Book Review

The Long Game and Check & Mate {Combi Mini Book Reviews}

The Long Game and Check & Mate {Combi Mini Book Reviews}

Hi everyone! Today I’m once again combining mini reviews for two contemporary romances I read recently. Let’s go!

The Long Game by Elena Armas

The Long Game by Elena Armas

A disgraced soccer exec reluctantly enlists the help of a retired soccer star in coaching a children’s team in this smalltown love story in the vein of Ted Lasso and It Happened One Summer —from the New York Times bestselling author of The Spanish Love Deception.

Adalyn Reyes has spent years perfecting her daily routine: wake up at dawn, drive to the Miami Flames FC offices, try her hardest to leave a mark, go home, and repeat.

But her routine is disrupted when a video of her in an altercation with the team’s mascot goes viral. Rather than fire her, the team’s owner—who happens to be her father—sends Adalyn to middle-of-nowhere North Carolina, where she’s tasked with turning around the struggling local soccer team, the Green Warriors, as a way to redeem herself. Her plans crumble upon discovering that the players wear tutus to practice (impractical), keep pet goats (messy), and are terrified of Adalyn (counterproductive), and are nine-year-old kids.

To make things worse, also in town is Cameron Caldani, goalkeeping prodigy whose presence is somewhat of a mystery. Cam is the perfect candidate to help Adalyn, but after one very unfortunate first encounter involving a rooster, Cam’s leg, and Adalyn’s bumper, he’s also set on running her out of town. But banishment is not an option for Adalyn. Not again. Helping this ragtag children’s team is her road to redemption, and she is playing the long game. With or without Cam’s help.

I highly enjoyed this small-town romance between an exiled soccer exec and a retired soccer player teaming up to coach a little girl’s team. It was slow-burn and the chemistry oozed and I was obsessed with it for a few days so that’s all I ask for in a good read! Here’s a short bullet point overview of everything I loved:

  • The city girl moves to small town trope. Will I ever be able to say no to this trope? Probably not.
  • Adalyn’s backstory and journey. While we know the reason for the Adalyn’s banishment from chapter one, we only get the story behind it slowly throughout the story and I felt for her so much. But it made her character development throughout the story all the more satisfying!
  • The slow burn, mutual-dislike-to-utter-smittenness between Adalyn and Cam. The way they went from being nemeses to working together to being friends to so utterly in love was so perfect.
  • Cam’s a sweetheart. While he’s quite grumpy at first, and even a bit mean sometimes, his sweetness came shining through and I loved all the ways he came through for Adalyn.
  • The girl’s soccer team was a hoot. Especially little Maria with her nicknames for coach Cam 🙂
  • There are so many animals! We have anxious baby goats and temperamental cats and a runaway rooster called Sebastian Stan. What’s not to love?

Why not five stars? I thought the resolution at the end felt a bit anticlimactic. There was also one plot twist revelation that I felt a bit unneccessary.

But overall, this was another solid romance read by Elena Armas. I always love her slow burn romances and sweet heroes.

Four Stars
Check and Mate by Ali Hazelwood

Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood

In this clever and swoonworthy YA debut from the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis, life’s moving pieces bring rival chess players together in a match for the heart.

Mallory Greenleaf is done with chess. Every move counts nowadays; after the sport led to the destruction of her family four years earlier, Mallory’s focus is on her mom, her sisters, and the dead-end job that keeps the lights on. That is, until she begrudgingly agrees to play in one last charity tournament and inadvertently wipes the board with notorious “Kingkiller” Nolan Sawyer: current world champion and reigning Bad Boy of chess.

Nolan’s loss to an unknown rook-ie shocks everyone. What’s even more confusing? His desire to cross pawns again. What kind of gambit is Nolan playing? The smart move would be to walk away. Resign. Game over. But Mallory’s victory opens the door to sorely needed cash-prizes and despite everything, she can’t help feeling drawn to the enigmatic strategist….

