Defender, Kensley Panthers #3 by Nicole Dykes

Defender is the 3rd book in the Kensley Panthers series and I couldn't get enough of the grumpy sunshine pairing of Travis and Oakley!

From the blurb:

Travis Wyatt
All I’ve ever wanted was to go to college and get out of Kensley. That small town is all I’ve ever known. I want to be free to be myself, not stifled by small minds in the football-loving town where I grew up.

And then I blew my one and only chance.
So now, I’m just stuck. Stuck in small-town life, with the same small-town people I’ve always known. Stuck where I don’t want to be.

Constantly on the defense and hiding secrets about myself. To never be the real me.

I’m lost, and I’m angry. But those people I was desperate to get away from, they don’t stop. They insist on showing me that maybe it’s not about my location.

That maybe I can be free right where I am.

Oakley Easton
Travis is way too uptight. I don’t know why. He has everything a guy could want—a steady job and friends who would do anything for him. A great simple, small-town life. But I guess that’s not what he wants.

He’s always been different. Better. Smarter. Stronger.
Still, I find myself wanting to show him everything he’s dreamed of is within his grasp. That he doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. That he can be himself wherever he is, and I’ll back him up.

Because that’s what I’m good at—on and off the field. I’ll always be his defender.
If he’d only let me.

Jacqueleen the Reading Queen's Review:

Damn I'm a sucker for the Grumpy/Sunshine trope and it doesn't get more sunshiney than Oakley. He's happiness personified. A real golden retriever MC. I absolutely adored that man and don't blame Travis one but for succumbing to his charms. Oakley is just one of those people who radiates good. He's also incredibly thoughtful, selfless and kind. Add in his hunky muscular physique and the man is the total package. It just took spending some actual time with him for Travis to realize it.

Now Travis is our Grumpy. He had big dreams of getting away from their small town life. Big dreams we saw crushed in the previous book when he found out he didn't get the scholarship he was banking on in order to attend college. The thing about dreams though, is that sometimes the reality is different than what you imagined. Sometimes dreams change as we grow. That's the amazing part about dreams, they can be whatever you want. There's no rules.

I seriously loved Travis and Oakley together. From the outside you wouldn't think they'd work. But somehow, the two just fit. Oakley kept Travis from being too serious all the time. He made him laugh. He surprised him with middle of the night romantic adventures for christ's sake. Travis supported Oakley's talents and believed in him during the rare moments when that cocky shit didn't believe in himself. It also didn't hurt that their chemistry between the sheets was on fire as well. I enjoyed every moment of these two falling in love and I can't wait for Coach's book next. Something tells me an enemies to lovers might just be what's in store for us next.

Rating: 5 Stars

SNik's Review:

Third in series (Kensley Panthers), but can be read as a standalone. Dual POV. Reluctant friends to lovers. 

All Travis ever wanted was to get out of his small hometown, go to college and one day do some traveling, but that didn’t work out for him. Oakley knows Travis isn’t happy with working in landscaping, but Oakley just wants a simple life building things and having friends and a house. When Oakley talks Travis into a friends with benefits relationship they both agree it’s only for the short term, and feelings aren’t even a consideration as Oakley isn’t looking to settle down and Travis still has plans to leave the small town life behind. 

Sometimes your hopes and dreams change and that’s exactly what happens with Travis and Oakley, as they begin to build something together with friendship, steamy times, and by supporting each other to pursue their individual passions. 

This story is romantic, realistic, heart wrenching and has all the swoon with an overbearing sweetheart in Oakley and the reluctant intelligent Travis. 

The fact that Travis and Oakley want and need each other fiercely was so fun to read and all the supportive secondary characters were such a welcome part of the book, along with the well deserved HEA.

Rating: 5 Stars

Angel's Review:

Defender was yet another success! I've been wanting Oakley's story and now we finally have it. Him being with Travis was a bit of a shock to me, but then again opposites do attract in certain instances. 

Oakley was the lighthearted, happy go lucky character in this story, he's happy and content doing landscaping work and living in a small town. 

Travis, however, is not. He's dreamt of getting out and getting away from small town life, it's not what he wants. At least it wasn't.. until Oakley started showing him that maybe small town life isn't so bad. 

Travis and Oakley's story started out as an enemies turned friends to benefits situation. That slowly became more, something neither of them expected. I liked how Oakley didn't try to force a label on himself, he just knew he liked Travis and that was that. I liked that we got glimpses at past characters and how involved certain ones were. 

