Recommended Read, Review

Review: Strength Check by Katherine McIntyre (2021)

Dungeons and Dating, Book #1

Heat Factor: It’s a pretty slow burn

Character Chemistry: Despite meeting at a very inopportune time, the chemistry is immediate and comfortable.

Plot: Roxie has opened a board game cafe with her two best friends and been painfully ejected from her last relationship when she meets her new roommate, Mel. And Mel has just essentially fled to Cali for a new job after breaking up yet again with her ex boyfriend. But they both have an easy and immediate bond with an undercurrent of rawr.

Overall: It had its slow parts, but the romance was certainly satisfying.


In this sweet book we have a board game enthusiast and an artistic, lost soul getting thrown together in a roommate situation, and it has some pretty mega “aww” factor.

Roxie opens the book as this spread-thin, calm, confident, small-business owner who finds a roommate for her inherited San Francisco Victorian home, only to discover it’s Mel–a beautiful and sunny redhead who is climbing the corporate ladder and desperately wants to end a “just won’t die” relationship with her ex left behind in Pennsylvania. 

But then Roxie’s alcoholic mother swoops in and stirs the pot, and she has a date that makes her feel tiny, and all that confidence and capable strength from the start of the book just kind of…poof. Disappears. It was a massive bummer for me, because she doesn’t ever really get it back! This is someone who handles things like a boss when an enraged ex employee comes in to collect a check at the start of the book. But then by the middle of the book she’s paper thin and self-hating. She does manage to deal with her mother and sister and numerous other fires caused by other people with courage and grace, but deep down her self-esteem is just shot and I did not see it recover. I did understand why it unfolded that way, but I was so worried about Roxie that it honestly became a little distracting from the story.

Mel was easy for me to resonate with. She has a keen artistic eye, but in order to build the life she wants she’s decided to climb the old corporate ladder, and this move to San Francisco is part of that. Only the corporate life she chose is unfair and kinda sexist, and she’s not getting the credit she deserves. So despite having uprooted her whole life for this position, she’s suddenly wondering if she wants to work there after all…but if she leaves, what is she going to do?

The romance between Roxie and Mel is…so tender and sweet. They build a life together before they even know they’re doing it–sharing take out, touring the city, playing games with Roxie’s kind friend group. It’s like there was a space for Mel all along and Roxie was just waiting for Mel to show up. And the board game vibe was so fresh and interesting! I have never played those kinds of games, but after reading how much fun they had I am definitely curious.

This one did open a bit slowly, I will admit. Mainly because Roxie is reeling from being used and dumped by her last girlfriend, and Mel is reeling from her ex. So they spend a fairly good portion of the book becoming comfortable and wonderful friends and just longing for each other. This is admittedly very cute…but there are very few moments of physical tension, and I would have liked to see more of it. 

But when all is said and done, I’ll be eagerly reaching for the next book as soon as it’s out!

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.


Buy Now: Amazon


Looking for something similar?

Books set the San Francisco Bay Area

Geeks and Gamers

Roommate Romances

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