Fans of New Adult sporty romances set on college campuses likely have writers like Elle Kennedy on their auto-buy lists and I’m definitely one of them. With her current series, Briar U, she’s been profiling some good guy hockey players, young men with an eye for the ladies as much as the game. Now it’s Hunter Davenport’s turn, a playboy turned celibate as penance for a poor previous season who finds himself tempted by a fellow student in The Play.
When Demi Davis is teamed up with Hunter for a psychology assignment, she’ll admit to finding him attractive but she has a long-term boyfriend. Hunter’s reputation precedes him, even if he’s vowed abstinence for the current hockey season. Their friendship develops quickly as they keep encountering each other at campus parties and they have lots of study sessions together to work on their project.
Things take a different turn when Demi’s relationship with her boyfriend falls apart. All of a sudden she’s available and wants Hunter as a rebound partner if he’s willing to break his vow. Hunter is only human after all, and soon they are involved in a steamy affair. But do they have a strong enough foundation to last beyond the school year?
Having been out of the college scene myself for some time, I can’t speak to the accuracy of college life as depicted in this series, but it seems fairly consistent with other books I’ve read. The worldbuilding is believable and interesting, and the characters all come across as three dimensional with their own unique problems. Without going into spoiler territory there are some serious subjects including depression and suicide brought up, so despite the book’s mostly upbeat and comedic nature, there are some grittier moments.
I love the idea of the assignment that gets Hunter and Demi together at the start, and how Demi, as the ‘doctor’ has to figure out a diagnosis for her ‘patient’ Hunter based on his role playing. I think that would make for an interesting and enjoyable assignment in a real life class. In this case, Hunter gets the opportunity to play at being his father, revealing clues about his real life to Demi, who only later discovers that much of what he’s told her in their sessions is not made up. This sharing opens Hunter up to a real friendship with Demi, who in turn confides in him the difficulty she has with her own parents – her father in particular, who expects her to go to med school when what she really wants is to get her graduate degree in Psychology. When they visit their respective families, they can speak openly to each other in text messages and trust the other to keep their secrets.
As for sex, well, there’s plenty of it once Demi is single again (and lots of talk about it before then – this is a very sexually open crowd). While she’s with her boyfriend she’s completely faithful and she doesn’t even think of Hunter in any capacity other than as a friend until after her relationship ends. And since Hunter is keeping himself celibate, there is no other woman in his life until he discovers that the idea of Demi getting in a rebound relationship with someone else really bothers him. With all those hormones bursting at the seams it’s no surprise that they share some steamy sex scenes and have trouble keeping their hands off each other once they start.
A big part of the story, as in all the Off-Campus novels and the Briar U spinoffs, is the relationship between the hockey teammates and extended circle of friends. As Hunter is the team captain, the players turn to him for advice and he tries hard to live up to their expectations. When the team members want to get a mascot, he reluctantly brings the idea up to their Coach and in return they get to take care of a boiled egg whom they name Pablo Eggscobar, to prove that they can handle the responsibility of a pet. This is a hilarious side plot! Hunter lives with three women who are all involved with other hockey players so there are plenty of scenes with multiple secondary characters. And since this is a hockey romance, the story also follows the college hockey season as the Briar U team tries to make it to the Frozen Four national tournament.
Sex, hockey, college life, family, friends, and young love – it’s all here in another exciting and entertaining year at Briar U.