That added a really nice element to the story. I hope at some point we get Zachary's story, I think that would be a cool book to read, maybe the second mc could be Adam?... Hint, hint. But I'm still happy that we're getting Coach's story next.

Overall a really nice well written book, with playful characters, plenty of landscaping, bedroom shenanigans, and.. Pinterest. 

Rating: 4 Stars

Tatted_book_freak's Review:

It has taken some time to gather my thoughts and feelings regarding this book, and I am not entirely certain what the reasoning behind the decision. This one just hit differs from the others in the series. Maybe because of the similarities with Tyler’s upbringing, or Oakley’s confidence, either way, it touched my soul to the core. 

“𝓨𝓸𝓾 𝓪𝓻𝓮𝓷’𝓽 𝓰𝓮𝓽𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓶𝓮 𝓷𝓪𝓴𝓮𝓭, 𝓞𝓪𝓴𝓵𝓮𝔂. 𝓙𝓾𝓼𝓽 𝓭𝓻𝓸𝓹 𝓲𝓽.”

The hilarious banter between these two kept me going, continuously waiting for the next sassy remark. They complimented each other, fought for one another, but most importantly, allowed each other to make their own decisions, something Travis was never able to experience.  And, their beginning of their arrangement was not expected, yet it worked for both. 

𝐵𝓊𝓉 𝓉𝒽𝒶𝓉 𝒹𝒶𝓂𝓃 𝓀𝒾𝓈𝓈. 𝐻𝑜𝓁𝓎 𝓈𝒽𝒾𝓉. 𝐼’𝓋𝑒 𝓃𝑒𝓋𝑒𝓇 𝑒𝓍𝓅𝑒𝓇𝒾𝑒𝓃𝒸𝑒𝒹 𝒶 𝓀𝒾𝓈𝓈 𝓁𝒾𝓀𝑒 𝓉𝒽𝒶𝓉 𝒾𝓃 𝓂𝓎 𝓁𝒾𝒻𝑒. 𝐼 𝒻𝑒𝓁𝓉 𝒾𝓉 𝑒𝓋𝑒𝓇𝓎𝓌𝒽𝑒𝓇𝑒. 𝐼 𝑔𝑜𝓉 𝓁𝑜𝓈𝓉 𝒾𝓃 𝒾𝓉 𝒾𝓃 𝒶 𝓌𝒶𝓎 𝐼 𝓃𝑒𝓋𝑒𝓇 𝒽𝒶𝓋𝑒 𝒷𝑒𝒻𝑜𝓇𝑒.

Omg!! The fierceness of their chemistry was explosive!! I could actually feel it from the inside out, causing my entire body to shiver with anticipation.  
“𝗬𝗼𝘂’𝗿𝗲. 𝗡𝗼𝘁. 𝗚𝗮𝘆,”
Oakley’s confidence really showed through with their intimacy.  He never hesitated, even for a split second, about Travis’ gender, because it truly never mattered. 

I especially appreciated the growth in Travis, and honestly, his parents. Shout out to Oakley’s parents, too, for never batting an eye on their relationship,  though!

Rating: 5 Stars

Heather's Review:

Defender is one of those books that sneaks up on you... frenemies to lovers, bisexual awakening, New Adult and on your own for the first time and learning to build each other up rather than tear each other down...

We meet both Oakley and Travis in the previous book and I was itching to find out Travis's story and by reading Defender, we see just how complex and also typical his family history is... and I love the way Oakley's family embraces Travis and helps him to embrace his own destiny.

Both MC's are so sweet and wonderful together and I love how patient Oakley is and how much growth Travis experiences.  If you like to read New Adult romances, you'll love Defender!

Rating: 5 Stars

Miki J's Review:

Absolutely stunning!! This series is just brilliant... and book # 3 does not disappoint.  

We have sunshine/grump trope going on here... Oakley is just adorable and I love his outlook on life - what more do you need, really?? And Travis... just when you think you have your life mapped out, it doesn't quite work that way.  

Love the dynamic between them... and Oakley's faith and acceptance of their relationship. This story is low angst, sweet and funny - loving the interaction between previous couples, very found family!!!  Great series!!!

Rating: 5 Stars

Defender is available to buy as an ebook, paperback, or to read with Kindle Unlimited subscription.

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About Nicole Dykes

Nicole Dykes is a wife and a professional assistant/mom to two gorgeous girls. Currently residing in Kansas, she's a lover of coffee, Kansas City Chiefs, and all things romance. She currently has over 20 published books with her Monroe and Adamson series being the most popular. She enjoys cranking up the angst level, making her readers cry, and turning those tears into the coffee that fuels her writing.

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