I've loved romance novels since...like forever. I read across most subgenres of romance. I also write fantasy/paranormal and new adult romance.
This book was blowing up on twitter yesterday so I bought it while I was home sick. NA contemporary is not my fav subgenre, but overall, the characters and their dialogue really worked for me.
Trigger warning: heroine has a sexual assault history (mentioned on page 1); hero was physically abused as a kid.
Hannah Wells is a music major and is trying to get the attention of a guy she likes, Justin. Garrett Graham just failed an Ethics mid-term and needs to keep his GPA up because he's the captain of the hockey team. Hannah agrees to tutor Garrett for a make-up exam so he'll help her catch Justin's attention.
First, Garrett quickly nicknames Hannah Wellsy, and it is the cutest thing ever. Loved it.
This book took a while to heat up. Garrett and Wellsy don't really figure out that they are attracted to each other for a while. It's nice because it almost has a friends-to-lovers feel to it. Elle Kennedy's voice is unique and fast-paced. That kept momentum to the story. Garrett was a nice balance of cocky but still charming. I liked the interactions with his friends/teammates. Wellsy was also very funny and gave it right back to Garrett. She wasn't the shy girl just waiting to be noticed.
I thought the assault history was handled well. Wellsy continued to say early on how she was "over it" when, in fact, her life was still very much affected by it (as it could be). She wouldn't go to parties unless her friend stayed with her the entire time and she refused to drink when she was out. She also refused to go home because she was ostracized. Her rapist was the mayor's son and the town, and police, basically took his side. That part was heart-breaking. When she reveals this to Garrett, he was very accepting and supportive.
The sex scenes were sensitive and funny. Wellsy wasn't cured by a magical peen, but Garrett's sensitivity and pacing certainly helped her trust him and be in the moment. Super empowering.
I liked the subplots about her winter performance and finding her voice. Garrett had similar issues to address--basically needing to let others know about his past--and those were handled nicely.
Me being nitpicky: There were a few things that bugged me including that D-1 athletes (especially when they are defending national champs) would eat at training tables during their season, not have their roommate cook for them. It was also hard to believe that the captain of the team at a private school would be unable to access any scholarships--even for a semester. Hannah works at a diner off-campus and feels lucky because other students have to drive in to a larger city for work. Again, this seemed odd since there would at least be work-study positions, etc. on campus. I found it hard to believe that a large university would allow students to have a campus-wide Halloween party with different drinks in different dorms. Even on "wet" campuses that would be a liability issue. History majors are taught more than just dates and events. Do any current college students refer to themselves as "co-eds?" Is that a regional thing? It seems like such a dated term. *there's more, but that's the gist
I recommend The Deal because I really, really liked Wellsy and Garrett together. They were adorable and perfect for each other. Their texting was also hilarious. A fun read once I got over the typical NA-heroine backstory and my nitpicking.