Romance novels are our bread and butter here at THP. We can never get enough of them! So when we heard Ali Hazelwood would be making her YA debut with Check & Mate, you knew we had to get a copy!
If you’re on BookTok, you’d know Ali Hazelwood for her adult romance novels, such as The Love Hypothesis and Love On The Brain. Now, there are only two months before the release of her new YA romance.
We’re almost too excited to review Check & Mate, so we thought we’d share our favorite things about it. Here are three reasons why Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood is a must-read!
Content Warning: deceased parent and grandparent
Summary: 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…)
The Romance Is On Point
Buckle up, folks! This one’s a slow burn. We love a good rivals-to-lovers trope, especially when one of them has been undefeated for as long as Nolan has. And it may have taken Mallory more than half the book to recognize and admit her feelings for Nolan, but it was so worth it! We can’t tell you how it felt seeing Nolan slowly take over Mallory’s mind. And when they finally got together, their romance was off the charts! We also love that Mallory has more experience dating and hooking up than Nolan does. That dynamic hits every time.
The Chess Games Hooked Us
As you know, Check & Mate centers around chess players and tournaments. But you may not know just how interesting the chess games could be. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy the writing, and we were able to follow along easily despite our limited knowledge of chess. We learn about the characters’ training processes, from studying other people’s games to using chess engines and locating weaknesses. And we may or may not be tempted to get a chess set after reading this novel. Consider us influenced.
The Family Dynamics Are So Real
Another reason you should pick up Check & Mate is to read about relatable issues regarding estranged or broken families. The author does a fantastic job of fully fleshing out the main characters’ families. Mallory buries her trauma and tries to take on every burden because she blames herself for tearing her family apart. She parents her two younger sisters because of her mom’s inhibiting medical condition. Our hearts broke when Mallory reached her breaking point. Luckily, she and her family make amends and open up about their past soon after.
Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood comes out November 7th. Here’s how to preorder!
Want to hear about some of our audiobook recommendations? Here’s the latest!