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REVIEW: The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton

Dear Ms. Burton:

Your book first came to my attention when you posted the cover on your blog.   I am not a huge fan of the man titty but even I, a scoffer, could not help but be impressed with the rendering on this cover.   This guy exudes hotness like a furnace at a coal refinery. I looked forward to this book with some trepidation.   I haven’t loved everything you wrote in the past and I’ve read some really bad sports books.   The cover and my past experiences were creating warring expectations.   Fortunately, I enjoyed the book immensely.   The three things I liked were the portrayal of Mick as an athlete, the likeability of Tara, and the believability of their romantic conflict.

perfect play jaci burtonI know that this is a trade book (and Agency priced no less) and thus pricey for a lot of readers. I’m going to try to spell out why I liked this book so the reader can take measure for herself.   I think what will be the deciding factor in whether this book works for the reader is the reader’s response to the prose.   The prose in the book is fairly ordinary.   Lyrical metaphors won’t be found here. The writing is pretty plain.   I suggest reading an excerpt to decide whether the writing works.    For me, however, the writing worked just fine because Mick, as a superstar athlete, and Tara, the party planner raising a teen boy, and their romantic conflict read as authentic and believable and, yes, as hot as the cover suggests.

Tara is a party planner with a 14 (soon to be 15) year old son.   She made a lot of mistakes as a kid and had crappy parents but is trying to give her son the best possible life.   She doesn’t date.   It’s not that she isn’t interested in men but rather building a business and taking care of her son takes all of her time.   She meets pro quarterback Mick Riley at a party she planned.   Mick propositions her and Tara decides to let her hair down.   This very hot, famous, successful guy is offering her a night of pure pleasure?   She’ll take it and be home before the sun is up.

When Mick, however, is intrigued by Tara who clearly isn’t dazzled by his superstar status.   Plus, their night together was as good as he has ever had so he tries to engage Tara in a more steady relationship but   Tara keeps turning him down.   She isn’t really interested in his lifestyle and she is sure he doesn’t want to date a woman with a kid.   Tara’s dedication to her son and her business and refusal to be swept away by Mick’s platitudes were admirable and believable.   She really wasn’t interested but, realistically, she felt that whatever Mick had in mind for her wasn’t of any permanence and she wasn’t going to expose herself and her son to that kind of trouble.

The portrayal of Mick as this handsome and successful athlete who had the world by the tail was very believable.   Mick wasn’t an asshole, but he was in a position where everything in life came easy to him.   He didn’t need to pursue women. He had a ton of money.   His life was very, very good even if he had stumbled a few times on his way to the top.   In pursuing his on the field success with single minded intensity, he let others, particularly, his agent take control of his off the field life.

In order to justify why Mick was interested in Tara over the past supermodels and actresses he had dated, we were treated to a number of comparisons by Mick between Tara and his past flings.   He was always referencing how real she was versus how fake the other women were. I appreciated that Mick made passing acknowledgments that maybe he had been looking in the wrong places but even in bed, his references to how much more awesome she was than others in the sex department became tiring.

Another thing is that I wished that some of the later sex scenes would have reflected a deeper emotional connection between the two. I noticed it most in the language that the two of them used with each other.   In the beginning, Tara and Mick both use the phrase “fuck” to reference having sex , but later in the book, after the two were in a relationship and there were some heavy secrets being unloaded, I would have thought their language toward each other in the love scenes would have been a bit more tender as well as the sex itself be expressed differently.   While the sex scenes were hot, I didn’t feel that the emotional tenor changed enough to reflect the changing emotions in the couple.

Mick’s pursuit of Tara reflected his proactive and physical method of dealing with things. Faced with an obstacle, Mick moved forward until said obstacle was overcome. Tara’s resistance was simply an obstacle, or so Mick believes.   But Tara isn’t an obstacle. She’s a human with real emotions whose devotion to her son and desire for a certain kind of life for the two of them didn’t fit into Mick’s more obvious lifestyle.

Mick’s interaction with Tara’s kid was well done and I loved Mick’s family.   There is one scene toward the end where Mick has it out with someone who is trying to mess with Tara and Mick’s relationship and it was one of the strongest emotional scenes in the book for me.   I re-read that scene again. Mick’s anger, his fear of losing Tara, and his strong desire to be Tara and Nick’s family really sang.   For fans of sports books, I think that this book delivers. 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. Mireya
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 15:12:02

    what a cover … *wiping drool*

  2. Tweets that mention REVIEW: The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton | Dear Author --
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 15:24:39

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Harlequin Books, jaciburton, Jayne Hoogenberk, Jessica Tripler, The Loft and others. The Loft said: RT @dearauthor: NewPost: REVIEW: The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton […]

  3. Tabitha
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 15:39:39

    Thanks for the review, Jane. I already had this book in my TBB list and was waiting to finish some books before going out to pick up this copy…but I think I’ll go tomorrow instead. Lol. Thanks!

