The Inheritance Games but Make it Adult Romance? (The Only Game in Town book review)
GENRE: Adult Romance
LENGTH: 394 pages
Jess is a resident of the insular town of Redford, Georgia. When the town’s resident millionaire, Jasper, dies he leaves behind $10 million dollars to be earned by the two winners of a series of games. Joining the residents is Jasper’s grandson Carter.
Throughout the games we are introduced to a number of residents of Redford, but the main ones I am going to focus on for this review on are Jess, Carter, Nikki, and Ross. Jess is a colorful character with a kind heart and an eclectic way of expressing herself (she’s known to wear a tutu at times). Her relationship with her dad (Ross) reminded me a lot of mine with my mom as Ross is both her parent and her friend. Jess is a generally likable protagonist and I loved her confidence.
Jess and Carter’s relationship is shockingly mostly drama free. It’s so refreshingly at odds with what I’m used to seeing in adult romance books. They have this adorable dynamic of teasing each other playfully. While they’re technically rivals/competitors, they read a lot more like friends who are attracted to one another.
Jess and Nikki are partnered up for the games but the two have a history of being enemies. Nikki holds a grudge against Jess for something that happened in high school and continues to bully her as an adult. Nikki as a character is that archetype of the mean girl who acts the way she does because she’s been deeply hurt. I don’t know how I would define her relationship development with Jess or even as an individual character. She remains pretty bossy and abrasive throughout the novel, but she does come to care for Jess in her own way. I suppose you could describe them as frenemies. I think I liked the idea of what the author was trying to do (turn them from enemies into pseudo-friends) more than I did the actual execution of it.
Ross was a supportive dad and like Jess he was a nice and likable character. I did have my issues with him, however. The first was that most of the drama of the novel comes from him being seriously ill yet that story line never really goes anywhere. Also, Nikki has a crush on Ross which made me quite uncomfortable. If it was just mentioned once it would have been fine but she kept flirting with him and making comments about being Jess' (who is her same age) stepmom which was just weird and unnecessary (and especially because Nikki has a boyfriend already).
The novel is told through several third person perspectives including Jess, Carter, Nikki, and Ross.
I titled this blog the way I did because the similarities between this book and The Inheritance Games was why I initially picked it up. Both feature game loving rich men who passed away and in their will leave some final games for their grandchildren (and others) to play. The goal of said games in both books is to bring the books’ characters together. So, while one is a YA thriller and the other an adult romance it could be argued they have the potential to appeal to the same audiences. Compared to The Inheritance Games, this book has a much more wholesome feel and sense of community, however.
If you like romance stories but don’t like the spicier bits then I recommend this book. The romance is very much PG-13. At most there are brief mentions and implications of Jess and Carter being intimidate but nothing compared to what you’ll find in the majority of the genre (at least from my experiences). In terms of relationship progression this was a gray area. While Jess and Carter are instantly attracted to each other I wouldn’t describe them as instalove, though neither would I choose to refer to them as slow burn (as I feel that implies a lot more pining). It’s this really nice in-between space where you aren’t wanting to lock the characters in a room together until they confess their feelings but it also doesn’t feel unrealistic (as instalove often does).
This book was one of the cutest and least dramatic romance books I’ve ever read and I genuinely wish more books were like this. Romance books tend to rely too much on the miscommunication trope but, much as I love the genre, that leads to depictions of relationships that aren’t necessarily the healthiest. I hope to see more romances like this in the future.