The third book in the Westfall U series is here! While the books all have overlapping characters (and even a few overlapping scenes), you can technically read them as standalones.
What is Callous Player by R.C. Stephens about?
Hotshot playboy and devilishly handsome hockey winger, Declan McAvoy is a big man on campus and I’m just the nerdy little sister of his teammate… or I was until I let it slip I had never been kissed.
With the NHL draft hanging over his head and my brother at his side—both on and off the ice, I’m afraid I’ll be stuck in the friend-zone forever. The way I feel about Declan and his stormy grey eyes is anything but friendly.
He has secrets to keep and I have a story to write…
If we cross the line, complicated doesn’t even begin to cover it.
He might be known as a callous player, but he’s one player I’m willing to gamble on.
This is my year to draft to the NHL, and nothing can stand in my way… especially not a complication like kissing my teammate’s little sister.
Poppy is beautiful, brilliant—and off limits.
For the first time in my life, I’ve found someone worth the risk, but she deserves better than keeping secrets and sneaking around behind her brother’s back.
On the ice I have it all figured out, but when it comes to her… I’m all out of plays.
The stakes are higher than ever… and my heart isn’t the only thing on the line.
She has an article to finish, and I have a pro-career to focus on.
Falling for Poppy could mean game over for both of us, but that won’t stop me from wanting to make her mine.
Rating: 4/5 Stars
I think this has been my favorite Westfall U book yet. I love the brother’s best friend trope, and Declan and Poppy were so much fun to read about!
Declan and Poppy were absolutely adorable together. They were actually really unproblematic as a couple, which I liked. Even their “breakup” was handled (relatively) maturely from both of their sides, and it was nice to see them communicating like the adults that they are.
An aspect of the book that is handled exceptionally well, especially compared to similar books in the romance genre, was consent. It was always clear and almost always verbally reiterated multiple times, which is something we need to see more of in books with sexual situations.
I liked that the book was both predictable and unpredictable, in a good way. Poppy and Declan had a lot of pressure on their relationship, both externally and internally. Both had reasons for keeping their relationship a secret, although I think the threat of Poppy not being allowed to write the Spotlight on him for The Gazette should’ve been emphasized a bit more — I think she had more to risk career-wise by that coming out than Declan’s worry about his friendship with her brother, Ryse. Ryse was another external pressure that was bound to explode, but Poppy’s complicated relationship with her roommate was one that didn’t play out exactly the way I thought it would.
At the start, it seemed like Bonnie and Poppy would be friends, but that quickly turns out not to be the case. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to remember Bonnie from any of the previous books, but felt that Ryse should’ve told Poppy anything he knew about her when he found out they’d be roommates. I think he just knew her from her hanging around the hockey players, but her whole “be nice to Poppy and then do a total 180” wasn’t totally clear. She might’ve just been being nice to try to get to Ryse.
The fact that Poppy would just leave her journal out knowing that Bonnie was likely reading it stressed me OUT. What ends up happening with that was a surprising twist, but one that I think was done very well. Poppy had no reason to be as worried about what happens later because of it like she did, because she didn’t do anything wrong.
Slight spoiler, but her being named as a temporary replacement for a position on the paper seemed kind of odd since she was a freshman, but I just kind of figured that their school newspaper was set up in a way that was a lot different from the one at the college I went to.
At times the dialogue felt a little unrealistic — not in the conversations that were being said, but more so in the way that they were being worded. It was slightly distracting at times, but not to the point where I couldn’t keep reading.
We get to see Wolfe, Rebel, Cole, Holland, and their families again, and a few of the scenes overlapped word for word with previous epilogue-type scenes in the other books, which was a really interesting way to ground readers into how the timelines overlap, and it really payed off. Ryse and Poppy (mostly) had a really nice sibling dynamic, and seeing Declan with his younger brother Logan was fun too. Declan accepting Poppy’s help regarding his brother was surprising too — not that he eventually accepted, but the speed at which he did. It could’ve been a huge blowup breakup fight, but it wasn’t, which was refreshing.
Overall, I think this was a great addition to the Westfall U universe – I’m looking forward to reading the next book, which I assume will center on Ryse and Paris. It was kind of strange that Declan’s full name is Declan McAvoy and this is a new adult/college ice hockey romance since that’s the same everything as the character Declan McAvoy in the book “Shameless King” in the Kings of Rittenhouse series by Maya Hughes, but I much prefer this Declan…he was a lot sweeter and more respectful love interest.
As with all new adult books, I recommend them for 18+ due to the sexual content.
Huge thanks to the author & Greys Promo for providing me with an early e-book to review!
Reviews of Books by R.C. Stephens:
“Callous Player” (Westfall U #3) by: R.C. Stephens – ARC (coming 2/23)
Playlists for Books of R.C. Stephens:
“Heartless Player” (Westfall U #1) by: R.C. Stephens ♪
“Ruthless Player” (Westfall U #2) by: R.C. Stephens ♪
“Callous Player” (Westfall U #3) by: R.C. Stephens ♪ (coming 2/25)