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"Check and Mate" unfolds as a captivating tale blending elements of chess mastery, camaraderie, and love, traversing the boundaries of both Young Adult and adult fiction. Set against a backdrop of highly skilled chess players in their late teens and early twenties, the story navigates the complexities of their lives with a refreshing dose of normalcy amidst the strategic intricacies of the game.

Mallory, once entangled in the tumult of chess that fractured her family, now focuses on the responsibilities of providing for her younger sisters and ailing mother. Reluctantly drawn back into the world of chess through a charity tournament, Mallory's unexpected victory against the reigning world champion, Nolan Sawyer, thrusts her back into the spotlight. Accepting a fellowship to delve into the realm of chess for a year, Mallory finds solace in the game's allure and the lucrative prizes it offers, providing a welcome distraction from her familial obligations and personal struggles. Amidst newfound friendships and a burgeoning connection with Nolan, Mallory grapples with conflicting emotions and the allure of the game that once tore her life asunder.

While romance simmers beneath the surface, chess emerges as the true protagonist, depicted in vivid detail by Hazelwood's portrayal of intricate strategies, calculated moves, and the electrifying atmosphere of tournaments and rivalries. Mallory's tumultuous relationship with chess, juxtaposed with her evolving feelings for Nolan, adds depth to her character, portraying her flaws and complexities with authenticity. Similarly, Nolan's enigmatic persona unfolds gradually, defying clichés and revealing layers of complexity that defy initial impressions.

Amidst the narrative's engaging plotline, Hazelwood skillfully interweaves contemporary cultural references and societal issues, such as the soaring costs of healthcare, adding depth and relevance to the story. From TikTok to K-Pop, the story embraces modernity while delving into timeless themes of family, friendship, and personal growth.

"Check and Mate" strikes a delicate balance between plot-driven intrigue and romantic entanglements, culminating in an unexpected yet fitting conclusion. Hazelwood's willingness to explore new narrative avenues beyond her traditional STEM romances shines through, making this novel a delightful departure that resonates with readers seeking a compelling and enjoyable story.