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Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood: A Smart and Swoony Romance with a Chess Twist. Book Review

Check & Mate

Author: Ali Hazelwood

Published by Hachette India

Genre: Romance

Pages: 368

MRP: Rs. 599/-

If you are looking for a book that will make you laugh, swoon, and think, then look no further than Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood. This is the third book in the author’s series of standalone romances featuring brilliant and quirky characters who work in STEM fields. In this one, we meet Mallory Greenleaf, a former chess prodigy who gave up the game after a traumatic loss. She now works as a mechanic in New Jersey, taking care of her family and avoiding anything to do with chess. That is, until her best friend Easton convinces her to join a charity chess tournament in New York, where she unexpectedly faces off against the world’s number one player, Nolan Sawyer.

Nolan Sawyer is a chess legend, a genius, and a mystery. He has been dominating the chess scene since he was a child, but he is also notoriously aloof and secretive. He rarely gives interviews, and when he does, he comes across as cold and arrogant. He has no friends, no hobbies, no life outside of chess. He lives for the thrill of winning, and nothing else. Until he meets Mallory, who beats him in a stunning upset. He is intrigued by her, and determined to find out more about her. He offers her a deal: he will teach her advanced chess techniques, if she agrees to play him again.

What follows is a delightful and engaging story of two opposites who attract, clash, and challenge each other. Mallory is witty, warm, and loyal, but also insecure and afraid of her own potential. Nolan is brilliant, intense, and passionate, but also lonely and misunderstood. They have a lot of chemistry, but also a lot of obstacles to overcome. They have to deal with their past traumas, their family issues, their career choices, and their feelings for each other. They also have to navigate the chess world, which is full of drama, intrigue, and rivalries.

Hazelwood does a great job of making chess exciting and accessible, even for readers who know nothing about the game. She infuses the book with humor, romance, and emotion, creating a captivating and satisfying read. She also explores themes such as identity, ambition, friendship, and love, with nuance and depth. The book is well-written, well-researched, and well-paced, with a diverse and likable cast of characters. I especially enjoyed the banter and the friendship between Mallory and Easton, who are both strong and supportive women in STEM.

Check & Mate is a smart and swoony romance with a chess twist. It is a perfect blend of fun, heart, and brain, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves contemporary romances with a nerdy edge. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Love on the Brain, which features Easton and a neuroscientist.


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