  4. Keishon
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 15:49:50

    That cover…can sell itself. Almost.

  5. Laura
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 15:51:35

    I really want to read this one for two reasons. I love the cover and I’ve always wanted to read about a successful athlete pursuing an ordinary woman who isn’t really interested. But I’m still on the fence after reading your review. Mick constantly comparing Tara to his other flings sounds so irritating! As well as the use of the word “fuck” even after they’ve established a relationship. I guess reading an excerpt will have to be the deciding factor for me. Thanks for the review.

  6. Carin
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 15:55:13

    I’ve been snowed in and decided to treat myself by downloading this book to my reader yesterday. I finished it this morning. I really enjoyed it. Mick & Tara’s story felt very real and believable.

    While reading the book I didn’t notice that the sex scenes didn’t evolve much with the storyline, but when I read the review here I can see it. It didn’t bother me at all, and I just figured Tara was a “fuck” kind of girl.

    I really wish I could articulate why I liked the book so much. It was partly because it was a straight contemporary – no suspense, nothing paranormal – and I really like that. It was partly because it was hot in a really good way. Another big part of liking it was the believable storyline and likable characters. It all added up to very good for me!

    On a side note, I did have to pay full agency price (boo!) to get it. And then when I downloaded it… no cover! Seriouly. My other ebooks come with covers. This one had ot even a grainy black and white version, just a page with “The Perfect Play” in a nice font. That was *really* disappointing.

  7. Kati
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 16:07:05

    Well, Jane, as always, you and I are twinsies. I loved this book a bit more than you. But then, I’m a pro football junkie.

    What I particularly loved was that Tara and Mick’s conflict was portrayed very genuinely. And yes, I loved Mick’s panic at losing Tara.

    I’m definitely intrigued to see if she is successful in redeeming the villain of the piece, who seems to be on the road to redemption.

  8. Danielle D
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 16:29:05

    When I first read this book I drooled over the cover and then I drooled over Mick! I really enjoyed this book.

  9. Lada
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 16:54:09

    Good timing for this review since I’m definitely in a football kinda mood given the Super Bowl is this Sunday. (I’m guessing Jane didn’t need any help since I believe she’s a Packer fan…I’ve seen a picture of the GBP stock certificate. ;-))

  10. cs
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 17:07:06

    I’m buying it for the cover.


  11. Dana S
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 17:27:28

    I love the cover, and despite the fact that there is a kid in the book, the review convinced me to try the book. And then I checked out the ebook prices. Why is this $9.99? Way too pricey for me.

  12. sarah mayberry
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 17:54:24

    This is one of the sexiest covers I have ever seen on a book. It’s delicious. Edible, almost. This is coming my way and I am very excited about reading it.

  13. Ridley
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 18:24:25

    I feel for the author, but $9.99 for a contemporary romance is just not going to happen.

    If it’s ever priced like a romance, I’ll give her a try.

  14. Jia
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 19:05:49

    @Dana S: Probably because the print version is a trade. If it were a mass market, I suspect the ebook price would be lower but since it’s not…

  15. RebeccaJ
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 20:31:19

    I’m sorry I know I shouldn’t laugh, but there’s something incredibly freak about that guy’s boobs!

  16. Kaetrin
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 21:43:28

    I keep saying that I don’t buy books for covers and, mostly, I don’t. But, I’ve come to realise that an awesome cover such as this one makes me go searching for reasons to buy the book. I’ve been drooling over this cover for months. I don’t want to get the ebook version – no cover – I think I’ll head over to the Book Depository and see what price it is over there – if I’m going to pay top $ I want the eye candy to go with it!

    Thx for the review Jane – I’m glad there is more to this book than just a (smokin’) hot cover. And, what’s not to love about gridiron? :)

  17. Tamara Hogan
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 06:35:47

    –> And, what's not to love about gridiron?

    Well said, Kaetrin! I adore sports romances. Just love ’em, gobble ’em up like potato chips. And speaking of gobbling…that cover is NOM NOM NOM.

    I’d love to read a full-length romance about an elite female athlete. Nancy Warren’s latest Blaze, “Face-Off”, did this at novella length (the book is three connected novellas), with a figure skater getting involved with a hockey player who was trying to get promoted from an NFL farm team to the bigs. LOVED this book.

    More sports romances, please!

  18. Cynthia N.
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 07:41:57

    I too was on the fence for this one. Cover lust aside; the story just hasn’t pulled me in. Too many like this out there – playboy has everything, finds what he’s been missing but she’s out of his grasp. I have so many on the TBR shelf right now, I’m passing.

  19. Janet P.
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 08:45:40

    Next cover in that series is pretty hot too.


