My Thoughts on The Graham Effect (Campus Diaries, Book 1) by Elle Kennedy

The Graham Effect is the first book of a spin-off series starring the children of Elle Kennedy’s Off-Campus and Briar U characters, as well as their friends. The first novel is about Gigi Graham, Hannah and Garrett Graham’s child and the new co-captain of the Briar men’s hockey team, Luke Ryder. If you enjoy the grumpy/sunny trope, you’ll enjoy this book. Ryder personifies grumpiness, whilst Gigi looks for the positive in everything.

I realize I didn’t write full reviews of the first spin-off series, Briar U, but I did give mini-reviews for each book once I finished them in my monthly wrap-ups. Also, rather than a review for each book in the Off-Campus series, I wrote a general review of that series. But I felt that with this series, I wanted to give each book its own review.

So, before we go into my thoughts, as usual here’s the book blurb/details:


Gigi Graham has exactly three goals: qualify for the women’s national hockey team, win Olympic gold, and step out of her famous father’s shadow. So far, so good, except for two little things. Fine–a little thing and a big, grumpy thing. She needs to improve her game behind the net, and she needs help from Luke Ryder.

Ryder is six-foot five, built, opinionated, rude…and sexy as hell. But he’s still the enemy.

Briar’s new hockey co-captain has his reasons, though. The men’s team just merged with a rival program, leaving Ryder with an angry roster where everyone hates one another’s guts. To make matters worse, the summer coaching spot he’s angling for with the legendary Garrett Graham is out of reach after he makes the worst possible first impression on his hero. So, really, this compromise with Gigi is win-win. He helps her make the national team, she puts in a good word with her dad.

The only potential snag? This bone-deep, body-numbing, mind-spinning chemistry they’re trying to ignore. It’s a dangerous game they’re playing, but the risks just might be worth it.

Book Details

  • Published: October 31, 2023
  • Page Count: 496 pages
  • Genre: Sports Romance

Thoughts on The Graham Effect

I’m not sure what year this book is set in, only that it’s 20 years after the previous series because Gigi is twenty-one by the end of the book and the prior characters are in their forties. Garrett and Jake now co-host a hockey commentary show after retiring from the NHL, Summer is a fashion designer, Tucker’s youngest daughter is a supermodel while the other is a lawyer like her mother, Wyatt (Gigi’s twin brother) is a musician, Dean now coaches for Yale, and Logan donated a rink to his hometown next to Hastings. Also, the rival hockey team has been merged with the Briar team, so there is a lot of bad blood that must be resolved if Briar is to reach the Frozen Four. Throughout the book, we see or hear about several of the previous characters. I tried including most of them in this beginning section, or at least the ones we got more than a passing mention of.

Ryder and Gigi met when they were sixteen, but didn’t really interact until their junior year of college after the school merger. But they still have nicknames from each other from the one week where they first met. Ryder is Prom King, while Gigi is Giselle. But that’s not where the drama happens.

Gigi wants to join the Olympic Hockey Team in the worst way but the coach for the team is the father of a girl who tried to ruin the Graham family after Wyatt refused to give her committment in what was a relationship they had agreed would had no committment. So, she doesn’t think her chances are very good especially when she’s not the strongest player behind the net.

Ryder on the other hand wants the coaching spot on Garrett’s hockey training camp for the summer. But he has a bad boy reputation after he beat up his teammate at Worlds. Though honestly that guy totally deserves it. It doesn’t help that Ryder is late to practice the day Garrett helps with the training program for the hockey team. Granted, it’s not his fault since his one-night stand changed his alarm and then his car died.

So, Gigi agrees to help Ryder by talking him up to her father, if Ryder helps her improve her game behind the net. Of course, this takes a hot minute since Ryder starts out incapable to communicating. Not that I blame the dude. He grew up in foster care after witnessing his father murder his mother in front of him, and was treated poorly by each of those foster families. He learned to close himself from everything after what he went through, but he does eventually learn to open up.

Of course, as they work together the two fall in love. But they keep their relationship a secret, because her ex-boyfriend is the other co-captain of the Briar hockey team, and neither one wants to cause problems. And of course, both try to keep things casual but eventually they can’t deny what they feel for each other. Even if their relationship moves really fast in terms of commitment, but sometimes when you know, you know.

I won’t reveal what occurs between them, but of all the couples in the Briar University universe, I would put them toward the bottom of the list. That’s not to say I didn’t like them; they were just not my favorite couple. Or they didn’t have an ending that made me feel completely satisficed. Perhaps it would have been better if both characters had achieved their goals rather than just one. And I feel like a lot of the book could have been trimmed because there were moments that were too slow for me. Not to mention, there was a moment toward the end that felt completely unexpected. Sure, there were a few statements that hinted at it, but there were other ways to go about it. Instead of building up to it, it’s revealed as a surprise during one of the games. I won’t say what it was because spoilers for the end of the book.

Still, I thought it was great that we saw both the men’s and women’s hockey scenes. How the women’s game is more tactical than the men’s, and how there aren’t many options for female players after college. They have leagues, but they aren’t televised or really advertised, and the only accomplishment women hockey players can really strive for is the Olympics.

Overall, I rate The Graham Effect a 3.75 out of 5 stars. While there were several parts of The Graham Effect that dragged, I still enjoyed it. I’m going to read The Dixon Effect when it’s released, which is about Shane (Ryder’s best friend) and Diana (Gigi’s best friend). But I’d like to see books about the other people in this universe, such as what’s going on with Will and Beckett. Something tells me that would be an intriguing book.

Love ya,

Mae Polzine

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