Special thanks to Jaqueline Snowe for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Goodreads: Take the Lead (Central State #3)
Published: 28 June 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Falling for my fake girlfriend was never part of the plan…
Daniella Laughlin might seem put together in her dance gear and captainship, but on the inside, she’s figuring out who she is without her mom’s beauty pageant influence. Constantly being critiqued and set up by her mom, she dreads going home for the holidays.
Enter her best friend’s older brother, hockey captain Gabriel Van Helsing. Dani and Gabe have been friends for two decades, and sure, she’s harbored a secret crush on him forever, but she never acted on it because his sister would’ve killed her. Gabe’s a player, on and off the ice, and the longest relationship he’s had is with his hockey stick. He offers to drive her home for Thanksgiving break and proposes the most bonkers idea—they should fake date until New Year’s to get her mom to leave her alone.
Gabe might wear the C on the ice, but he’s always been passive. Here for a good time, never rocking the boat. But after his latest hookup wouldn’t take a hint, he uses Daniella’s predicament for the perfect solution: if he was unavailable, people would leave him alone.
Things begin easily with their friendship, but with every touch and fake kiss, Daniella can’t hide her feelings anymore. And for Gabe, who sets deadlines for every fling he’s ever had, he struggles to fight for what he wants. When their timeline is up, Daniella’s insecurities clash with Gabe’s inability to commit. For two people terrified to take a chance, they must risk their decade-long friendship for a shot at love.
TL;DR: Take the Lead was such a good time and there’s something about Snowe’s romances that is just fun and enjoyable, not to mention fantastically steamy! This new adult college sports romance served tropes that I really enjoyed including: best friend’s brother, friends-to-lovers, and fake dating. The chemistry in the romance was amazing and the friendships even better. I loved Dani and Gabe together!
Snowe’s characters always go through great development throughout their story and it was no different here. I loved following their personal journeys and it was so easy to root for both of them to find happiness and confidence in themselves, and I especially loved how they boosted each other’s growth! Dani is best friends with Elle, Gabe’s little sister, but Dani and Gabe also have a great friendship since they’ve known each other their whole lives. These two have such a great dynamic both as friends and lovers and I had so much fun watching them face their feelings when they start fake dating to keep Dani’s toxic mum away and the puck bunnies off Gabe’s back.
Dani has an incredibly toxic relationship with her mum who’s a former pageant queen who constantly put Dani down. It’s infuriating and heartbreaking when the person who’s supposed to love and accept you unconditionally is the one who beats you down mentally and emotionally. I appreciated how Snowe dealt with it though and I respected how Dani handled the situation; I mean, maybe it wasn’t the best timing but I really don’t blame her. Dani is so kind-hearted and fierce and it was great to see her love and embrace herself throughout the story. I loved her relationship with Elle and Cami, too. Dani really looked up to Cami and it was so great to see how much their relationship continued to evolve even after the end of book two.
Gabe was a really great hero. He’s the captain of the hockey team and for years has been a notorious player but he also has such a wonderful soft side to him that I loved seeing where Dani was concerned. He’s a movie nerd and a romance lover. Even though he has little to no experience with being in love or having a girlfriend—I mean, the guy thought he had indigestion, lol 😂—he really pulled out the romance stops for Dani and had me swooning! It was also great to see him step into his role of captain and be more of a leader rather than turn to his tactic of taking the easy out and avoiding confrontation. It was great to see how proud he was of his team!
Honestly, these two were so freaking cute together. I loved how much they supported each other’s growth personally and physically, they also couldn’t stand to keep away from one another. It wasn’t just sex, although their steamy was pretty fire 🥵, they were just constantly giving each other small comforting touches that made it so obvious that they couldn’t get enough of each other. Maybe it would be nauseating IRL but it was just so sweet here! 😂
Overall, there wasn’t really anything that I disliked about this book. The friendships, romance, and character development were great, and I loved the teasers we get about who I’m assuming will be the couple in the next book! I have a feeling it’s gonna be angsty, steamy and so great and I’m so excited and ready for it!
Jaqueline Snowe lives in Arizona where the “dry heat” really isn’t that bad. She prefers drinking coffee all hours of the day and snacking on anything that has peanut butter or chocolate. She is the mother to two fur babies who don’t realize they aren’t humans and a new mom to the sweetest baby boy. She is an avid reader and writer of romances and tends to write about athletes. Her husband works for an MLB team (not a player, lol) so she knows more about baseball than any human ever should.
Have you read Take the Lead or is it on your TBR?