— BLURB —
The past tore them apart.
After a terrible accident took everything from Callie Stewart, enrolling at Blairwood University is supposed to be a chance at a new beginning.
Living his best life, Hayden Watson, star wide receiver for the Blairwood Ravens, is heading straight for the NFL draft and nothing is going to stand in his way.
The present brings them together.
Their paths were never supposed to cross, but when they do, all those old demons and feelings come rushing back. Hayden thinks he knows all about Callie’s life before Blairwood and he’s not ready to let go of the past, much less forgive her for what she has done three years ago.
One thing’s for sure… it’s going to take more than a kiss to conquer their broken past.
— MY REVIEW —
Any expectations I had about this book prior to reading it was thrown out the window because this story was far more than it seemed. Based on the blurb I was expecting just a stereotypical storyline of two people who started off on the wrong foot, hated each other ever since, until certain circumstances push them together where they eventually develop romantic feelings.
Boy, was I wrong! Ha. 🙈
This story was so much more. So much! Callie and Hayden have such a deep history with one another where one thing just led to another. It snowballed from there to where you see them in the present after having ran into each other for the first time in years and having their past just come flooding back.
One thing that the blurb doesn’t hint at is that Kiss To Conquer centers around a sensitive subject. Callie was involved in a traumatic event that not only kicks off her introduction but something that is always in the forefront as this story develops along. It can be a difficult matter to add into any romance novel and not have it feel too heavy and depressing, but in my honest opinion Callie (and Hayden’s story) was written in such a clever way where you don’t get the full impact of her trauma in one go — Anna has kept it to a minimum, gradually revealing more and more of her past so as the reader starts getting an idea of what Callie has gone through so when the time comes when she does eventually share her entire past, it’s not a complete surprise.
It didn’t stop the tears though. Uh-uh.
This book will cause a flood! 😭😭 I kid you not. I hadn’t expected to cry as much as I did but it just wouldn’t stop. I was relatively prepared for the moment when Callie and Hayden’s pasts would come out but I hadn’t considered the emotion these characters would ooze out of the pages. I haven’t in a long time felt such sympathy for fictional characters. The hurt and pain that exuded from them was so realistic and so relatable that you can’t help but mourn right alongside them.
“I can pretend all I want that I’ve changed. But the sad truth is, some things? They always stay the same.”
However. Whilst I can say all these positive things now that I’ve read the entire book, and have had time to let it all sink in, I must admit whilst I was reading it, my first impressions of these characters were a little more on the annoyed side. I couldn’t understand why Callie and Hayden were acting immaturely towards one another when they could’ve just avoided confrontation by keeping silent or leaving the room. I felt like they went out of their way to be snarky with one another, and whenever their friends would question it, they merely brushed it off as if it wasn’t a big deal.
As a reader who usually can’t stand characters who constantly bicker, I’m glad I didn’t give up on this story because Callie and Hayden evolved over time, learned to listen, accept, and understand the other’s struggles. It’s slow paced, and their relationship was definitely a slow burn but it was well worth the wait. Their hesitancy to reconnect, along with the mystery of their past provided the storyline with enough build-up and curiosity to keep you engaged and seeing on how things will unravel.
A factor I wasn’t expecting but was happy to discover quite early on is that Callie isn’t your stereotypical stunner of a female protagonist. She has scars (physically, emotionally and mentally), and right off the bat I knew she would be a character so many people can relate to, one way or another. She carries a heavy burden throughout this book and it’s utterly heartbreaking.
As for Hayden… When you think jock, you can’t help but automatically assume that he’ll be an asshole who thinks he’s god’s gift to women. Okay yes, he was that stereotype at the beginning, but his POV also shows a completely different side to him. Dare I say his true side…?
These characters have layers. They have progression. They transform and mature.
Add that to a modern day backdrop and secondary characters that are just as much personable and intriguing, and this world that Anna has created is one full of substance and sentiment. There was a nice amount of “sports” within this sports romance… 😄 and not just in the background.
Told from both Callie and Hayden’s POVs, you’ll see there’s a lot of sorrow and heartbreak in this story. But was well balanced with the addition of friendship. Anna has created and included a diverse group of people to not only provide support for our main protagonists, but also add lightheartedness, and easy-going humor. Each one of these characters — from Hayden’s best friends and teammates, to Callie’s roommate and classmates have their own voices and strong personalities, which I look forward to seeing more of as this series expands.
“I’d rather battle the demons that haunt us with kisses than words.”
A truly enjoyable read. There was some tears, giggles, and an overall feeling of content. These characters are great examples of imperfection, learning from mistakes and the strength to move on with life and making the most of your time. Anna was able to write about a difficult subject and put a lot of care and effort into making it quite relatable. I love Callie’s growth and the steps she takes to work through her struggles. I love that she’s a working progress. I love that Hayden is such a strong support system, and an overall gentleman. I love that you can look back from beginning to end and clearly see character growth. Not going to lie there were times I felt frustrated with their actions and there were small things I didn’t necessarily agree with, but in the end, just like their friends, I couldn’t help but root for Callie and Hayden to find their happiness!
A highly recommend read for any NA/ adult reader who’s looking for a bit of angst in their contemporary romance books, and who enjoys a bit of hate-to-love!
Thank you to Anna B. Doe for the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy! 💗
🔔 Interested in reading Kiss To Conquer? Grab your copy here: Universal Link
Thank you for reading 😊 Make sure to check out my Contemporary section of my Book Reviews if you’d like to read more sports romance reviews. Happy reading, guys! Catch you in my next one! Xo