Carrie: I was hanging out on twitter, as usual, when a random tweet from Kristen Callihan mentioned a NA book she had just written. My eyes whipped back so fast I think I strained a muscle as I furiously pounded out a review request. Callihan writes the Darkest London series, one of my favorite paranormal historical romance series, so I went into the story feeling confident. What I got out of it was so much more. This is New Adult done right, folks.
Jen: I very rarely venture into New Adult or Contemporary romance, but like you, I love Kristen Callihan like chocolate. So I figured, if anyone can sell me on a college football romance, it would be her.
Carrie: Anna Jones locked eyes Drew Baylor’s eyes on the first day of their senior Philosophy class and they both felt a zing go through them. The problem was that Anna wanted absolutely nothing to do with the star quarterback. None of his standby moves worked and for the first time in his life, Drew found himself pining for a girl who didn’t want him. It was Anna’s senior year of college and she didn’t have time to placate some dumb jock. She needed to nail down what the hell she wanted to do with the rest of her life. Anna just wished her body would get on board with her brain because every time Drew looked her way, she felt like she was on fire.
At a party, Anna finally gives in to Drew’s pleas figuring it would just be a hook up, a way to appease her wanton needs. It was so explosive that they both immediately recognized that it couldn’t be just a one-off. Drew sees this as a way in with his reluctant paramour, while Anna sets some strict “booty call only” rules. As booty-calls morph to friends-with-benefits, Anna learns a whole other side of Drew that completely contradicts all she had assumed as the carefully erected walls around her heart begin to crumble.
For the first time since his parents passed, Drew doesn’t feel so alone. Anna is sarcastic and biting and fierce and loyal and everything he never knew he wanted. Drew also knows that there are serious roadblocks to a relationship with her, but he feels down deep in his bones that she’s the only one who “gets” him and is determined to find a way to make her realize that they are perfect together.
GAH! I can’t even properly articulate how wonderful these characters are, individually and as a couple. Too often in New Adult books, the heroine is some timid insipid virgin with a tragic past. Not our Anna! She’s intelligent, sexually confident and knows her own mind. Yet, she isn’t perfect. Insecurities from adolescence creep into her consciousness, from time to time, causing doubt even though she knows it’s illogical. She has a circle of friends and a life. Anna is someone that I would actually want to be friends with.
Jen: I had trouble at some times with Anna’s insecurities… not the fact that she had them, but that this intelligent young woman couldn’t see the effects they were having on Drew. At the beginning, her trepidation made total sense. But it went on a little too long, making Drew easily the more sympathetic character.
Carrie: As Anna finds out, Drew is not a dumb jock. He’s intelligent, insightful and quite sensitive. It’s nice to see role reversal where the hero is the one with all the traditional heroine emotions. He throws down with his football bros yet still manages to evoke sympathy when divulging his inner worries to Anna. In bed there is no question. Drew is the man and he talks D-I-R-T-Y. It is super hot and it happens often. I believe this to be the sexiest NA book I’ve read – and it’s a beautiful thing.
Jen: I loved Drew. I loved how how willing he was to go all-in and wear his heart on his sleeve. And like you said, this book is smoking hot. Because it’s told in dual POV, not only can we see the emotional build, but the urgency of their desire for one another. Callihan ratchets up the heat to 100. She made me feel their need, but also their insecurities and growing feelings for one another.
Carrie: I love them together because they really do emulate a real relationship. There is a natural ebb and flow that a reader easily picks up on. The issues and conflicts (both internal and external) they face are realistic and relatable. They joke, they fight, they listen a.k.a a healthy relationship.
Finally, the side characters were fabulous and I want stories about all of them! From Iris and George, Anna’s best friends who are twins, to pretty much every guy on the football team. In a few short scenes, Callihan breathes life into each one. I always love dude banter and it’s just spot on – not too ridiculous but definitely showing guys being guys.
Jen: I also enjoyed the way the main characters played off their friends, though more so on the guy side than with Anna and her roommate. It was hard for me to sympathize with Iris, but she served as a good catalyst for Anna. I liked Grey a lot and I’m glad to see he will get his own story.
Carrie: It’s been 2 weeks that I’ve had this book in my hands and I’ve already re-read it twice. If you are new to NA or tend to shy away from the sub-genre, give this one a try. Fantastic tension with well-developed characters with a seriously steamy story made this a riveting read. It’s definitely going on my Best Of 2014 list.
Jen: I liked it too. Callihan does an amazing job putting me inside of her characters’ heads and hearts. I hurt when they hurt; I burned when they burned… and celebrated their satisfying HEA when all was said and done. Well done.
Carrie’s Rating: A
Jen’s Rating: B+
*ARC provided by author
Click to purchase: Amazon
The Hook Up
by Kristen Callihan
Release Date: September 8, 2014