painful side of life. When Lennix was thirteen, her mother disappeared without a trace, and her case has never been solved. The authorities showed no interest in discovering what really happened, and Lennix has been forced to grow up in the shadow of this unspeakable loss. As a result, she clung to her Native American heritage, wanting nothing more than to make a noticeable difference in the lives of a people the government turned its back on years ago.
Maxim Cade was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he’s never felt truly comfortable in the high-powered business world inhabited by his father and brother. In fact, it’s long been Maxim’s dream to strike out on his own, even though his father threatens to disown him for it. And when the energy company owned by the Cade family lobbies to install a pipeline right in the middle of a Native American burial ground, Maxim knows the time to cut ties with his family has come.
When Maxim and Lennix meet at a rally protesting the installation of the pipeline, sparks immediately fly between them, but Lennix is only seventeen, and Maxim is sure she’ll hold his connection with the Cade family against him. So, he gives her a fake name, and they enjoy some stimulating conversation once they’re hauled off to jail for participating in the protest. Of course, Maxim’s father bails him out almost immediately, and he and Lennix don’t see each other again for four long years.
When Lennix is twenty-one, she accompanies her two best friends on a trip abroad for spring break, and she’s delighted to realize fate has placed her in the same city with the man she knows as Maxim Kingsman. The two begin spending time together, and it’s immediately clear there’s a deep attraction between them. Maxim feels guilty for keeping his true identity a secret from Lennix, but he’s afraid she’ll turn her back on him forever if she discovers who he really is. Of course, his secret is revealed near the end of Lennix’s spring break, and she vows never to forgive him for deceiving her in such a terrible way.
I’m usually not a fan of stories where one character out-and-out lies to another, but Kennedy Ryan managed to make it work for me here. I didn’t agree with Maxim’s choice to lie to Lennix, but I was also able to understand his reasons for doing so, and as time passes and both he and Lennix become successful adults, I found myself really wanting them to work things out. Since this is a romance novel, I don’t consider it too much of a spoiler to tell you they eventually begin to work through their differences, but their road to happiness is a long and arduous one. Ms. Ryan puts them both through the emotional wringer, causing me to feel tons of complicated emotions right along with them.
The chemistry between the leads is fantastic. Their every interaction is permeated with a subtle tension, the kind that seems to sizzle as you read. Even though they go long stretches without contact, neither is able to stop thinking about the other, and I found myself eagerly anticipating their eventual reunion.
I’ll admit to being a bit distressed by the way this first installment ends, but The Rebel King, book two in this series, is on my iPad waiting for me. You have no idea how badly I want to push every other book to the side in order to dive back into the story of Maxim and Lennix. Everything about this emotional rollercoaster of a book has me on tenterhooks to see how things will eventually be resolved for these two incredible characters.
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On my TBR!
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