Review: “Stay” (WAGs #2) by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

QUIIIIIIIStay by Sarina Bowen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 Instant favorite stars

ARC received in exchange for an honest review

I’ve made no secret of my encompassing love for this writing duo. Good Boy is one of my favorite from 2017 and the biggest dilemma I have right now is deciding which one I liked the most, if Blake and Jess’ story or Matt and Hottie’s… eer, Hailey’s one.

While Good Boy cashed on its utter hilariousness and Blake’s goofy behavior, I found Stay more romantic and hotter. Don’t ask me to choose though because I won’t. It’s in the Fangirl’s treaty, page 1 comma C: it’s not polygamy if it’s fictional.

Now let’s get to the good part. Why is this book so awesome?


Evidence numero 1: It stars in medias res.
Matt and Hailey already know each other… kind of. They’ve never met in real life, but they’ve developed a bond of some sort, a friendship over a virtual chat. I love this trope, if it’s even to be considered one. It’s one of the reasons The Friendzone by Callihan is another absolute favorite. It has happened to all of us to flirt over texts, to chat, to open up, sometimes even with strangers. It’s easy to relate, because we all know the thrill coursing through us when the phone pings.


Matt
I’ll be honest. I’d been a bit wary of him because in the previous book he’d sounded so bitter in front of Wesmie’s wedding and I’d been afraid he’d be too hung up on his previous relationship to move on and be the hero I wanted him to be. Well, I shouldn’t had feared. Matt was soooo over his wife, his marriage. It was lovely seeing him with his daughters, but the romance was undoubtedly between him and Hailey without seconds thoughts of doubts.
He’s a great hero. Main chaser and yet understanding, especially at first when Hailey wasn’t very at ease in front of her idol, he did his damnedest to make her feel comfortable, to woo her and not rush things (cue, the swooning). Another thing about him: his divorce didn’t turn him into a manwhore. This is very unconventional for the genre, given how usually everyone man after a break up, in romance, takes the slutty way through a thousand panties before the heroine chains him down. Well, no. Matt gave himself time for himself, deciding to hold off from relationships and women, not wanting to embark on the drama and not wanting to subject anyone else to the sacrifices his wife always told him she had to make.
Also, his “issue”, his fear of not being able to make a relationship work because of his schedule, his being afraid of disappointing his loved ones gave him depth and endeared him to me. Even in the past books, one of the main issues in the relationships was the lack of time the players spent with their families/spouses/partners. It’s not something usually addressed in sports romance, but it’s a huge part of their lives, the unpleasant under the shiny, the sacrifice behind the spotlight.

Then he leans down and scoops his preschool-aged daughter onto his hip. She slides her arms around his neck and lays one soft cheek on his bare shoulder. Pop, pop! That sound you’re hearing is both my ovaries exploding.
“Thank you,” he rumbles. “Sorry it’s such a chaos here.”
Then he smiles and my IQ drops another five points


Hailey
Now, I’m not a sports fan. I get more excited about Curling (the one with the brooms and the bowling stone) than any football or hockey game. Truth. It’s not my jam. I don’t have athletes idols, and yet I don’t think I could remain nonchalant if I were to actually meet one. In sports romance novels, almost all heroines are so aloof and kind of unimpressed when it comes to meeting and dealing with super-star players, which is nice, but unrealistic. Hailey instead was very human. Being a super fan, she couldn’t understand how she could ever be with someone like Matt Eriksson. THE Matt Eriksson she’d had a crush on since forever. But not in a “I’m so average, pity me!”, rather in a “how can I measure up to him?” So at the beginning it’s awkward and I appreciated it because it was so easy to imagine and it felt real.
Hailey’s also a successful, ambitious woman. Hard-worker. Dedicated. And I want to say kudos to the authors because we need more women like Hailey in romance novels. Heroines who have big nights in their honor, who have stressful work shifts and long hours, and yet love their jobs and are passionate about it. I didn’t mind Jess’ indecisiveness about her career, but I undoubtedly connected with Hailey on a deeper level.


