Book Review: Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood

About the Book:

Title: Check & Mate

Author: Ali Hazelwood

Page Length: 368

Publication Date: Nov. 7, 2023

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Synopsis: Mallory Greenleaf is done with chess. Every move counts nowadays; after the sport led to the destruction of her family four years earlier, Mallory’s focus is on her mom, her sisters, and the dead-end job that keeps the lights on. That is, until she begrudgingly agrees to play in one last charity tournament and inadvertently wipes the board with notorious “Kingkiller” Nolan Sawyer: current world champion and reigning Bad Boy of chess.

Nolan’s loss to an unknown rook-ie shocks everyone. What’s even more confusing? His desire to cross pawns again. What kind of gambit is Nolan playing? The smart move would be to walk away. Resign. Game over. But Mallory’s victory opens the door to sorely needed cash-prizes and despite everything, she can’t help feeling drawn to the enigmatic strategist….

As she rockets up the ranks, Mallory struggles to keep her family safely separated from the game that wrecked it in the first place. And as her love for the sport she so desperately wanted to hate begins to rekindle, Mallory quickly realizes that the games aren’t only on the board, the spotlight is brighter than she imagined, and the competition can be fierce (-ly attractive. And intelligent…and infuriating…)

LINKS:   Goodreads   |    Amazon

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My Review:

Ali Hazelwood is an auto-buy author for me who has proven she can write in any genre. Check & Mate is her first YA romance, and it is an absolute delight!

Mallory has such a relatable story. Ok, maybe not the brilliance at chess, but her relationship with her mother and sisters, her determination to put her own life on hold and her own needs aside to take care of them, and her feeling like she has to do it all herself is so realistically portrayed. This is a young woman who clearly has a strong sense of responsibility towards her family, yet she also has a lot of guilt. It’s easy to see why she felt she had to put her own dreams aside.

Almost every scene with Mallory and her sisters is comical, but one scene in particular when Nolan comes to the house for the first time, is laugh-out-loud hilarious. I just love Mallory’s sisters! They are definitely good for a laugh and for embarrassing their older sister.

The story also delves into some interesting dynamics within the chess community and the gender stereotypes often associated with the sport. Mallory experiences her fair share of sexism, and it’s clear that this is a male-dominated environment. I like how she and others break those stereotypes and turn the chess world on its head a bit.

And then there’s the romance between Mallory and Nolan. (Excuse me while I sigh deeply in happy, heart-squeezing contemplation.) They’re lovely. Competitors, this pair is so well matched in chess and in life. I love how they complement each other, and their chemistry is like the perfect checkmate! (Is that such a thing? I’m not sure, but if it is, Mallory and Nolan exemplify it! Lol).

Overall. I thought this was a fabulous read and one I’d definitely recommend to YA or NA contemporary romance readers. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.



Favorite Parts:

  • The romance!
  • The characters.
  • The messages.


  • Rivals to lovers.

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