The Theory of Second Best by J. Bengtsson
NA Contemporary Romance
January 9, 2017
Reviewed by Helyce
After finishing the first book in this series, I immediately picked up book two. Kyle is the younger brother of Jake, featured in book one. From the outside looking in, you’d think that Kyle had it made. Sure, he gets to hang out with his famous brother, travel the world, party like a rockstar, and enjoy all the other perks that lifestyle would bring. But the realization the women hanging around backstage might only want to be with him because they couldn’t be with his rock star brother make him think. Sure it was fun for a while, but wouldn’t it be nice to be someone’s first choice for a change? He begins to question himself and his partying ways and realizes that he just wants more. The opportunity for change comes when he’s approached to try out for a new reality show called Marooned (think Survivor), and the timing could not have been more perfect.
Kenzie had to grow up fast when her mom died soon after the birth of triplets. Only 12, she had no choice but to step into the mom role and to help her dad out. She did it with all the love she had to give, but now that her brothers and sister were nearly out of high school, she’s determined to get out of her small town and live life for herself for a change. But in order to do so with a clear conscience, she needs to make sure her family would be okay. Auditioning, getting a spot and winning the big money prize on the reality show Marooned would go a long way to making her dreams a reality.
A good part of this book is spent on the island. Kenzie and Kyle have a memorable first meeting that brings much humor and breaks the ice in an unexpected way. Once the contestants get to the island, they are split up into two teams. At this point, the book plays out very much like the reality show Survivor as the contestants participate in challenges and subsequent eliminations. I loved watching how the bonds between Kenzie, Kyle, and a few others are formed when they are pretty much shunned by the alphas on their team. Viewed as the weaker players, they fight hard to keep their place in the game. It is during this time that Kenzie and Kyle’s friendship develops. When we’re in Kenzie’s head, we know that she is head over heels so it feels like the relationship is very one-sided. Kyle is much slower to realize how much Kenzie means to him. I loved the interactions between the players on the island. So much humor, but balanced well with real emotion.
I really enjoyed the combination of character personalities that the author used. Like high school, you immediately saw the self-proclaimed leaders take charge and the weaker worker bees who just follow along and do as they’re told just to be ‘with the cool kids’. Then you have the outcasts, the nerds if you will, who never seemed able to make it into either of those categories. This is where Kyle and Kenzie along with Dale and Marsha end up. They form a pretty tight-knit group with good alliances that stick for a long time. Marsha was straight up crackers and caused many raised eyebrows and eye rolls.
The conflict introduced was somewhat predictable and pissed me off a little, but really, how could it not play out that way? As they get closer and closer to the end of their time on the island, alliances are broken and contestants become selfish and play to win as one would expect. There was a lot of build up around the final vote and then we are in a sort of limbo. Contestants return to their families and have to keep everything a secret until the taping where the winner is revealed. The story lagged here a bit; like when Kyle and Kenzie are separated because Kyle’s dealing badly with what he feels is a betrayal on Kenzie’s part. I really didn’t care who won, to be honest; I just wanted to get back to the fun, humor and witty banter of Kyle and Kenzie. I mean I get why the author felt it necessary to include this as part of the story which ultimately would lead to our h/h having their big realization moment.
While the focus in this book is on Kyle and Kenzie, part of getting to know Kyle had to include memories of his brother Jake and the kidnapping. While difficult to read, Kyle’s experiences go a long way to explain how his relationship with his brother formed into what it is in the present day. Their closeness, Kyle’s unquestioning loyalty to Jake and how Jake becomes a kind of priority over and above himself. It was very satisfying to watch Kyle awaken to what he’d been doing and his decisions to move forward and finally put himself first and get some happiness for himself.
So far, this series has really pulled me in. It has everything I love-humor, lots of emotion, great family ties and those quirky characters that get under your skin. I really liked Kyle and Kenzie’s journey of self-discovery. They both had spent so much of their young lives being there for others and putting themselves last. Seeing them turn the corner and come to the realization of what they had been doing was like taking a deep, cleansing breath. This has become the type of series that pulls you in and invades that special headspace romance readers have where you don’t really let go of the characters you’ve met even after you’ve turned that last page and you’re kind of angry that it came to an end. Thankfully, book 3 is already released and I am going to jump right into it!
Cake: A Love Story by J. Bengtsson
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I enjoyed this book also along with Cake. I have had the third book on my Kindle for quite some time but have yet to read it. I’ll look forward to your review, Helyce.
Hi there! I’ve read them all now. While I’ve really enjoyed them all, I do think Emma’s book (#3) was my favorite. I hope you enjoy!
Well, thank you for letting me know that about the third book, Helyce. That should motivate me to get reading!