Release Date: March 16th, 2022
CW: mentions of drunk driving, character with learning disorder (dyslexia), character confined to a wheelchair
A cocky kick returner and my brother’s best friend who should have been ripped of that title years ago, he’s as infuriating as he is undeniably sexy.
I hate him, and for good reason — reason I won’t ever let him forget.
He thinks because we grew up together that it’s his role to protect me, but all he does is get in my way, make me look weak, and piss me off more.
I tell him I can handle myself, and I’m hell-bent on getting that point across to him and the rest of the nation watching the only girl in collegiate football.
The pressure doesn’t get to me. The scrutiny? I’m ready for.
But sharing very thin walls with Zeke Collins? I wasn’t prepared for that.
And the more we’re forced together, the harder it is to distinguish that pencil-thin line between hating him… and wanting him.
“Because I ache for you. And I’ll end anyone who touches what’s mine.”
Oof, Kandi Steiner didn’t give me enough of a warning about how this book would make me feel. I always go into Kandi’s stories prepared to cry and/or soul’s been wrung dry. And with Fair Catch I definitely went through all of the feelings. While not as angsty as I expected it to be, I didn’t care. Because Riley and Zeke delivered a story that was part redemption, part falling in love for the first time and all of it tied together with what is becoming one of my favourite tropes—frenemies to lovers.
Riley, Zeke and Gavin (Riley’s twin brother) have known each other for years having grown up together. But when a drunk driving incident leaves Gavin confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life and his football dreams go down the drain, he turns to Riley to live out the one thing he wanted to do—take his place on the football team in college. For Riley, art and soccer have been two things she’s loved. But having grown up loving and enjoying football, she knows that taking on the role as the kicker to fulfil one of her brother’s wishes isn’t the hardest thing to do. Her only problem is that she has to deal with Zeke. Zeke who she crushed on as a kid and till he slid behind the wheel of the car that almost ended her brother’s life. Zeke who she wants to ignore and punch every time he appears in her line of sight. Zeke who is also now her new roommate.
I loved the idea and the story so much that I still went into Riley and Zeke’s book totally blind. I forgot the blurb almost as soon as I started reading and I’m glad. Because this book is best enjoyed if you know nothing about what is going on from the start. Riley and Zeke’s frenemies to lovers situation is both frustrating and amusing, but it’s mostly seeing how Zeke doesn’t hate Riley the way she hates him. I completely see why Riley wants to hurt and ignore Zeke, because he hurt her and I loved that it took her a long time to really come to terms with him as a person. But what I loved was their journey to get there. They go from being two people working their butts off to be part of the football team, to becoming starters on the team that end up living together on campus. I loved how Zeke was protective of her and even when she snapped and pushed at him, he stood his ground. Riley’s obviously not the only one who made a promise to Gavin and Zeke’s just following through with what he told his best friend.
Riley was such a brilliant character. Not only is she dealing with all these frustrations towards Zeke, she also has to deal with teammates and the media who keep questioning her place in football. I love that even though she’s doing this because it was what Gavin asked of her, Riley loves her position with the team and she’s not going to let anything or anyone stop her or step in the way of her achieving her dreams. And yes, this is not just about Gavin’s dreams, it’s about her own dreams. For Riley, football isn’t the end goal and she has no intention of going pro because she wants a job in art—a museum or gallery—but she pours herself into this like her life depends on it. And that kind of determination really won me over.
I didn’t instantly like Zeke, but I think that’s part of his charm. He takes a little time to get your interest from the start. He’s repentant, apologetic and at the same time, he’s a cocky football player with good looks and talent and he’s not going to hide that. Zeke’s also extremely protective and possessive of Riley and seeing her through his eyes really made me grow to appreciate him. I also appreciated the amount of work that went into him making up for his past mistakes, for his screw-ups and for the things that Riley hates about him. There’s so much more to Zeke than just what people see and I loved how we got to peel back each layer slowly and see him for who he is.
“Because I am scarred by the fire you started in me. Because you have reduced me to fucking ashes.”
They are fantastic together. It’s a mix of the classic enemies to lovers tossed up with a bunch of other things that really presents their relationship in a brilliantly unique way. I liked that while Riley is snapping and pushing, Zeke stands his ground because all he wants is to go back to the way things used to be. He wants Riley to look at him without hatred and disdain and she’s struggling to see anything but the guy who almost broke her heart and soul. But the way they slowly find each other in the darkness of their lives and not only manage to become friends but so much more is what made me love them together so much. There was nothing easy about their relationship because Riley is stubborn and Zeke is persistent. But thanks to all the history, those feelings have lingered for years, it’s just buried so deep down.
And of course, in true Kandi fashion, we got some deliciously hot steam. Their emotional relationship—the breaking down of pain and trauma, the struggles, the frustrations—all builds into intense sexual tension and chemistry which then explodes in the best way possible. Kandi is the kind of author that can take all of that and turn it into something beautiful. AND HOT. Seriously, brace for the heat.
I also loved this group of friends and my heart belongs to Holden (I hope he gets a book!), but I’m so excited to see more of the stories from his universe, because Kandi’s college/sports romances have always won me over. Her PSU series, anybody? *chef’s kiss*
Thanks to Valentine PR for generously providing me with an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.