Contemporary Romance Project #2: Block Shot, Into the Blue, and The Magnolia Chronicles

Well, reading my favorites in alphabetical order certainly didn’t last long. I’m not sure what happened (just kidding, it’s always the Kate Canterbary rotary circle), but somehow I found myself downloading The Magnolia Chronicles on my drive home from a friend’s house and falling in love with Magnolia and co. all over again. I’m genuinely in love with all three triplet’s books and at this point, I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t go ahead and include Boss in the Bedsheets because I’ve already re-read it twice this year because I love it so much. Anyway, this is a long intro to say that I sort of gave up on alphabetical order and just followed where my mood reading heart wanted to go. So in this post we’ll be discussing Block Shot by Kennedy Ryan, a book I absolutely adore that I can’t help but feel like I shouldn’t, Into the Blue by Chanel Cleeton, and The Magnolia Chronicles by Kate Canterbary.

Figuring Out My Favorite Contemporary Romances Project

Block Shot by Kennedy Ryan

Block Shot
Characters: 10
HEA Believability: 9
The Emotions: 10
Chemistry: 10
Writing: 10
Intrigue: 10
Re-Readability: 10
Plot: 7 
Score: 76/80
Block Shot by Kennedy Ryan and the score/rating breakdown

I decided to tab Block Shot and physically read it this time through and y’all, that tabbing is intense. I knew I really loved this book, but I also remembered being frustrated by Banner’s weight loss journey just because I can find the topic triggering depending on where I’m at in life. Fortunately, this time around, the topic didn’t bother me at all! (I will say though if you think that’s likely to cause an issue for you, it’s a big part of the story really, in that Banner is remembering to work out, specifically deciding to have a cheat meal, etc.) A super quick synopsis is that Jared was very into Banner when they were in college together, but something happens that interrupts their budding relationship and now it’s been years and there’s bad blood there. In the present day, Banner is dating a man whose nickname is Zo, but Jared wants her anyway and so he goes after her. But overall, I just found Jared and Banner to be so compelling, both individually and together. And then there’s the way Zo plays in and I just really, really liked the way this was done. I wish I could articulate how Kennedy Ryan’s writing makes me feel so much, but I honestly can’t.

So speaking of characters, as I mentioned, Kennedy Ryan crafts such intricate characters in this book (and really, all of her books). Banner is an incredible woman who has worked so hard in all areas of her life and she is so caring and driven. I adored seeing how she has managed to be such a badass in the field of sports management without sacrificing anything that some men would deem make her soft. And Jared is… Honestly, he is fairly amoral and doesn’t really give a fuck about the vast majority of people on the planet. And the people he’s willing to sacrifice for? That list is nearly non-existent. It’s so cool to see how Kennedy manages to make you care about Jared even though he really has so little softness in him and it’s because his love for Banner really humanizes him. But not in a Banner fixes him kind of way. But in a like, because he loves Banner, he sort of tries to be a better human. If that makes sense. Either way, I love them and how well developed they are. And that is true of all of the supporting cast as well. I just had such a great time with this one.

I also look at HEA Believability on this rating system I developed for myself and here’s the thing: Kennedy Ryan writes soulmates, okay? So generally, I’m always going to believe in the HEA for her people. And I do here too, I just also sort of have this just slight desire to have seen just a little bit more of how Banner is going to adjust to Jared being in her life with her mom being extremely resistant. Speaking of things Kennedy Ryan does well, the emotions! This, for me, ties a lot into the writing score because for Kennedy Ryan, even when I don’t expect to be feeling things, I am. She just gets me, time and time again, because her writing brings out the emotions regardless. And this book made me feel a lot.

Then we have chemistry and for me, Banner and Jared have that spark between them that makes every interaction they have sizzle off the page whether they touch one another or snipe at one another. I’m just very into them and how palpable the tension is at all times. As for intrigue, the thing I like to keep in mind is that I’ve already read these books. So for me, part of this is, does the book make me want to keep reading? Does it keep my attention the entire time? And the answer here is very much yes. I devoured this book. It was brilliant. As for re-readability, this is sort of my test of is this book a perfect book for me when read or is it a book that I can read all the time? And I think Block Shot has it. I mean, sure, I’ll need to be cautious about the fact that sometimes the weight stuff may bother me, but generally, I can read this book always. And then finally, we have plot. This score is easily the most personal for me and is not a score that anyone, author or reader of these reviews should consider, because plot is really just on a scale of 1-10 how much did I enjoy the plot itself? And this is why this book gets a 7 because I really feel like I shouldn’t like the plot! But I do and so it is what it is.

