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REVIEW: The Players’ Club series by Cathy Yardley

This post reviews all three Players’ Club books, two of which are available now and one which is set to be released digitally on February 1, 2012. I will say that if you read one, you’ll have to read them all.

Player's Club: ScottPlayers’ Club: Scott

The Players’ Club is an urban legend of men jetting around the world, throwing amazing parties, playing huge pranks, or so Scott Ferrell  thinks, but when he stumbles upon the monthly meeting he refuses to leave until they reveal the truth to him.  The Player’s Club was formed by two friends named Lincoln and Finn and they ask one question: “When was the last time you did something that made you feel as though your life was worth getting out of bed for? ”

Scott can’t recall. His life is okay but he’s never really asserted himself.   His co workers think he’s dull.  His last girlfriend dumped him for being too nice.  The Player’s Club offers Scott an opportunity to push his boundaries.  The problem is that his cute neighbor, Amanda,  was on the fire escape watching the same shenanigans as he was and when pressed, Scott admits to the existence of the Player’s Club to impress her.  And it does.  Amanda is a planner.  She is never without a list and a clear idea of where she wants to be tomorrow but ristk taker she is not.  Scott and his introduction into the Player’s Club gives her a chance to experience some risk, within boundaries.

The two get swept up in the Player’s Club until they aren’t sure whether their emotion for each other is from this emotional high of risk taking or something deeper.  There was something charming about the lack of smoothness in Scott and Amanda’s interactions.  They both are nice people but their niceness has been perceived as a weakness.  In trying to remake himself, Scott becomes something else: “He’d been so worried about not being a ‘nice guy’—so intent on being the badass he thought Amanda wanted—that he’d become the opposite. Selfish, insensitive. Cruel. ”

Amanda had to find a backbone and Scott had to discover how you could be a nice guy and still get the girl.  It was a fun and sweet story, albeit driven by a hokey concept of a rich man’s frat club.  B-

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Player's Club: LincolnPlayers’ Club: Lincoln

This story read to me about the redemption of socialite, Juliana Mayfield, whose entire worth is wrapped up in being famous. She learns to let go of fame, to be a person of worth based upon her own actions (and not the measurement of others).   Talking with Sarah Wendell about this book in our podcast leads me to believe that how much a reader likes this book depends a lot upon how they view Juliana. I liked Juliana’s redemptive path but Sarah did not. The unhappy socialite is no different to me that the world weary billionaire which is a standard staple of romance.  Juliana decides that she’ll infiltrate The Player’s Club and try to sell the reality tv version of it because Juliana has no money and this is her last ploy to stay relevant.

Part of why I liked this story is because Juliana knows that her search for fame is empty but she doesn’t feel like she has any other options. Of course she does, but at the beginning of the book she can’t see those options.  That’s not the worldview everyone around her, including her dilettante parents, holds.  Over the course of getting to know The Players’ Club, particularly Lincoln and another new initiate, Juliana begins to see how truly empty her quest to remain with the “in” crowd is.

Lincoln I liked less.  Lincoln was wealthy and viewed Juliana with contempt.  He treated her as if she wasn’t worth being the gum under his shoe, yet he couldn’t wait to take her to bed.  I have little appreciation for men like that.  At some point, the tables turn. Juliana becomes sympathetic and Lincoln begins to realize his assumptions about Juliana might be incorrect.  C+

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Player's Club: FinnPlayers’ Club: Finn

This was my least favorite but mostly because I felt like Finn was a rich guy without a clue. I didn’t understand his unhappiness.  He had it all.  A ton of money.  Great friends. As many women as he could want.  Yet, he was disenchanted with life and began taking increasing risks in his adventures.  His father sends in the family lawyer to rescue Finn from himself.  Diana has spent her adult life trying to repay Finn’s father for the chance that he gave her.  She’s the fixer for the family and this time it is Finn that needs fixing.  Diana is portrayed as the Hard Ass Asian, kind of Tiger Mom wannabe, which I loved.  What I was frustrated by was that the HA Asian portrayal wasn’t internally consistent (maybe this is because Diana is only half Chinese?)  When Diana was having all these soft moments in the middle of the book, I might have yelled, err, raised my voice at the portrayal.  HA Asian wouldn’t be crying all the time. HA Asian’s don’t cry!!

