Dear Ms. Burton:
I didn’t love Changing the Game but enjoyed The Perfect Play and I was excited to read about the youngest Riley, Jenna. Jenna is the only girl of the Riley family and despite (or maybe because of) being around sports all of her life, she has sworn of all athletes. Not dating athletes is difficult as Jenna’s two older brothers are professional athletes and she runs the family sports bar that is populated by local professional athletes including members of city’s the pro hockey team.
Tyler Anderson, one of those pro hockey players, takes an interest in Jenna Riley but she turns him down. Almost immediately, Ty begins a relentless pursuit of Jenna.
She locked the door behind him, then turned to tell Tyler to go, but he wasn’t in the kitchen. She found him in the bar pouring a whiskey.
“Hey. Last call was an hour ago.”
He smiled at her, tipped the glass to his lips, and downed the drink in one swallow, then put money on the top of the bar. She grabbed the money and slipped it into her pocket.
“Pocketing the profits, I see.”
“No, smart-ass. I already closed out the register. I’ll add it in tomorrow.”
He shook his head and leaned against the bar. “This is how you talk to your customers?”
“You stopped being a customer when you came behind my bar and served up drinks.”
“You needed help.”
“No, I didn’t.”
He folded his arms. “Are you always this bitchy, or just to me?”
“Just to you. Now get your ass out of here so I can finish closing up.”
The entire overtone of this book was that Ty knows best. Ty knows that Jenna wants him. Ty knows that she needs help behind the bar. Ty knows that Jenna’s distaste for athletes doesn’t apply to him. Ty knows that Jenna should pursue this special ability. Ty knows that she should be pursuing it now and in certain ways even if Jenna protests.
She took a step back. “Why the hardcore press here, Ty?”
“Come on, Jenna. You’re not a kid. You know why. I’ve been coming to the bar a lot, hanging around. I like you.”
“I don’t like you.”
He laughed. “Liar. I see the way you look at me.”
“You are so full of yourself, Anderson. Go pick up another girl. I’m not the least bit interested in you.” She brushed past him and headed to the door, waiting for him to meet her there so she could set the alarm.
He did, his coat in hand. She had her fingers on the keypad ready to turn on the alarm.
“Wait a second,” he said.
“Did you forget something?”
“Yeah.” He hauled her into his arms before she could take her next breath, and his mouth came down on hers.
Instead of finding this charming, I found it unsettlingly paternalistic, particularly late in the book when Jenna’s refusal to fall into line with Ty’s timeline and plans leads him to having a tantrum. I also felt that no one was really on Jenna’s side. Everyone encouraged Ty to push Jenna. Maybe Jenna did need pushing but I wasn’t convinced that Ty’s pushing was done out of love versus him just wanting his way all the time due to him believing that he always knew the right decision.
Jenna attempts to deter Ty’s interest by dating other men. One of the guys was genuinely nice and interesting and I found myself wishing Jenna would fall for him and not return Ty’s interest, but alas, that wasn’t the story.
I admit to being kind of worn down by the incredible success of all the Rileys. Eldest Riley brother is a star NFL quarterback, middle Riley brother is a star baseball player, cousin is a star wide receiver, and now Jenna’s got a secret special ability. Jenna’s secret and amazing ability was my least favorite part of the story, lent a spirit of over the top inauthenticity, and created a conflict that I disliked.
What I thought was a great conflict — the family dynamic of how Jenna felt forgotten and pushed aside in her family and how running the bar was not what she wanted — was given little attention and was undeveloped. I would have liked to have seen more of the family dynamic and resentment from Jenna. Instead, I had unrelenting reminders of how happy everyone was from the previous books. I think if a reader likes the Ty type of character, this could be a very fulfilling book. I never warmed up to him and I wished Jenna would have found someone else. C