“If there is one thing I can leave with you, it’s this: We work in a jungle and are surrounded by alpha males and apex predators. Everyone’s looking to be the last one standing, to be at the top of the food chain, and they sometimes don’t care who gets hurt in the process. Don’t lose your heart. Don’t lose your soul. Don’t lose your compass, and that doesn’t mean don’t win. Win. Fight. Conquer. You have just as much right to success as anyone who works for it. It may be a jungle, and they may be lions. But the daughter of a lion is still a lion and this is your domain.”

Banner giving a speech in Block Shot by Kennedy Ryan

Content Notes: serious illness (not cancer but similar), caretaking, cheating, body image issues, talk of weight loss

Into the Blue by Chanel Cleeton

Into the Blue by Chanel Cleeton
HEA Believability: 8
The Emotions: 6
Chemistry: 9
Writing: 7
Intrigue: 6
Re-Readability: 8
Plot: 8
Score: 60/80
Into the Blue by Chanel Cleeton Score/Review Sheet

Into the Blue by Chanel Cleeton is a book that I fell absolutely head over heels in love with when I first read it and I fully expected to feel the same on this re-read. Unfortunately, it just didn’t quite capture me the same way. The end though? Still top notch and made me feel all the things. Essentially Into the Blue is about Becca and Eric who dated and were engaged when they were high school through college. Eric broke up with her in a letter because he couldn’t see himself being tied down and wanted to explore the world or something, while Becca was fully ready to put in roots. Now, it’s ten years later, and Eric is reeling from the loss of a friend during a training exercise when he runs into Becca. And they both find themselves still drawn to one another.

Beginning with examining the characters in this book, I think that both Becca and Eric are relatively fleshed out, but I could have used something more to make them feel real to me. And then for the side characters? There were just so many of them that while they did feel like real people, I think I would have liked a slightly smaller cast of characters. Becca is an assistant solicitor in South Carolina, so basically an Assistant District Attorney and, um, I may have felt some ways about her job. She’s very passionate about it, which makes sense, but then she says things that had me like, “Um, excuse me, ma’am?” And then Eric is a fighter pilot in the Air Force and he loves his job, but is also experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is starting to think about getting out of active duty. Eric’s decision to enter the military is actually a large part of what caused their relationship to not work out in the first place so their HEA Believability for me is like, yes, I think it will work, but I’m also hesitant because first they have to get through a deployment and I worry about them. But overall, I think that Cleeton does a great job setting up their relationship so that I do believe they’ll make it.

Given that it’s a second chance romance, I feel like I should have been experiencing all sorts of emotions, but honestly, this book didn’t really press my buttons too much until the very end of the book. And part of that is due to Easy and Dani, if I’m being really honest. I think this book would have benefited in several ways from actually showing us flashbacks to their time together because I think it would have made certain things feel more impactful. But what I did feel between them was their chemistry. I think it was just very clear to me that the two of them have a connection and time and distance hasn’t done anything to lessen it. So even if I didn’t understand why, I got the chemistry feelings I needed.

Turning now to writing, while I like Cleeton’s writing, I just didn’t feel as connected to the book this time around and gave it a 7. I don’t know if part of that might have been that I listened to it on audio, but no quotes screamed out at me and I was just sort of listening half-heartedly. That leads into intrigue and similarly to writing, the listening half-heartedly is why I gave it a score of 6. It definitely wasn’t a book I was miserable to listen to or anything, but I wasn’t like “omg, let me devour this book right now.” I hope that makes sense. I do think this book is re-readable regardless of my mood, however, there’s a point in here where Becca talks about how she really doesn’t want to give up her job and honestly, we’re just at wildly different places, because please someone who can support me come ask me to do that. Also though, Becca talks about feeling like how she does feel like she helps people and I was like, “okay, too many complex feelings about my own job, thanks.” So basically, I need to not read books with lawyers right now. Or something.

And finally, we have plot and… I mean, I like this plot. I just also think that if the two of them had wanted to figure it out, they could have. It seems like Becca was super smart and driven and at no point does she consider the fact that she could enter the Air Force JAG Corps, whatever that’s called, so that the two of them could move around together. I mean, there were ways to make their relationship work back then (and still) that would not have necessarily required a full sacrifice. I think that’s why I wished there had been some flashback scenes because I just did not understand why they didn’t look for solutions like that. Anyway, still a good book, but mostly, it made me want to re-read the other two.

The Magnolia Chronicles by Kate Canterbary

The Magnolia Chronicles
Characters: 10
HEA Believability: 10
The Emotions: 9
Chemistry: 8
Writing: 10
Intrigue: 10
Re-Readability: 10
Plot: 8
Score: 75/80
The Magnolia Chronicles by Kate Canterbary Review Scorecard

The Magnolia Chronicles by Kate Canterbary is technically a book that you can either go into knowing it’s a love triangle romance novel or you can go in viewing it as a women’s fiction novel with an HEA. Or, like me, you can just go in knowing it’s Kate Canterbary and being along for the ride. I support all viewpoints. For me, in all honesty, I did view it more as women’s fiction, but I’m still including it in this project because I love it so much that I wanted to. Is that fair? I don’t know. But it’s what’s happening.

