Check And Mate By Ali Hazelwood Book Review

Check And Mate by Ali Hazelwood Book Review

This is one of those books where I’m split over the review. I’d give it a 4 for enjoyment and readability, and a 3 for the actual book. Which means, I recommend reading it, because enjoyment is kind of the most important.

The latest novel from Ali Hazelwood is the same as all her other books, but also different. It’s got the same tropes of enemies to lovers and Grumpy/Sunshine as her others, but this time it’s set against the backdrop of competitive chess. And I must say I missed her STEM universe.

Her choice of chess seemed a weird tangent from physics and biology. I thought maybe it was because of the popular Queens Gambit, but the author’s note explains it came from her undergraduate thesis. She found a study done on chess players called Stereotype Threat. Hazelwood loves a feminist theme in her books and this is where her story came from.

The Plot

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….

The Review

I was kind of conflicted by Check And Mate. In one way I really liked it. I liked the romance, I liked the enemies to lovers, I liked it when Mallory wasn’t trying to be witty. So, just remember when you read the next bits, that I still recommend reading it.

Usually my favourite parts of Hazelwood’s books are her STEMverse and the witty scientific asides from her protagonists. I love that she never talks down to her audience, even though a lot of the details are very scientific. I just didn’t love her chess universe as much, and I think it’s because Hazelwood wasn’t as comfortable or as knowledgeable.

Obviously there couldn’t be any scientifically witty inner dialogue, because Mallory wasn’t a scientist, so what we were left with was a faintly annoying inner monologue. When Hazelwood wasn’t trying so hard to sprinkle it in I enjoyed Mallory way more.

As I said above I still really enjoyed the building romance between Mallory and Nolan. It was a proper Hazelwood thesis on enemies to lovers. It was supposedly a YA romance, but there was still some good sexual tension and making out.

I didn’t quite buy into the fact that Mallory was a chess wizard with a crazy high IQ. I think she needed more weirdness, or to show more intelligence. Like, surely she could have gotten a better paying job than car mechanic with her IQ.


So as I said above, go forth and read it, it’s fun and sexy. It’s just not the best that Hazelwood has written.

— Bliss
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Hi, I'm Bliss, the reader and writer behind Books For Bliss. Discover book reviews, lists for your next great read, or a story to make you feel great. It's all right at your finger tips; happiness on a page. Read More