A novella that packs a punch. Hero-centric readers will love the Jackson brothers.
This review is based on the version of this book available for free on Wattpad.
As part of my foray into Wattpad, I’ve been browsing through the work on offer from mainstream romance authors. When I discovered that Kelly Hunter has a free novella available, I immediately read Gamer Girl. It doesn’t disappoint!
Eli (26), the youngest Jackson brother, is a bit of a loner, especially when contrasted with eldest Cutter, the leader, and Caleb, the peacemaker. Every Friday, he has a date with a fellow online gamer, Zoey (24), and when they’re short some allies, his brothers join in to help. Eli and Zoey go through a virtual marriage for the sake of the game, and the brothers let fly with the teasing and innuendo, despite Eli’s reluctance to move on from a previous relationship.
A private message from Caleb popped up moments later. ‘You really need to meet this girl.’
Eli reached for his beer and typed a one-handed private message back to his brother. ‘Not how it works.’
‘Hey, Zoey.’ It was Cutter’s voice. ‘If you’re ever in Brunswick Bay, Northern New South Wales, on a Friday afternoon, drop into Jackson’s Boat Building. Eli can show you around.’
‘WTF?’ Another private memo.
Cutter snorted. ‘You know you sent that to everyone, right?’
Eli smothered his curse.
Zoey chuckled. ‘Don’t worry, Eli. I won’t take them up on it.’
‘No! I mean — that wasn’t what I meant. You could take them up on it. If you wanted to. You know… if you were in the area and had an interest in boat yards and, uh, boats.’
There was a clattering noise from one of his brothers.
‘That was Caleb banging his head against the table on your behalf,’ Cutter said cheerfully. ‘He thinks you’re beyond help.’
The brothers set Eli up to go to a gaming convention with Zoey, and when the two start spending time together outside of the game, sparks definitely fly. But Zoey is keeping something from Eli that could potentially derail their relationship, and Eli has to figure out if she’s worth the risk.
Hunter packs a big story into this novella. Gamer Girl displays Hunter’s prowess with sharp dialogue and her intuition for creating emotional layers that don’t have to be spelled out to the reader. This is the kind of book where I don’t really remember every element of the plot, but I remember how I felt while reading the story.
It’s possible that Hunter’s male dialogue is a caricature of how men talk, but I don’t even care. They are delicious, and any romance reader who identifies more with their heroes should definitely give this series a try. I loved reading the Wattpad comments against some of the things that the Jackson brothers say, especially from readers new to mainstream romance. (I read them and secretly hope those same readers pick up a Mills & Boon to enjoy!)
There’s a tendency for Zoey to walk the line between modern heroine and manic pixie dream girl, but Hunter gives her enough foibles to balance out her persona. And even when I was feeling somewhat irritated by all the costume references — she does a bit of cosplaying in the story — Hunter finds a way to tie in Zoey’s skills in costume design with Eli’s world of shipbuilding, and it never gets old to experience that feeling of all the pieces in the story suddenly fitting together.
My biggest criticism of this book is that at times it just gets way too intense for too long. I love intensity in a romance — no, I need intensity in a romance — but I would have liked more breathing room just to enjoy the characters without my heart being in my throat all the time. To borrow an excellent description from willaful: Sometimes it feels claustrophobic. Even Eli’s brothers are larger than life, and when all three of them are on the page, I feel so many feelings I don’t know what to do with myself!
All that said, this story is easily one of the best freebies I’ve read on Wattpad. And I’m not just saying that because one of my favourite authors wrote it. :)
Gamer Girl (Wattpad) is published as The Honeymoon Trap (Tule Publishing) and is part of the Jackson Brothers series. Which isn’t really a series, as the novellas related to each of the three brothers mentioned in this story appear officially as instalments in various multi-author series. Confused yet?
That’s not all! You can get The Honeymoon Trap and Sympathy for the Devil (book 2) together here, but the third book, A Bad Boy for Christmas is sold separately here. Why does it have to be so hard, people???
Content advisory: Guard thy ovaries lest they explode.
You can read this novella for free on Wattpad (free registration required). Other editions are published by Tule Publishing.