Essentially, The Magnolia Chronicles follows Magnolia, who is a 30 something woman with a long history of dating men who are entirely wrong for her or otherwise unsuitable. Her mom, in a fit of well-meaning, but entirely unnecessary measure of interference decides she’s going to help Magnolia get her dating life back on track. Ultimately though, other than the mom having some fun, Magnolia manages to independently meet two men. She meets Rob on a dating app and they have an incredible conversation that normally would result in a person like him being terrible. And then she storms over to a neighbor’s house (Ben) because he’s doing construction in the middle of the night and is like, “What the fuck?” He happens to be a pretty hot, brooding/grieving firefighter and so it’s pretty easy to see why Mags is initially torn between them. But ultimately, she dates them both and then eventually picks one of them.

If pressed, it’s not that I think this book is perfect, it’s just that I love Magnolia so much and I think Canterbary did a great job writing Magnolia, Rob, and Ben so that each of them feel like a real person. Now, admittedly, they all three should also probably be in therapy, but like, shouldn’t we all? And also, I really enjoyed the glimpses we get of the Walsh siblings and my beloved Santillians. Which is why characters score at a ten for me. And maybe it’s weird to give a love triangle HEA Believability a ten, but honestly, I really buy into the love these two have and maybe it’s helped along because I’ve read the other two triplet books, but yeah… I fully, 100% believe in them. And the emotions? Yeah. I felt them. All over the place. I don’t know. I just love Magnolia and I feel so much of what she talks about. Magnolia still feels like a bit of a mess sometimes even though she’s really pulled her life together and it’s frustrating how other people can’t see past the romantic messes she’s found herself in previously. But I get at least half of that. I don’t think other people think I’m a mess (maybe?), but I always feel like one. It’s so hard to feel like I’ve got it together when my life doesn’t look the way I thought it would or that I thought it was supposed to. And so there’s a lot that Magnolia talks about that I connect with and it’s a through line throughout this series. Every woman in the Santillian triplets series feels like a mess and I love that.

I’d made mistakes, sure. I was profoundly, irrevocably human and I didn’t have to hold on to those mistakes anymore. I didn’t have to apologize for them again. And I didn’t need any of that shit to survive the climb.

The Magnolia Chronicles by Kate Canterbary

Turning to chemistry, I think there are some pacing issues that kept me from being able to fully give this 10 points, or maybe it’s the love triangle, but I wanted just a tiny bit more chemistry between our ultimate love interests. As for writing though, Canterbary gets a 10 from me and devouring this book in one go is my preferred way to read it, apparently, so 10 points for intrigue as well. And given that as I’m writing this review, I’m finding myself desperate to re-read it again, another ten points for re-readability. Then, with the plot, I scored it at an 8, but I’m really starting to think that this category might be the least useful in terms of coming up with a score for these books. So, if you can think of something I should be considering that I’m currently not, let me know!

Overall Rankings

As We Go Rankings 
Image of Block Shot with 76 below, then image of The Magnolia Chronicles with 75 below. On the next line is an image of Beach Read with a 71 below it and beside it is The Belle and the Beard with another 71 below it. The third row has Beginner's Luck with a 61 below it and Into the Blue with a 60 below it.
As We Go Rankings

So, as you can tell, Block Shot and The Magnolia Chronicles have now taken the lead! And I’ll be honest, I was surprised Magnolia beat out Linden. And I was kind of surprised by these rankings in general thus far. It’s making me excited to continue re-reading. I will say though that having done these re-reads and rated them in the way that I have is making me feel like I’m right in my rankings so that’s giving me some comfort and I’m able to feel like this is a worthwhile project.

I’m not going to say what books are coming up next because I’ll probably be wrong, but I will say that my birthday is September 30th and I’m thinking I’ll try and have an edition of this for then or for right after that because I think I want to read three of the books that I have always included in my list when I rattle them off: Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai, Rock Hard by Nalini Singh, and either Hold Me by Courtney Milan or A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole. I’m really looking forward to that idea. I think it would be really fun to see how they measure up when I look at them in this way. My only concern is that for as much as I love Rock Hard, I also have to make sure I’m okay to read about domestic violence when I pick it up. I learned that the hard way on my last re-read.

Anyway, I hope you all have enjoyed this installment in this series! I’m certainly having fun with it. Have you read any of the ones I included this time? What did you think if so?


2 responses to “Contemporary Romance Project #2: Block Shot, Into the Blue, and The Magnolia Chronicles”

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