Their past relationships
Matt’s ex-wife might look and play the part of the bitch very well, but in the end we get to dig a little deeper and find some more human facets. With Hailey’s husband, the situation is different. They’re business partners and even though they’re nothing more than friendly to each other, I loved the balance of their relationships, with spurts of non-romantic jealousy and a dull ache at the memories. It was a believable situation.


The romance
I adored the pace of it, how they talked at first, getting to know each other through texts, and then how Matt was the first to make a move, to lure her outside of her self-imposed barriers. He’s the main chaser in the relationship, especially at first when Hailey is a bit insecure of how she’d manage to deal with him wanting her, to his experience, to the legend behind the man. It’s hard for her to distinguish the two, but it’s clear the person she’s falling for is not the player but the man. A lot of the book is dedicated to them being together and as per usual with this series, the angst is super low (hell yeah!) and the main issue resolved really quickly.

Now he smiles at me, and my insides just melt. Not because he’s handsome, though he’s hotter than blazes. But because of the way he looks at me — like we’re sharing a joke and we’re the only two people on Earth who know the punchline


The team
Seeing them together on poker night, shooting the shit, ribbing each other over their women and being just cute, funny and… dudes had me laughing out loud.

“I’ll be there in thirty,” I say. “Want me to bring anything?”
“Just your fine ass–” Blake suddenly yelps. “What the what, J-babe! Cheezus! That hurt!”
I hear a muffled female voice in the background. It’s Jess, Blake’s live-in girlfriend. “Her fine ass?” she asks. “Who are you talking to!”
There’s an howl of laughter in my ear. “Eriksson!” Blake shouts between yelps. “I was referring to Eriksson’s fine ass!”
“My ass is fine,” I agree. “Tell Jess I’d be happy to show it to her when I get there.”
“Sure, I’ll tell her,” Blake’s answers cheerfully. “After I chop your balls off and feed them to a sheep.”


The little original things
First date at the opera. Now, I’m an opera fan here. I was born and raised backstage so I may be biased… but still, even though every character hated it (which made for a very funny scene), it was unconventional. No dinner and movies for these guys, but rather a posh opera night with the addition of fireworks (metaphorical ones).
Fetch: it’s Hailey and her ex-husband baby, aka they’re business. In a nutshell, they fetch stuff their clients request them and deliver them to their houses or wherever. This is how Matt and Hailey first connected. I loved the idea of Fetch, it made for great comedy, with MrEightInches, Rufus’ walks and Jackson’s mystery box 😉 I usually don’t give much thought to the heroine’s work places or jobs. They tend to fade in the background most of the time, but here I was genuinely interested in the ins and out of how such a service worked.


Blake
I was just going through the sentences I’d highlighted and I realized almost each one of them had Blake in it. Love that guy, love his attitude, his jokes, his being completely unaware of how the world works. LOVE. HIM. So, more Blake? Not complaining here.

My Blakey senses are telling me you’re scared of the G-word.”
I glance over. “The G-word?”
“Girrrrrrrrlfriend”

Blake’s expression softens, as if he’s thinking about something truly amazing. Which he is, because in the next breath he brings up Jess. “And then I met Jessi and it was, like, book! This girl ain’t crazy, and she trusts me. I’m going all in.”


Blake’s mom
Because…

“GET’EM BLAKEY! CARVE HIS TURKEY!”
“YEAH” I [Hailey] belt out. “DROP’IM LIKE A DRESS ON PROM NIGHT!”

In conclusion, Stay is one of the best romances I’ve read this year, along with Good Boy. Light on the angst, with super relatable and likable characters, hot, sweet and romantic. There’s hockey, there’s cute kids and a boisterous group of hockey players who still have lots to say. I’m especially curious about a certain manwhore…

He puts his hands up in front of his chest like rabbit paws and starts jumping around like a bunny in skates. It’s the dumbest thing I ever saw in my life, but naturally my daughters find this hilarious. Even Hailey giggles. O’Connor has a way with women of all ages, apparently. “I wouldn’t have guessed you’d be good with kids, O’Connor,” I remark.
“No?” He stops hopping and does a goofy spin. “I’m immature. Ask anyone. How does that not compute?”

 

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4 thoughts on “Review: “Stay” (WAGs #2) by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

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