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REVIEW:  Foolish Games by Tracy Solheim

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,

Jane

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REVIEW:  Love a Little Sideways by Shannon Stacey

REVIEW: Love a Little Sideways by Shannon Stacey

Dear Ms. Stacey:

You are one of my go to authors in contemporary romance. I feel safe in one of your books. I’m not going to find assholes or cheating or anyone getting their heads cut off. The most unexpected thing I can expect in a Kowalski book is how badly an ATV will be mangled. In fact, maybe that should be the new rating I give to Stacey books. This one was a five ATVs but the other one was only worth three ATVs.

Love a Little Sideways (Kowalski Family #7) by Shannon StaceyLiz is the only sister of the big Kowalski family and she’s spent most of her adult life supporting an artist in New Mexico and she rarely saw her family. When she decides that the long term relationship is going nowhere, Liz heads home to Maine. There she starts a waitressing job and begins to consider what she really wants to do in her life.

One thing she’d like to do is Drew Miller, the Police Chief and best friend of her older brother. They had a one night stand (or one late afternoon stand) during the wedding reception of one of Liz’s brothers but they’ve kept it a secret because of Drew’s relationship with Mitch, the eldest Kowalski.

When Liz is back in Maine, their attraction to each other is hard to resist but there are two major impediments to any relationship. Drew is concerned about telling Mitch that he, Drew, is having sex with Mitch’s sister but the more pressing concern is the major difference between Drew and Liz’s outlook for the future.

Drew spent years married to a woman who never wanted to have children but never admitted it to Drew. This wasn’t something he knew and ultimately that led to a divorce. He is actively looking for a wife and one who wants to have kids. While Liz wants kids and a family possibly that is in the far future. Right now she wants to look at classes at a community college and even get a degree. She doesn’t want to wait tables for the rest of her life and is feeling a bit self conscious of how she compares professionally with her brothers.

Drew and Liz presented an impossible conflict. He wants to get married and have children and she does not. The entire Kowalski clan is brought back together for a camping trip where Drew and Liz’s first conflict – Mitch – comes to a head but their other conflict isn’t so easily resolved. Liz is still living in a rented house and with inflatable chairs and sofa. Her worldly belongings could fit into the back of a car. Nothing about her lifestyle indicates that she is ready to settle down.

Both characters are extremely likeable and I enjoyed revisiting all the other Kowalskis but I did wonder if the vast cast of characters would be confusing to readers. And while I felt that there was great chemistry between Liz and Drew, the impossible conflict had to end in either Drew giving up his dream of the future or Liz sacrificing for Drew. That wasn’t how the story was brought to a close but I had a bit of a hard time believing that the two were going to have a happy ever after. Instead I felt that neither character had really moved far enough in the other’s direction for a completely satisfactory conclusion. B- or 4 ATVs.

Best regards,

Jane

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