  20. jmc
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 09:20:54

    The cover is gorgeous, but after downloading a sample to read ($9.99 for an ebook?), I’m wibbling about buying. There seemed to be a lot of telling rather than showing in the sample, and Nick came across as a jerk to me. I get that he is jaded, but the way he thought about the women in his life bothered me, especially since they were there by his own choice. Between that and the price, this book will likely be a library borrow only, which is a shame, because I love good sports-set romance novels.

  21. Erica Anderson
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 11:00:28

    I don’t read sports romances and I’m not a big fan of contemporaries, but if there’s anything that would change my mind, it would be THAT AMAZING COVER. MeOW!

  22. Jane Lovering
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 12:30:35

    Just as a matter of interest – and because it’s a plot point that tends to irritate me whenever it occurs – who is minding the kid when she’s ‘deciding on her night of pure pleasure’?

    I’ve not read the book, and maybe the lad is at a friend’s house, but I get annoyed with the ‘plot moppet’ who is conveniently able to be dropped off whenever good sex beckons. How many of us have had to turn down fabulous opportunities/hot sex because there’s no one to babysit? And, OK, he’s fifteen, but…no, he’s fifteen. And noone leaves a fifteen year old boy alone overnight without repercussions…

  23. Jane
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 13:08:21

    @Jane Lovering It’s been a while since I read the book but as I recall, Tara had sent her son to stay with someone else for the night because the party she was planning (and had to be at during the entire event) was going to be a late night one. She’s super protective of her son and he does impede their sexy times. Like one time they engaged in relations during the day while he was at school and another while he was spending the night at a friend’s house.

  24. Carin
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 13:32:21

    @Jane Lovering – I thought the 15 year old was handled well. He spent a few nights at friends’ houses, but he did surprise them at least once. One time she made arrangements for him to stay with another adult. On another occaision he got into quite a bit of trouble when he was “at a friend’s house”.

    In fact, Tara’s main objection to having a relationship of any kind with Mick was that her son needed her attention. She wasn’t going to leave him alone overnight. I thought it was handled well. (Ok, there was this one “wise beyond his years” conversation that annoyed me, but that was just one time, and the rest was very good.)

  25. Pat L.
    Feb 04, 2011 @ 07:06:11

    That cover is well talked about – HOT! and so is the followup’s cover.

  26. Jane Lovering
    Feb 04, 2011 @ 09:11:27

    Thanks for the replies, guys, I feel a bit better towards the book now that I know the whole ‘heroine has a kid’ thing is handled properly. Still on the fence about whether I’ll read it or not, but it sounds like it deals with my major bugbear realistically.

  27. DA Recommends for February | Dear Author
    Feb 07, 2011 @ 04:02:01

    […] The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton, recommended by Jane […]

  28. A Sonnet (or two) to the Packers by Sarah Wendell, poetess, and some random thoughts about sports romances | Dear Author
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 04:02:03

    […] I’m always looking for a good sports romance. I enjoy the SEP series and the Rachel Gibson books (her heroes have become less assholic but I even enjoyed Sam in the May release Any Man of Mine and he really is a jerk). And, of course, how can I mention sports books without bringing up Mick Riley of Jaci Burton’s The Perfect Play. […]

  29. Calisto
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 11:14:17

    I was really excited about this book and put it on my TBR list. It’s a striking cover, a football romance and a solid writer. How can you go wrong? The price. Yeah. Sorry, but no. Congrats publishers…way to alienate customers who want to pay for a book. I might still read it but I’m certainly not going to pay full price for it. Bummer man.

  30. Review: The Perfect Play | my love of books
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 21:55:00

    […] enjoyed this book. It features several hot scenes but I had a similar complaint to what Jane at  Dear Author voiced better than I ever could. Another thing is that I wished that some of the later sex scenes […]

  31. Wednesday Midday Links: More on digital lending and libraries | Dear Author
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 10:01:19

    […] items to connect with. I received an oversized postcard of the awesome Jaci Burton cover “Perfect Play“. She’ll send them to anyone who wants one and I have to say that it is really a […]

  32. ayay
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 00:04:56

    Damn, the cover sells itself, and if Gavin’s cover book is as good as this one, I’m in.

  33. Monday Midday Links: Unscientic conclusions put forth as real science (what else is new)
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:23:23

    […] and vote for your favorite (and least favorite) covers of 2010. I know it is hard to believe, but The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton did not make the cut as a Contemporary finalist.  The cover was robbed!  Said book […]

  34. Ikku100%UKE
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 11:14:37

    x) yay! I’m currently reading this one, so far it was good, I didn’t expect to like it this much, but it was really good.. >w<) Mick using the word "fuck" is a little bit tiring but come on, its a ecchi novel so that word is vital, LMAO, nice review..

  35. [Rezension] Jaci Burton – The Perfect Play
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 02:00:30

    […] Karo Adores 3/5 ::: Dear Author [EN] B- ::: Books for All Eternity B- ::: Share this:EmailFacebook  Posted by Steffie at 9:00 […]

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