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This tight end is at the top of his game.

He’s good with his hands, even better with his sexy mouth, and the best at making me forget my own name. His—ahem—stats are perfect.

But I can’t fall for him.

He might be everything I want, all rolled into a glorious package of gridiron god, but there’s one teeny-tiny problem. The vile, loathsome team I’ve spent my entire life hating—my beloved school’s arch-rival?

This guy is their star player.

BOOK REVIEW: The Rivalry

Nikki Sloane


It was cruel for the universe to show me this beautiful man, and then make him play for Michigan.

There’s something so irresistible about an author who shines in any genre she chooses to write in, captivating the reader with the sheer fluidity of her writing style and her keen eye for detail, and Nikki Sloane proves once more that she is a true chameleon storyteller. Her first toe-dip into the New Adult genre might be a considerable departure from her much racier novels, but as always, she delivers a story that is impossible to put down and an absolute joy to read. Sexy, witty, engaging, this book was my undoing from the very first page, and just thinking about it makes me want to re-read it all over again.

“You can go one night without talking about sports, right?”
“But what if I run into someone and there’s no way to avoid it? I mean, let’s say one of them is a professional air hockey player. I’m going to have questions.”

There is very little that Kayla McCarthy—cheerleading captain and college senior at The Ohio State University—loves more than football, her love of the sport only eclipsed by her lifelong, unfailing devotion to the Ohio State Buckeyes—her college football team. Raised in a family of die-hard Buckeye fans, and coupled with her innate stubbornness and competitive streak, Kayla is almost fanatical in her devotion to her team, but her unshakeable loyalty to the Buckeyes and her extensive knowledge of football have turned her every attempt at dating into a disaster. So when her friend dares her not to talk about sports with any guy she might meet that night, Kayla grudgingly agrees, never expecting to make a true connection. Especially not with a guy from University of Michigan—her college’s sworn rival.

“My dad used to coach defense for OSU. My mom gave birth to me right after a game, in the stands. Everyone in my family eats, sleeps, and breathes Ohio State. We bleed red.”
“Newsflash for you. Everyone bleeds red.”

But Jay Harris is no ordinary Michigan senior. As starting tight end for the Michigan Wolverines, and their star player, he is used to women vying for his attention all the time, but when a feisty, blue-eyed stranger makes him lose all control in a matter of minutes, resulting in one of the hottest almost-hookups of his life, the most unexpected part of it all is that she doesn’t even know who he is. And when she finds out, what has previously appealed the most to other women becomes his greatest flaw in her eyes. Because his pint-sized firecracker has no qualms about telling him that she could never date someone from Michigan, star player or not.

He was the starting tight end for their shitty football team. And I’d put my lips on his. My mouth knew what his tasted like, and how good he was with his skilled tongue. He’d had his hands on me. The same hands that had scored touchdowns against my beloved team.

But Jay is not a man easily deterred from what he truly wants, and everything about Kayla tells him she is the right girl for him. Their connection is explosive in and out of the bedroom, and the more he learns about her, the more his feelings for her deepen…if only she could get over the rivalry between their two teams.

“The season hasn’t even started yet. Tonight, I’m just a guy, and you’re just a girl.”
“Still a guy who goes to Michigan, and I’m—”
“We need to get you past this rivalry thing.”
“Not in a million years.”

Every single thing about Jay is everything Kayla’s ever dreamed of finding in a man, their every stolen moment so perplexingly perfect given the Michigan Wolverines ‘stain on his soul’. As their relationship moves forward and she begins to thaw under Jay’s barrage of charm and persistence, the unthinkable happens and Kayla, for the first time in her life, begins to put their teams’ rivalry into perspective. But with the most important game between their two teams fast approaching, their loyalties are soon tested, putting their future together in doubt.

It was such a cruel twist of fate that this guy was so perfect for me, but in this moment, I no longer cared. All that existed was us.

I will admit that with no prior knowledge of college football on my part, every single sports reference felt daunting in the beginning, making me question my own ability to fully appreciate this particular plotline, but Nikki Sloane wastes no time in pulling us into the story and making us lose ourselves in the characters, their interactions, and the emotions that she so effortlessly weaves between them. She gradually builds excitement in the reader that has everything to do with the way she captures the emotions of her characters and makes us connect with them. This story left a huge, goofy smile on my face and I consider it to be one of my top reads of the year.

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“Hey, any chance you’d let me redecorate in here?” She eyed my U-M stuff on the walls like they were Nickelback posters.

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