Cover Image: Settle the Score

Settle the Score

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In “Settle the Score” by Kris Ripper, former investigative reporter Des Cleary, who once ruined soccer star Orion Broderick’s career by exposing his relationship, is now tasked with recruiting Orion for an LGBTQI+ sports campaign. As Des finds Orion in a snowbound cabin, they confront their shared past and the impact of Des’s actions, discovering that time and circumstance have transformed them both, allowing for the possibility of redemption and new beginnings.

I’m not a big “enemies to lovers” fan, but this isn’t really enemies to lovers, it’s more “oh you hate me? Oh that’s cool. I hate me too.” Des is such an incredible character. He’s funny and smart and kind but also kind of a stubborn idiot about things. (It’s endearing.) And his character arc through this story, where he picks up the pieces of his life and works hard to build not just a good life, but the life he wants for himself is simply incredible and beautiful.

Orion is a grumpy little teddy bear who I adore. All the side characters here are fantastic, the pining and angst simply perfect. All in all, I stayed up too late finishing this and I don’t regret it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Montlake Publishing for a copy of this ebook in exchange for a review.

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Kris Ripper is one of those authors whose books somehow always work for me. The characters are so well-drawn, and flawed, and relatable, and they always seem to stick in my mind.

While sports romances generally aren’t my thing, I would say Settle the Score is more sports-adjacent. The story centers on a retired pro soccer player and the reporter who had outed him years earlier, a true enemies to lovers premise (so much so that I was a tiny bit skeptical about how Ripper would pull it off).

All in all, I thought it was great. Forced proximity in a cabin in a snowstorm gets me every time, and ultimately I found the romance arc to be genuinely believable. Throw in a cute dog and a character whose biggest concern in a storm is lack of caffeine, and I’m sold.

I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite Ripper, but there’s a lot of competition.

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Aaaaw. What a thoroughly enjoyable sport-adjacent story!

Cw: historical outing of a main character, suicidal ideation

Settle the score starts with the brave premise of one of the protagonists, Des, having done an awful thing to the other main character, Orion. Like in a real breach of trust, life and career and potentially safety messing way. Des is an aspiring journalist with ambitions about the world as it ought to be in his eyes - I.e. that no sports star should have to be closeted, though other hidden motivations are gradually revealed too - whose piece on Orion, a rising football (or soccer if you’re that way inclined) star kissing a boy outs Orion way before he is ready to consider anything of the sort. Long story short, both Des and Orion end up losing their dream careers and becoming slightly lost hermits in their own ways.

Des and Orion are thrown together again in a cabin up a snowy mountain forced proximity plot as Des is sent - seemingly, though an additional ulterior motive is at play here too but I won’t spoil that for you - to try to convince Orion to front an advertising campaign for an Althleisure brand, a new account Des will presumably write copy for. A surprise snow storm traps the two men in a less than ideal circumstance with shelter but uncertain access to food, electricity, a rescue mission, and no comms with the outside world.

So far so tasty. And the early part of the book is just as uncomfortable as you’d imagine, as Des and Orion try to tolerate each other’s presence and the elephant in the room that is their shared history. History that is really tricky to talk about and grapple with, especially given the clear mutual attraction. Both are obviously a bit of a mess - though we naturally get to know much more of Des’ inner dialogue as the POV character. I really resonated with his voice in all his insecurities and self blame and doubts. He’d done a bad but his immense regret about it was never in doubt. Orion was also a delight: a former sport star who seemed more interested in the common good than stardom. The focus here wasn’t on six packs and sweaty changing rooms, but being decent and hard working and kind and I was really really here for it. Ripper’s characterisation and dialogue between Des and Orion and with the supporting cast was a delight throughout: credible, emotive, funny, coherent and deliciously queer.

Des vocalises the topsy turvy building of their nascent relationship later on in the book from this premise of a big fuck up to speedily developing warm feelings and attraction in close forced proximity, all the way to love in the outside world. The life bits all need to be negotiated later. Given the bruisingly exposing and public nature of their paths crossing at the start of the story, I really appreciated the privacy Ripper gave zir main characters in their moments of intimacy.

This is clearly one of those stories where a lot of work needs to go into convincing the reader that this love story is credible. And for it to be credible, it kind of felt necessary that both characters get to work out stuff for themselves separately too. So, unavoidably, all good snowstorms must come to an end. I’m never a fan of love sorting things out and curing all ills, but Ripper navigated this tension quite beautifully acknowledging that sometimes it does take a bit of a nudge from someone who cares about us to get us on the right track. And at the same time nobody else can really be the entire solution for anyone. You still have to work out a way to tolerate living with yourself before you can even contemplate sharing that life with someone else. So brace for time apart. And trust that it’s needed. While the book ends in a satisfying work-in-progress place for the main couple, where Orion gets to control his own story and what he gives people access to, and Des finds his way back to writing and sport, not everything is of course sorted out and perfect. Like it never is in life.

ARC received with thanks from NetGalley/Montlake

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This was a great book. I connected with the characters. I felt engrossed with the plot. I would read another book by this author.

