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REVIEW: Foolish Games by Tracy Solheim

Foolish Games (Out of Bounds #2) by Tracy Solheim

Dear Ms. Solheim:

Julianne Marchione is a famous bridal gown designer who has a one night stand which results in a surprise pregnancy. Determined to raise the child on her own, she never reconnects with Will Connelly, a pro football player. When her baby  has a life threatening illness requiring a blood transfusion, however, she is compelled to seek Will out.

A bastard himself, Will is furious at Julianne and demands that he not only marry her but that he be given his rightful place as Owen’s father. Julianne agrees because this is the only way she will save her son but refuses to be anything but an in-name only wife. Will and Julianne’s relationship starts off on a bad note and initially does not get better.

Will is initially very cold to Julianne and given that she was going to keep his son from him that was probably deserved.  As the two spend time together in Will’s hometown, a place that he kind of loathes because of how he and his mother were treated when she was a poor young single parent, Will begins to thaw as he begins to see how great of a mother Julianne is to Owen.

Julianne is a … frustrating character at times. Her initial plans to raise her son on her own were somewhat understandable but then she sells her successful bridal business to pay Owen’s medical bills even after Will agreed to cover them (and likely Will’s insurance could help in that regard).  She meekly agrees to Will’s marriage plans because she has no financial resources to fight him BUT her brother is a wealthy senator. It seems like she had other options but I understand she couldn’t choose those because otherwise how would we get Will and Julianne in a house together?

Notwithstanding the setup, I did enjoy the progression of the romance which largely centers around their unabated attraction for each other and their love for Owen. Both are impressed with the other’s devotion to their son and it is really the newborn that brings them together.  I was convinced that they were a good match. Will needed someone like Julianne who was more expressive with her feelings, more willing to take an emotional chance.

Will and Julianne’s burgeoning romance is imperiled by a bounty scandal that involves his former college coach at Yale and now defensive coordinator the NFL. Will would never turn on his former coach because without the coach’s championing, Will would not be in the NFL at all.

As the two fall for each other conflicts arise in the form of Julianne refusing to share the details of a new business with Will and Will’s scandal but there was a point in the book where I wanted to reach through the book and slap Julianne silly for something that she does to Will.  I know it was inadvertent but her lack of discretion as it related to private, secret things that Will told her was infuriating.

As for the secondary characters, I loved Will’s mother and the relationship that the two had. They were devoted to seeing that the other was happy and the tough times that they’d had together only made them a stronger, tighter unit.  But Julianne’s family was frustrating. Perhaps it was to show us that the rich don’t have better families than the poor, but the use of Julianne’s brother both as a villain and a hero came off as contrived and inconsistent. Of all the actors in the story, he was the least believable and the most flat.

I think readers of sports fans would like this book but Julianne’s behavior in the beginning and the end could have cratered the book if not for the positive ending brought about by other characters. Overall though I liked the blend of sports, the relationship between Will and his mother, and the romance between Julianna and Will. B-

Best regards,


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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Jamie Beck
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 14:41:08

    Maybe I’m reading your summary wrong, but I feel confused by the underlying premise. I see you’ve sort of questioned why the heroine would agree to marry the hero when she had other options (financially anyway). But my question is why this guy insisted on marriage (did he try to date her after the one-night stand and she refused)? Setting aside the unheroic idea he attached conditions to his agreeing to save his child’s life (you note she felt pressured to do so as the only way to save the child), he wouldn’t need to be married to assert some legal visitation/custodial rights as the bio-daddy. And today many couples raise children without marriage. So was it plausible that he’d want to marry a woman he barely knew and who kept him from his son? You gave this a pretty nice grade, so I’m assuming there must be a credible explanation to the plot question. If I can get past that issue, I might be interested in reading the story. Thanks.

  2. Clio Reads
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 15:34:37

    Oh, yay, another secret baby football book! *sarcasm* This premise reminds me of SEP’s “Nobody’s Baby But Mine,” which was SO not my cuppa…

  3. hapax
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 15:48:47

    Maybe it’s because I’ve overdosed on my crabby pills this morning, but I’m kind of put off that the sperm donor in a one-night stand has either “rights” or “responsibilities” with regards to a “surprise pregnancy” (I assume that it was a “surprise” because both persons involved discussed and took responsibility for birth control?)

    If the couple is in an ongoing relationship (romantic or otherwise) that’s one thing, with its own set of expectations and obligations. But two people who have never met before, expect never to meet again, and agree in an adult manner to pleasurably scratch a shared itch?

    If she wants complete the pregnancy, that’s up to her. If she wants to notify him, great — if that’s her choice. If he then wants to pay for an abortion AND/OR contribute time or treasure to the upbringing of the child, props to him — and boo to her, if she refuses it and there isn’t a good reason to reject his involvement — but despite the laws on the books, I’m not sure why he should be forced to.