As she rockets up the ranks, Mallory struggles to keep her family safely separated from the game that wrecked it in the first place. And as her love for the sport she so desperately wanted to hate begins to rekindle, Mallory quickly realizes that the games aren’t only on the board, the spotlight is brighter than she imagined, and the competition can be fierce (-ly attractive. And intelligent…and infuriating…)

I can’t believe I almost didn’t read this, just because I’m not into chess. I’m also not into STEM or sports and yet I do read romances about them regularly so why not chess? I’m glad I gave this one a try though because it was a great YA romance with some amazing character development, family relationships and yes, some chess too. Here’s a short bullet point overview of everything I loved:

  • Mallory’s story. I was so invested in the story of this girl who put her own life on hold to take care of her mother and sisters. Did she always go about things the right way? No. But she did it and she learns a lot throughout the story and I was glad to go on this journey with her.
  • The family scenes. Every scene with Mallory and her sisters was hilarious. They were easily my favorite scenes in the entire book. And, as someone who grew up with a younger sibling, quite relatable as well!
  • Nolan Sawyer, so called Bad Boy but really a cutie pie. Nolan was supposed to be this Bad Boy with an attitude but I don’t think we ever really saw that attitude. The Nolan we saw was just such a sweetheart from the start and his crush on Mallory was quite obvious but that’s also what I loved about him.
  • The romance. It was just so… sweet. I loved the connection between Mallory and Nolan and watching it grow was adorable.
  • The chess. Yes, I admit it, even if I wasn’t into it at first, I ended up really enjoying this little insight into the world of competitive chess and I was cheering for Mallory in each of her games, especially against a certain sexist player.

So why not 5 stars? The ending felt a bit too abrupt for me. I wanted just a bit more from the romance. At least a bit more epilogue.

But overall, this was a highly enjoyable YA romance with a high focus on chess and family dynamics.

Four Stars

Tell Me:
Have you read The Long Game or Check & Mate yet? What did you think about them?

Lindsey xoxo


  1. Lowkey cursing at you now because I want to read The Long Game SO badly right now. Everything in your review made me smile like crazy so I’m thinking I need to go buy it very soon! I’m also glad you enjoyed Check & Mate because it’s on my stack of hopefuls for the month (if I get around to it because I may have been too ambitious this month woops)

    1. Haha, I’m sorry to add to your TBR but also not sorry 😉 I hope you’ll love The Long Game AND Check & Mate when you read them!

  2. The Long Game sounds so cute! Love a small-town setting and the It Happened One Summer reference makes me want to read it more, since I loved that book!

    1. It Happened One Summer was so fun indeed! And there were definitely similarities with The Long Game.

  3. I read Check & Mate a few months ago–was luck enough to get an ARC for it. I thought it was a lot of fun, too, but I had some issues with it being in the YA category. It pushed the line too much. While it definitely wasn’t a “spicy” adult romance, I’m not sure why it couldn’t have just been an adult romance–except that they probably wanted to slap “debut” on Ali Hazelwood again.

    1. You’re so right, it was definitely on the line between YA and adult and it was probably a marketing decision to label it YA. I definitely wouldn’t have minded it being a regular adult romance like her previous books.

  4. I’m happy you enjoyed Check & Mate, even if it didn’t get 5 stars. I loved that book. I need to read The Long Game now!

    1. I definitely loved Check & Mate, glad I decided to give it a try! I hope you’ll love The Long Game!

  5. P.S. They fixed the problem and I can comment in WP Reader again. So weird.

    1. Yay! I think it’s a setting I switched back after the commenting issues of last week – whatever it is, I’m just glad it seems okay again now 😀

  6. Sophie @BewareOfTheReader says:

    So it seems you have a beef with ending this week Lindsey 😉

    1. Haha it seems like I did, Sophie! Hopefully better luck with my current reads 😀

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