Series: Blairwood University, #3
Release Date: July 9th, 2021
They belong to two completely different worlds…
After dedicating her entire life to figure skating, Rei Mitchell-Nagasaki is ready for a little bit of normal. And what’s more normal than attending college?
Zane West has had a rough life, but he’s found his way out of Ashton Heights and he isn’t about to lose it all when the demons of his past come knocking at the door.
… that are about to collide on the ice.
Rei has one semester to show her father that she can have it all—a normal life and making it to the Winter Games—but it’s not so easy when there is a broody hockey player standing in her way. Once heated arguments turn into sharing the rink and late-night kisses, neither of them will be able to resist the pull.
Will they manage to defy the odds or was their love doomed from the very beginning?
CW/TW: racism, mention of drugs, mention of abuse, police brutality
So, remember when I was freaking out about Zero Chill, a relatively new show on Netflix? It featured a brother-sister hockey star-figure skating duo and it got me so excited because I love the combination of the two. And then Anna B. Doe went and wrote a book featuring two characters of colour AND one of them is a hockey player, while the other is a figure skater. So, obviously I was going to sign up for a chance to read it! Kiss to Defy is the third book in the Blairwood University series and my first book by Anna B. Doe.
“You make me believe I can do this. You make me believe I can fly.”
I really enjoyed this book and I’m really looking forward to going back and reading the other books in the series. Because I’m so intrigued by all the characters we got to meet in this one.
Rei Mitchell-Nagasaki is a professional figure skater. She’s a champion and on her way to the Winter Games. It’s all she’s ever wanted to do. Her mother was a figure skating champion too and even though she never met her, Rei wants to follow in her footsteps. Having been homeschooled and living a strict lifestyle of that of a figure skater, Rei’s finally made the decision to come to Blairwood University to soak up life and experience something more than just what she’s used to. Zane West comes from a rough life and he’s finally got something he’s good at and something he wants to hold onto at Blairwood that he works hard to keep his head up. Zane is going places and he doesn’t want his past to come back and try to ruin that.
Neither of them are looking for the other, but they are what they find. And it’s beautiful.
“Rei Mitchell-Nagasaki is truly great. I don’t have to understand figure skating to know that.”
From the moment they meet, Rei and Zane are drawn to each other. It doesn’t matter that they form opinions about each other or experience the most stressful meet-hate ever, there’s something in the other person that they want and that just keeps them going. Rei and Zane not only come from different worlds, they’re completely different too. She’s got her mind set on the Winter Games and Zane is just working to graduate and make his way into becoming a physical therapist. His dreams aren’t as big as hers, but Zane still wants to achieve something.
These two characters are brilliant. I love a strong, determined and passionate woman who goes after what she wants. And that’s exactly who Rei is. She doesn’t let anything hold her back and even when everyone around her keeps telling her that she needs to slow it down, she knows that if she does, she’ll lose her momentum. Rei has her end goal and she will do whatever it takes to get there. But at the same time, Rei knows how to let go and have a little fun. She’s been kept away from the world for so long, so she’s finally able to catch up and enjoy herself. And she does. I love her friendship with the girls in her dorm and how she slowly becomes friends with all of Zane’s friends too. She’s the kind of girl that I would have been in awe of in college, but wanted to be friends with too.
Zane is amazing too. He’s borderline swoony, but he’s also a grumpy hockey playing biker and that combination is all kinds of wonderful. He’s not a player and he’s not an a-hole, but he is a good friend and supportive, helpful and he steps up when it’s necessary. Zane’s relationship with Hayden and Grams was so special too, I love family dynamics of that kind. Especially when it’s a found family, because those are always so much more powerful and impactful than your regular family dynamics. From the start, I was so curious about Zane and his life and the more that the book progressed, the more I learned and I truly loved what we got to see of him.
“Why do you believe in me, Zane?”
“Because I can see you.”
Their relationship is a delicious slow burn. They go from snapping at each other to becoming slow friends to falling in love. And it’s so wonderful. I like that it felt real and not a hurried jump into the sack together. With Rei, Zane’s softer and that’s when the swoon appears. He treats her with gentleness, but also without making her feel like she’s fragile. Because the last thing Rei wants is to feel like she’s breakable. Of all the people in her life, Zane’s the only one who really sees Rei for who she is and she loves that. She leans into it every single time. Their banter, their chemistry, their dialogue – it was all so great. AND, let’s not even get me started on the sex. Because oh boy… *fans self*. That was great. It’s all that sexual chemistry and tension that they were building up through the course of the book that finally explodes and it becomes something brilliant. No, you don’t have to wait till the end, but it does take a little while for them to cross that line. And once they do, there’s no going back.
Kiss to Defy might be a love story, but there’s more to it. There’s some heavy topics that are tackled and I liked seeing how those instances were woven into the story. This book is heavy on angst, sports, friendships, finding yourself and balances it out with a great group of friends and found family dynamics.
Thanks to Anna B. Doe for generously providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.