    For what it’s worth, I’m not in any way a MRA. I’m just from a generation who saw too many marriages begin or continue “for the sake of the baby”, when said baby would have been FAR better off without input from one or the other supplier of genetic data.

  4. Jane
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 15:57:03

    @Jamie Beck: Sorry I didn’t explain it better but Will is a bastard and was the subject of a lot of negative talk in his small hometown because of it. He’d always dreamed of having his own family and doesn’t want his son raised without the stigma of bastardization. It made sense within the context of the story.

    @hapax: Disagree. I don’t think that the woman, if she decides to have the baby, really should keep that secret from the male.

  5. hapax
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 16:13:36

    @Jane — I’m really not trying to be argumentative, and agree that reasonable people can agree to disagree, so if you feel that this straying too far off the topic of the book review, by all means ignore this comment.

    But I am truly curious why you — or anyone else who cares to answer — feels that way. I mean, a sperm donor has every expectation of his action resulting in children, but no one thinks he should be notified. A one night stand (who behaves responsibly in modern times) has no such expectation, yet how many romance plots hinge on his being “cheated” of the news?

    What ownership rights do we have to the products of our DNA? I’m thinking here of that medical history, THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS. While that story is inextricably bound up with very important issues of race, class, gender, and especially consent, I couldn’t help but wonder — if a white, well-off, Henry Lacks had freely donated his cells to scientific research, would he have any rights to whatever use was made of them? Would I have felt as outraged on his behalf?

    Or is this a matter of the child‘s rights, to have contact with and support from her biological parents?

    I dunno. These are the sort of things I shouldn’t be worrying about when reading a romance. Maybe I should start avoiding contemporaries…

  6. Jane
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 16:18:23

    @hapax: Because I think of my own husband and the joy he experienced when our child was a newborn. Those are important years and I think it would be incredibly selfish to take that option away from him. It’s one thing if he’s given the chance and doesn’t want to participate but to not tell him just seems wrong.

    I’m not sure where you get the ‘but no one thinks he should be notified.’ I see a lot of readers balk at this story line. In the past, it was easier for the secret baby storyline to exist within romance because it was assumed that the father doesn’t really care. You can see that with earlier harlequin presents. But in current stories, there is a big effort to justify the heroine’s reasons for keeping it a secret and the longer it goes on, the less justified it is.

    That represents a big change in the narrative from say a 1980s romance to a 2010 and on romance. So I think a lot of readers care that the father was not informed.

  7. hapax
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 16:27:31

    I’m not sure where you get the ‘but no one thinks he should be notified.’

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I was referring specifically to donors to sperm banks. While some provide identifying information about the donors to children upon reaching the age of 18, I don’t think they usually provide notification to the donors of any children born.

  8. Jane
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 16:34:14

    @hapax: I think there is a big difference between someone being a sperm donor and actively waiving rights beforehand and having sex with someone which results in a child. You don’t waive your rights to custody of a child simply because you have sex just one time.

  9. Jamie Beck
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 17:22:04


    Thanks for the clarification about the plot point, although it still seems like a bit of a stretch. I guess I’m going by the 2000s standard where lots of babies are born out of wedlock, so the stigma isn’t that strong. But if this guy is 30 or so, it would have been a bigger deal when he was a kid (especially in certain parts of the country).

    As to the fathers’ rights issue, I agree completely that a sperm donor is not analogous to a one-night-stand gone awry precisely for the reason you just stated. There is no pre-existing waiver or understanding (although I grant Hapax that most people in that situation do not want a baby to result from the union, so using the accidental baby as the basis for a plot is tricky). In the real world, if the woman chooses to have the child, I think she has a basic moral obligation to tell the father he is, in fact, a father and give him the opportunity to decide how he wants to proceed. It’s far from the ideal situation, but keeping it a secret absent great reasons (like the guy being a genuine danger to the child) denies the man a fundamental set of rights and choices (and denies the child the potential of knowing its bio dad, too).

    That’s not to say that many men in that situation might ultimately have preferred not to know…but that isn’t the point. If you have consensual sex, you are always taking the risk of this consequence and should be prepared to face it one way or another (whether through abortion, giving it up for adoption, or choosing to raise/be involved with it). Those are personal choices for people to make, but both parents should at least have full disclosure and some right to voice their opinions.

  10. Holly
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 18:54:35

    I have a serious problem in contemporary romance where the heroine chooses to suffer and/or let her children suffer for the sake of her pride. I have this book in my TBR pile. You mention the heroine selling her business to pay medical bills. Was that done out of necessity or pride?

    I’ve never understood those women who claim to not want child support, but are unable to buy their children the things they want/need. If the father has the means, why not give your child every advantage (excepting, of course, the billionaire fathers who try to buy their way into their children’s lives)?

  11. Jane
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 18:56:19

    @Holly: I think necessity combined with panic and a little depression. She felt like creatively she was tapped out.

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