Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood Book Review

Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood book review

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Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood is a fun, new book by the author of The Love Hypothesis and Love on the Brain. While all this author’s past books have been about women in STEM, this new book centers on the world of chess. This book is full of intense chess competitions, sweet and romantic moments, and family text exchanges. I would highly recommend it!


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Check & Mate

Author: Ali Hazelwood

Narrator: Karissa Vacker

Pub. Date: November 7, 2023

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Pages: 368

Rating: 5 stars

Spice: 1 heart

Content Warnings: swearing, sexism, illness, sex, & mentions death


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….

As she rockets up the ranks, Mallory struggles to keep her family safely separated from the game that wrecked it in the first place. And as her love for the sport she so desperately wanted to hate begins to rekindle, Mallory quickly realizes that the games aren’t only on the board, the spotlight is brighter than she imagined, and the competition can be fierce (-ly attractive. And intelligent…and infuriating…)


Book Review

Thank you to Penguin Teen and PRH Audio for the gifted ARC and ALC. All opinions are my own.



This is my new favorite Ali Hazelwood book! I’ve read all her other books, and The Love Hypothesis was my favorite until I read this amazing book.

It had everything I loved about her other books but in a totally new setting (outside the STEM world).

While I don’t really care about chess all that much, I found myself very interested in it within this book. The chess competitions were fascinating to me, and I never knew how much studying and training went into being a professional chess player.

The romance was so good in this story! Nolan is such a unique love interest, and I loved how confident he was and that he didn’t care about other people’s opinions.

Mallory was a good protagonist because she was interesting, selfless, and just an overall cool person.

Since I’m not a huge fan of spice, I liked that this book was geared more to young adults (although the characters are 18 and 20).

Mallory’s sisters were such a fun aspect of the story, and I loved all their text messages and banter. They really added a lot to the book.

I loved this book so much that I was alternating between the audio and physical copy depending on where I was because I just didn’t want to put it down.

I enjoyed reading both formats. If you’re interested in the audiobook, I definitely recommend it. Karissa Vacker was an excellent narrator and was able to differentiate the characters’ voices really well.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I would highly recommend it! If you’re someone who’s avoided her books in the past due to spice level, then this is definitely a good option for you.


Where to Read & Purchase

You can purchase a copy of this book at the following retailers: (supports independent book stores) [affiliate] (audiobooks that support independent book stores) [affiliate]

get a free audiobook when you start a membership

Amazon [affiliate]

Books a Million (BAM) [affiliate]

AbeBooks [affiliate]

Barnes & Noble


Have you read Check & Mate or any other books by Ali Hazelwood?

I would love to hear your thoughts! Comment down below.

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