Diana’s early breakdowns diminished the tension and build up that could have been.  If she had held on to her emotions until the penultimate scene (before the denouement) when she would realize that her course of action would lead to loneliness and that her obligation had been fulfilled, then the outpouring would have been so much more powerful.  Instead, I felt that it was a cop out, as if a heroine can’t be hard, cold, and resisting whereas a hero can.  My dislike for this story may be more about how I wanted the story to read rather than a failure of the story to deliver but in the end, I have to give it a C.

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

7 Comments

  1. Jinni
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 10:59:00

    I met Yardley years ago at some RWA convention and was surprised to find out she was Asian. It was a time when a lot of Harlequin authors of color were writing almost exclusively about white characters. (Yeah I had a lot of assumptions about authors/characters back then).

    Glad to hear she’s writing about someone non-white (albeit I’ve always hated the HQN half-assed diversity of half or quarter non-white characters).

    The series, however, sounds a little too silly for me. I can’t figure out if I’m growing too old for series romance or has it just gotten more formulaic over time. It’s too bad, I have one or two books of hers from the 2000s on my keeper shelf.

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  2. Sally
    Jan 29, 2012 @ 04:46:36

    I was interested in this series when it was first released because it takes place in my hometown, unfortunately none of storylines appeal to me so I skipped on it. I tend to skip Blazes though because I don’t seem to enjoy most of their books. Good to hear the third book has an Asian character, unfortunately it was the one you least liked.

    I’m with Jinni–making characters half-something sounds kind of like whitewashing or toning down their race to make it more marketable. Not hating on bi- or multi-racials; just asking for more diversity, all kinds of people, please!! (Like a contemporary-set romance with an Asian American hero and heroine. I think I can relate to those characters more. Does a romance novel like that even exist?)

    I was talking with my sister earlier today about the lack of Asian protagonists in romance novels. I confess–as an Asian American I tend to shy away from reading romances with Asians in them (seriously, that’s not right!!) because I grew up watching mainstream media and, therefore, I am more comfortable reading books and watching shows about Caucasians than PoC. I sincerely hope there will be more diversity in books and TV/movies so that the new generation won’t have the same aversion I have. Well…no, aversion is not the right word. Actually I wish there were more Asian protagonists in romance novels so I can pick and choose which one I want to read, kind of like how I can pick which romance novels I want to read depending on the plots, tropes, author’s voice, etc., except with the added diversity.

    Sorry for the kinda-rant.

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  3. L.S.
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 10:17:00

    I hate to say this but I’m going to say it… I’ve always envied that Asian American female romance authors can “get away” with writing romances with strictly white leads and therefore get mainstream readership acceptability. As an African American romance author, I haven’t been allowed to do the same. (I had one agent ask me after asking for a few chapters based on my query, “why are you writing about white people? I thought you said you were a black romance author.” BTW, I didn’t bill myself as a “African American romance writer” in my pitch letter. I guess they could tell I was black from the previous imprints and publishing houses that I had short stories printed under.) Don’t get me wrong. Most of the stories I write have black leads, but it is frustrating that even if you envision characters a certain way you ALWAYS have to make them black because you have to fit in this commercial box of “black author”. I’d appreciate a lot more fluidity. I’m happy to see the emerging interracial romance trend though. Maybe that’s away to open a few more doors for minority authors.

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  4. Laura
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 12:20:40

    @L.S.:

    It sucks that you’ve been pigeonholed like that. I’ve been thinking a lot about niche markets and diversity since the hoopla over (dare I mention it?) _Player’s Ultimatum_ here and at SBTB recently. There was a lot of discussion on how AA readers put up with poor quality books because as a niche market, they just don’t get the attention they deserve.

    So: AA fiction gets less editorial attention. AA authors have to write AA books. White people won’t read about PoC (unless they’re sheiks, of course!)

    These are the decisions that publishing houses are making? No wonder authors are turning to self publishing.

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  5. Laura
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 12:22:00

    @Laura:

    Of course, _Player’s Ultimatum_ was self published and apparently completely unedited, so let’s self publish responsively, people!

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  6. Laura
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 12:24:46

    @Laura:

    Laura @ Laura? Now I’m thinking about racism in publishing AND having an existential crisis. The horror! The horror!

    ReplyReply

  7. Evangeline Holland
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 15:28:53

    These sound appealing to me even though I may end up having the same reaction as you, Jane.

    @L.S.: Ditto on all counts. ;-)

    ReplyReply

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