Review by Veronica

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A thump jolted me. 

A thump. I had hit something. Again. Something larger than a chicken. Something like a – God, don’t let it be a bear. 

My eyes blinked open, panic surging. 

In the same breath, a growl– a bear-like growl to my utter dismay– came from the rear of the car. My foot shot forward. But my head was fuzzy and my basic reflexes clearly amiss, because instead of the brakes, I must have hit the accelerator. 

And burled the rental against a tree. 

Holy soccer balls!! This book is freaking amazing and all I want to do is gush about it to everyone I know. 

Adalyn Reyes has spent years perfecting her daily routine: wake up at dawn, drive to the Miami Flames FC offices, try her hardest to leave a mark, go home, and repeat.

But her routine is disrupted when a video of her in an altercation with the team’s mascot goes viral. Rather than fire her, the team’s owner—who happens to be her father—sends Adalyn to middle-of-nowhere North Carolina, where she’s tasked with turning around the struggling local soccer team, the Green Warriors, as a way to redeem herself. Her plans crumble upon discovering that the players wear tutus to practice (impractical), keep pet goats (messy), and are terrified of Adalyn (counterproductive), and are nine-year-old kids.

To make things worse, also in town is Cameron Caldani, goalkeeping prodigy whose presence is somewhat of a mystery. Cam is the perfect candidate to help Adalyn, but after one very unfortunate first encounter involving a rooster, Cam’s leg, and Adalyn’s bumper, he’s also set on running her out of town. But banishment is not an option for Adalyn. Not again. Helping this ragtag children’s team is her road to redemption, and she is playing the long game. With or without Cam’s help. 

I am so in love with this book! It swept me off my romantic bookworm feet and left me feeling so utterly happy. This was my first Elena Armas book. I’ve seen her previous books on social media and knew I wanted to read them, but of course, they have ended up in my huge TBR pile (along with hundreds of other books I want to read), and I have never gotten around to reading them. When Simon & Schuster Canada sent me an arc for The Long Game, I knew it was time to finally sit down and read an Elena Armas’s book. My heart just loved every single thing about The Long Game. It is funny, has fabulous characters (human and animal), the chemistry between Cam and Adalyn is off the charts, and the story is swoony and interesting. If you like the Ted Lasso TV show, you will love some of the vibes this book offers. I haven’t watched the show, but that is the consensus on social media and Goodreads. 

Let’s talk about some things I loved about this book. I just loved everything about the story itself and the setting. It has this small-town feel to it, which means you will get some of that crazy antics and drama. I loved the sense of community that I got from this book. There is also this feeling of wilderness and isolation because Cam and Adalyn live in cabins in the middle of the forest. This living arrangement means they are forced to spend time with, and rely on each other, much more. I always love it when a character is taken out of their comfort zone and thrown into a situation or setting entirely new for them. This was the case for Adalyn. She is a city girl; she loves her pantsuits, high heels and the convenience of living in a big city. Her adjustment to living in a small town in the middle of nowhere is not always smooth. This is evident with the meet-cute, or meet-disaster, between Cam and Adalyn (she thought he was a bear and panicked in the worst way). I loved watching Adalyn find her place in this community and trade her high heels for boots.

The secondary characters in this book are lovely. They added those light, humorous moments to the story and helped move the plot. I know not every bookworm is a fan of kids in romance stories, but in this case, the kiddos in this book add that extra charm and heart, especially Maria. I loved the part that they played in this story. I am super excited that Josie (the mayor of this small town and Adalyn’s new best friend) and Matthew (Adalyn’s long-time best friend) will be getting their own story! 

Now, let’s talk about Adalyn and Cam as individual characters and as a couple. Both characters are at points in their lives when they feel knocked down or at a crossroads. They both have this emotional baggage that they are working through, which adds this emotional depth to their relationship. They are there to listen and support each other, and there are some meaningful conversations between these two in this story. 

Adalyn is a bit of a hot mess. She doesn’t know that she is a hot mess; in her mind, she has everything under control and will be able to bounce back from this setback in her life. She represses her emotions, which is unhealthy and leads to unexpected panic attacks and breakdowns. She’s lonely and feels like she always needs to prove herself. I loved her character. Her journey in this book has plenty of highs and lows, and it’s so easy to relate to this sense that she needs to prove that she is capable of doing her job (especially in a male-dominated work environment). Cam is one prickly, broody hero and Lord; I loved everything about this guy. His character gives off that grumpy don’t talk to me vibes (think that jerk of a neighbour who always tells you to stay off his property). But underneath that prickly exterior is a gooey heart of gold that will do anything for Adalyn. Adalyn comes into Cam’s world and just knocks him to his knees. He is so befuddled by her he doesn’t know what to do with himself. For the first half of this book, his interactions with Adalyn are often hostile and sweet. He doesn’t want her around because he can’t think straight when she is near him. But when he finally gives in to these feelings, he becomes a man who will move heaven and earth to ensure Adalyn is happy and safe. 

The love story between Adalyn and Cam is forced proximity, slow burn, neighbours to lovers, and light enemies to lovers—the chemistry between these two leaps off the pages—plenty of fun, witty banter, swoony sweet moments, and some very nice spice. I loved the fact that their relationship wasn’t an insta love story. The slow-burn feel of their relationship creates this feeling of anticipation in me. I just needed to keep reading because I wanted to know what would happen next between these two. 

The Long Game is a swoonastic rom-com, and I cannot wait to sit down and read the rest of Elena Armas’ books. 

Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada for the arc in exchange for an honest review.