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Thanks to @netgalley and @krisripper for the ARC.
What happens when you have to collaborate with the person whose career you've broken?
This romance begins with this question.
Des Cleary have to convince Orion Broderick, a former footballer, to participate in an advertising campaign encouraging young people from the LGBTQIA+ community to get into sports.
Problem: When he was in college, Des published an article that ended Orion's career.

The story is told from Des point of view. He is an introspective character drown by his guilt and his anxieties. But very quickly, we realised how endearing he is, how as reader you want to support him and help him because of his doubts and because of his will to do well.
Orion is great too. It is through Des's eyes that we will know more about him. Not having his point of view was not a problem at all, quite the contrary. This romance works because it's impossible to predict his actions. Seeing all the little changes in him, in contact with Des, were one of the highlight of this romance.
This romance is a slow burn with a grumpyxsunshine couple and a forced proximity trope.
It was really sweet. I loved how with little changes, the bond between the characters grew to become something more.
It's the kind of romance that when it's over makes you smile, because the characters had the happy ending they deserved.
I had a great time.

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I really enjoyed the narrator's voice in this book. The main character was witty and fun, and following along on her journey was like listening to a friend tell a story. I love a small town romance, and this didn't disappoint.

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"I was some flavor of terrible person. Not the worst type of terrible— I didn’t serial kill anyone or torture baby animals, and no one was going to make a true crime episode about how my sad childhood had made me a murderer— but being a milder brand of terrible still wasn’t great."

I can understand, why this book might be not for everyone, but I absolutely loved it. Imagine a character, who did something really awful - unintentionally ruined another person's life, but the writing is so good, so captivating that you can feel sympathy for him and you're rooting for him to find happiness. The story is told in first person and single POV, so the reader spends a lot of time in his head, and it's a messy business - insecurities, guilt, hopefulness, self-flagellation, but I didn't mind it at all. Add great banter, snowed-in trope, stray dog, opposites attract, small town, and you get a beautiful story about redemption and forgiveness. What did I miss? Just a little bit of Orion's POV. 4.5/5

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Thank you for the ARC!

I can always appreciate an LGBTQ+ story but this one fell short for me. Maybe it's because I couldn't get over the fact that Des outed Orion and it felt to me like that never really did get resolved. This could also be why I couldn't really connect with Des and Orion as a couple, they just didn't really make sense to me.

Thank you for the opportunity to read!

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Des Cleary wrote an article back in college essentially outing rising soccer star Orion Broderick. The guilt of sending Orion into obscurity after he was forced to retire causes Des to abandon his career as a writer as his own self punishment. Only two years later he is forced to face none other than the man he wronged to try and recruit him for a LGBTQI+ campaign for kids. When he finds Orion's secluded cabin in the mountains and his identity is revealed, before he has a chance to escape they end up snowed in together.

This was a contemporary MM romance with closed door low spice and enemies-to-lovers-ish elements. The bones of the story were cute but I would've loved more interaction between Orion and Des. It was a lot of Des' inner monologue and it sort of left me wanting.

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this was so cute and fun! I really enjoyed this book! The characters and plot was really well developed! I also really enjoyed Ripper's writing style and technique it was great

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Orion Broderick was on his way to being a top-tier famous soccer player, until his sexuality was outed by an aspiring writer.

Des Cleary, the writer who outed Orion, has sacrificed his dream career as penance.

Years later, Des is given an assignment that requires finding and recruiting Orion. Des and Orion are forced to confront their past face to face, when a snow storm comes blowing through and traps them in a cabin. They must decide if it’s worth living in the past or if everything truly happened for a reason and they can move on.

This is a closed-door MM romcom, written from a single POV. Overall the story was nice - I enjoyed Des and all of the inner dialogue. He was quirky, honest, and a bit of a mess which added to his charm. At times, the inner dialogue lasted a bit too long that I forgot what was actually happening. I also didn’t really feel a connection between Des and Orion. Their relationship felt a little forced since I never felt closure from their situation years ago. I also didn’t get a sense of Orion’s personality which may just be a part of a single POV story, but was difficult to root for him

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I loved this cozy MM romcom so much! It was funny and soft and charming and sweet and just perfect. I loved the characters and the settings and sports!!! What more could you want?

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I really enjoyed this book! For me it was the perfect pace and kept me interested the whole time! Loved alllllll the characters. Thanks Netgalley and to the publisher.

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Settle the Score by Kris Ripper was a great forced proximity MM rom-com. Des ruined Orion’s career years ago, and Orion has since been a bit reclusive. Des is tasked with getting Orion to act as a spokesperson for a campaign to get LGBTQ kids into sports. While attempting to talk Orion into it, they get snowed in.

I loved the LGBTQ rep and the banter was so good. Des’ first-person POV was really insightful and I ended up liking his character more than I anticipated! It sucked me in, for sure!

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4.5, thank you for the arc! this was hilarious. i loved the entire plot and i related so much to des and how he seemed to do the most awkward things at the worst times. i also love the trope of big burly man hiding in the woods (but make it gay!) this hit many marks for me and i will be reading more by this author!

