Review: The Deal by Elle Kennedy

Rating: 4 stars 5 stars*
Pub Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: self-published
Genre: new adult sports romance (hockey)
Format/Source: ebook, purchased from Amazon
Status: book 1 of the Off-Campus series
(companion series so not direct sequels)

She’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy... 

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice... even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date. 

...and it’s going to be oh so good. 

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn't take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn't going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

This book. I tell you, THIS BOOK. I guess the first thing you need to know is that I have read it four times since I first read it in early June. Four times in less than six months. Yep. Much like Cora Carmack's All Lined Up, The Deal is a super catchy sports romance that gave me a major book hangover because I couldn't get it out of my mind. If the phrase "sports romance" has you rolling your eyes, let me tell you: this book is GOOD, even if you're not a fan of sports. Yes, hockey is important to the characters, but you don't need to be an NHL diehard fan to be able to read this. TRUST ME.

So what makes The Deal so special? The first thing is that the main characters Hannah and Garrett are beautifully written. They are complex and beautifully round characters with well-balanced strengths and weaknesses, and they both have unique and strong voices for the narration. Basically, they feel like real people. Hannah sounds like a girl who works her butt off at school and at work, a girl who has dealt with real crap in her life and actively lives. Garrett reads like a guy who works his butt off on the ice and loves the ladies, but he isn't a meat-head, no matter what anyone else *cough*Hannah*cough* thinks. There's also a really great supporting cast of characters (and you all know how much I like me some supporting characters), but Hannah and Garrett individually and together are what make this book so fantastic.

Garrett is clearly a guy who is used to getting what he wants but not in a sleazy way. In this case, he's having trouble in class and needs A-student Hannah to tutor him to keep his grades up. The aforementioned busy bee Hannah doesn't really have the time or inclination, but Garrett is persistent and manages to strike up a deal (get it?!) between them: tutoring in exchange for making Hannah's crush jealous. I know, that sounds typical and also made you roll your eyes. Well, stop that. Your eyes will get stuck that way. Probably. While I didn't love that Garrett couldn't take no for an answer, he is never gross about asking Hannah for help. He's a bit arrogant but definitely never pervy, and I like the way Hannah warms up to him but never fails to keep him in check. Hannah proves time and again in The Deal that she can hang with the big boys (Garrett and his roommates). She doesn't let them push her around or act like sexist jerks. She calls them on their crap, sometimes a little too often, and I like the balance Elle gives their relationship (both romantic and platonic) when Garrett lets Hannah know she's crossed a line or made a wrong assumption. For instance, during a joking scene, Hannah calls Garrett a douchebag, except.... he's really not. He is at all times, with her especially, if not entirely a gentleman, an honest and decent guy. This is not just proven in dialogue, but in actions and also in Garrett's thoughts, which is a consistency I very much appreciate.

In addition to having great balance, Garrett and Hannah have great chemistry, again both platonic and romantic. When they finally kiss, it's fireworks, and other sexy scenes are just as intense BUT Hannah and Garrett build a great friendship throughout the course of the book. Even once they get together, they laugh and play just as much as they do before. The banter is witty and fun, and it's honestly my favorite thing about the book. I love that Garrett takes care of Hannah. I don't mean in a patronizing way, but he watched out for her when they go to parties and out to a bar; he stops her when she's had too much to drink and he knows it's wrong to escalate things physically. That. That right there. GARRETT stops her. Rarely in books do you ever see the guy stopping. I have read a lot of upper-YA and NA that feature a male LI who says "if we don't stop, I won't be able to," which is bullshit and makes me RAGE. But Garrett proves that nonsense wrong when he physically pulls Hannah off him and stops kissing her to tell her he's not comfortable, even though it feels good. And Garrett's response to rape throughout the book, both internally and verbally, is so on point that I want to reach through my phone each time I read and hug him. Make no mistake: Garrett Graham is a manly man but he is a feminist.

I feel like I've been talking about Garrett a lot, and I don't mean to (I really do love him though). Hannah is just as amazing. She stands up for herself and her friends, and she never lets people push her around. At least until someone she loves is threatened, and even then she does what she thinks is the right thing. Hannah is a ball of sass, and I admire her so much. She's a "strong female character," but she also shows vulnerabilities and insecurity. Again, it's balance in her character, and I love that! My favorite scene in which Hannah does not gaf is the locker room scene. Read the book. You can't miss it (and it's the best scene in the entire book).

Above, you can see I originally rated The Deal four stars, but crossed it out and wrote five instead. There are a couple reasons for this. There are some things that bothered me when I read The Deal for the first time. Hannah slut-shames Garrett (and subsequently his former hookups) a couple times, which I was annoyed with, and sometimes I thought Garrett really was being a tool. Now that I've read the book several times, these things bothered me much less, although they aren't behaviors I want to dismiss or explain away. It's hindsight, it wasn't as extreme as I initially considered it, although you are certainly free to form your own opinions. I simply felt that if I loved a book enough to read it four times in under six months, it's obviously a book I think is special and worth my time.

I can't stop thinking about The Deal. I don't know about top five overall for this year (it is for NA), but it's absolutely in my top ten. It's well-written, absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious (a description I NEVER use since I rarely actually laugh out loud while reading), tender, and hot. as. hell. It was not uncommon for me to laugh, sniffle, and blush so hard I had to fan my face ALL IN THE SAME SCENE. The Deal is 342 pages of amazing, and if you like romance, this is a book for you.

One last note: I do want to let you know I would put a trigger warning on The Deal. It discusses both physical and sexual abuse, specifically child abuse and date rape. It handles both issues respectfully and with great care, but as an fyi, they are present.

Book Links:

About the Author:
A New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.

Elle currently writes for various publishers. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!

Author Links:


  1. Thanks for the great review! I appreciate the heads up on the sensative topics addressed in this book and that the author handles them well. I love when authors can create chemistry between two characters and their relationship is one to root for. I've never read a book more than 4 times, except for my kids favorite bedtime stories.

  2. I love this series so much! This is an amazing review!