5 Stars / Contemporary / New Adult / Review

Review: A Rival’s Kiss by Maya Hughes

Walking away would be the smartest decision, but no one’s ever accused me of being smart. Cold, determined, brutal, but never smart.

Willa’s mine from the moment I rescue her. I protect her from a brawling crowd and she stares up at me like I’m her prince charming. No one’s ever looked at me like that. No one has ever dared to come that close.

I didn’t know she was the little sister of one of my biggest rivals. Her brother and I have both drawn blood on the field, dislocated joints, broken bones, but I’ll never want to show her that side of me.

I long to be the man she believes I am, but there’s only one way I know how to win—how to survive—and that’s ensuring my enemies lose.

Once he finds out who his sister has been dating it’ll be all-out war, and I might lose the only woman who’s ever looked at me like I’m not built only for destruction.

Changing my ways won’t be easy, but I’m willing to risk it all for her.

Title:A Rival’s Kiss
(at one point this book was to be titled Every Little Kiss)
Author:Maya Hughes
Series:St Francis U / STFU (Book 3)
New Adult
Trope(s):Sports Romance (American Football)
Opposites Attract
Point of View:First person, past tense, dual viewpoints (H & h)
Location:Philadelphia, US
Release Date:5th May, 2022
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Gentle and sigh-worthy story

I am a huge fan of Maya Hughes and while I definitely remember mentions of Ezra in the Fulton U series, I can’t really remember Willa. And obviously Ezra has been in the two previous Fulton U Rivals / STFU books as the series focuses on a group of guys who play American Football together for their college, as well as living together and being friends. Despite all that, I’d confidently say that you don’t need to have read any other book to read, understand and enjoy this story. There will be cameos and references you won’t get – bet then you can just go back and read the other books after you’re done with this one.

Our hero, Ezra, is a big, gruff and silent type. He’s a beast on the football field and due to his childhood experiences, has severe trust issues. He’s my favourite type of hero – a big guy who doesn’t feel he deserves love – but all but yearns for it. Basically, a guy I just want to hug and hug. I liked how, even after meeting Willa, he still repeated patterns to push her away or self-sabotage. He just felt like a real person and he was easy to root for. And if I had to imagine my perfect Ezra – that cover model is it to a T.

Willa could be described as something of a sunshiny character – but she does have a little sass to her that keeps her from being too bubbly. She’s friendly and kind but I could definitely feel her frustration over the way she was coddled by her family. It was understandable, although I admit to being a wee bitty freaked out by why her family acted that way – and I wasn’t completely on board with them even at the end. But as with Ezra, Willa was hugely likeable and completely relatable.

“…you’re in for a delicious, emotional treat.”

As a couple, Ezra and Willa were realistic perfection. Ezra was learning about what love really is, while Willa was finding her freedom. There was a lot of running and hugging, must-have-you-now moments and I’ve missed you after 2 hours, type of things that make my heart happy. Sweet heat as there was definitely an emotional as well as sexual connection.

Ezra had a difficult childhood and that story comes to a conclusion throughout the book. It was a little brutal and, well, I didn’t like it for Ezra’s sake. It made me sad. Willa has a different trauma in her past and while that was discussed more in the book, and was sad, too, I wasn’t broken by it which is always a good thing. I prefer my angst to be a simmer rather than a full-on boil!

As always, when you read a Maya Hughes story you’re in for a delicious, emotional treat. This book has all the elements that make her one of the best writers of new adult, college romance – the heat, the heart, the relationships, a little angst and a lot of romance and redemption. I loved every minute of it – definitely a worthy addition to the STFU series and deserving of the full 5 stars.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review *

Maya Hughes can often be found sneaking in another chapter while hiding in the bathroom from her kids! 🙂 I’m a romance writer who loves taking inspiration from everyday life, namely my husband and biggest fan. Inspiration also strikes when I hear a song, meet someone new or daydream while at soccer practice.

I’m the mom of three little ones, the wife to an amazing husband and also work full time. Some of my favorite things are cinnamon rolls, white wine, laughing until I can’t breathe and traveling with my family.

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Fulton U Rivals / STFU (St Francis U) Series:

Kiss and Tell Maya Hughes
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Dirty Kisses
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Kiss It Better

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