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Settle The Score by Kris Ripper embodies some of my favorite tropes- enemies to lovers & forced proximity. This book made me want to snuggle up & ready under a warm blanket with hot cocoa- definitely a cozy read. I loved the characters and it was such a good story. Currently checking out all the books by Kris Ripper- you should too!!

Thank you NetGalley & Montlake for the ARC copy of this book.

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Settle the Score is a real treat. A fun take on the forced proximity and enemies to lovers tropes, Kris Ripper's newest novel is about Des, a journalist who's languishing doing PR, and Orion, a former pro soccer player who's hiding from the world in a secluded cabin in the California mountains. On what's supposed to be a day trip to find Orion and offer him a campaign deal, Des gets caught in a snow storm and has to hole up with Orion at his cabin. The catch here is that the reason Orion no longer plays soccer professionally is because he was non-consensually outed by a journalist and was effectively ousted by the sport; the journalist who outed Orion is, you guessed it, Des.

Honestly, this felt like a really risky premise to me during the first few chapters of the book, and I had no idea how Ripper was going to get these two messes together. But ze did it. Well, it worked for me, anyway. This seems like a real YMMV situation, though. Like, Des made a huge mistake -- HUGE, the fallout of which pretty much ruined Orion's life. But, these characters are also really sweet together, and I believed their emotional connection and sexual attraction.

The writing was great, the characters were great (Des isn't necessarily likable, but he's really lovable), and the story was really engaging. Loved it.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC!

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This is an enjoyable, very readable romance. The (virtual) pages just keep turning, drawing you further into the story.

I prefer my romances unsugared. They should have some measure of happy ending but still retain at least one foot in the real world.

Is that possible? Yes, and Kris RIpper achieves it here. Zir story comes with a classic romance arc (with added comedy and pets), but also references housing insecurity, pink washing, queer rights, and the overriding need (in the US, at least) to get a job, almost any job, with health benefits. Des and Orion should make you smile, and maybe shake your head a few times.

If your knowledge of Ripper's writing comes from the Scientific Method Universe series (like me), this novel is different. Not bad different - just another equally enjoyable aspect of zir writing.

My only warning might be to tea drinkers of a delicate disposition. There are multiple scenes involving out-of-date tea bags which are rebrewed. Oh, and a microwave.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an E-Arc in exchange for an honest review.

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I loved everything about this swoony enemies-to-lovers, snowed-in romance. I sat down to read a few chapters and suddenly realized I was over half way through with the book and probably needed to go to bed. I inhaled the rest.

Des is a former journalist, emphasis on "former", since he quit writing soon after ruining the life of a super star soccer player by outing him in an ill-advised attempt to encourage soccer to recognize its queer players. Orion is a former soccer star, emphasis on "former", since he was asked to resign due to the scandal following his forced outing. Needless to say Orion hates Des, and Des does not want to confront Orion. Ever. But when his boss sends him off to do just that, in order to convince Orion to join a worthy cause, Des doesn't expect any miracles. He hopes he can escape with his dignity in tact. But fate, and rom-com plot goodness, have other plans. A snow storm buries the two in a remote cabin where they have nothing but time to pick at each other and maybe realize they aren't the enemies they've always believed.

The way I related to Des and the many mistakes he made along the way. There was a scene where he frantically attempts to dig himself out, only to find more snow in the forecast, and I stg I lived that exact scene one time--totally different circumstances--but I could viscerally feel every bead of snow-shoveling sweat and panic. The humor in this was perfection, and the romance, while no big surprise considering the genre, even factoring in relative insta-lust, snuck up on me with great big butterflies in my stomach. There are just so many aw moments (and a dog) that had me invested. I needed the HEA. And again, despite the insta-lust built into the framework, the HEA is hard earned.

There've been some strong contenders already this year for my favorite, but Settle the Score easily moves into the lead because it had all the butter, comfort, humor, sexy times, and sweetness packed into a compelling premise. I'll be re-reading this when it releases later this year.

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Oh man. So on the one hand, this book was 5 stars all the way - Kris Ripper (one of my favorite authors, who I am pretty sure is close to the same age as me) wrote the queer version of the 90s rom coms I grew up adoring and it was TOTALLY HEALING, GOSH. But on the other hand, the story beats of the rom coms of the 90s feel even more off to my little ace heart now that I have the words to express why. Like, it has nothing to do with the character motivations or the chemistry of the characters (although I DID spend the first half of the book a little stressed out about Orion's arc before I realized where the story was going with Des) but I just apparently will always want a bit more space for the romance to breathe before they have sex and fall in love! But srsly, if you're not an ace weirdo like me and ALSO loved Never Been Kissed as a teen, do yourself a favor and GET THIS BOOK.

(Side note just for the Netgalley review - I don't know if I'm just a weirdo who reads too much news, but every time I saw Des's new boss referred to as MBS, all I could think of was the dictator of Saudi Arabia? Which. Uh. If there's some time to edit their name so that their initials don't spell that, I GENUINELY would recommend it, but I'll be deleting this part from my GoodReads review, because I don't want to poison the well if not everything has that association.)

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