Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Check and Mate - Ali Hazelwood

I read this last year, but I've been slow catching up with a couple of things. At the time I didn't have much to say about it other than that while I'm entirely happy with the lack of graphic sex in what's meant to be more of a young adult read, I far prefer the older couples that Hazelwood writes to these more or less teenagers. 

Now I've almost finished her foray into paranormal romance there's more to discuss. I like Ali Hazelwood's romances - she's funny and clearly having fun, she's a decent writer and I don't find anything especially problematic in her books around consent, age differences, and power balances - all of which she discusses at length. Every so often I want a bit of romantic fiction in my life and when I do there's a fairly small list of authors who write women I enjoy reading enough to be invested in their happy ending. Hazelwood does that for me.

I also have a bit of a soft spot for a woman who started off writing fan fiction before having a break-out TikTok success with her first novel at just the point I went back into bookselling. I've been able to follow her writing career from the beginning and that's another kind of fun. Check and Mate feels a lot like it started life as some sort of chess-based Star Wars fanfic. Mallory Greenleaf is the outsider who comes from nowhere to beat the acknowledged master - who sounds like a dead ringer for Adam Driver. 

Her protagonists are authentically annoying young adults to the more mature reader, but the skewering of misogyny has both anger and a sense of purpose behind it. We sell this as an adult romance - but it's meant as YA and is entirely appropriate as such. The thorny part of the issue is that her other books are not and there's no clear way to differentiate between them - that's possibly more of an issue with Bride than some of the earlier romances.

I'm also assuming that her academic day job remains Hazelwood's primary career so she can take risks and have the fun she wants with her fiction which is a luxury for a best-seller who might normally have to keep doing more of the same - again, it makes her interesting to me because at this point who knows what she'll decide to throw into the mix next time. 

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