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Carina Press

REVIEW:  Playing It Close by Kat Latham

REVIEW: Playing It Close by Kat Latham

playing-it-close

“Where do you go to escape everything when you’re one of the most famous rugby players in the world? For Liam Callaghan, that place is a remote lodge on Venezuela’s Caribbean coast. Perfect, except he doesn’t exactly want to be alone with his thoughts. Enter Tess Chambers, the ultimate distraction.

Still reeling from a professional disaster that’s made her all but unemployable, Tess understands the desire to move through life as somebody else. So when instantly recognizable Liam uses a fake name, she runs with it and creates a temporary new identity of her own.

Their time spent together in paradise is idyllic but brief—after one passionate night, Liam wakes up to find Tess gone. Returning to London, he’s shocked to learn she’s taken a job with his team’s new sponsor. As the Legends’ captain, he’ll have to not only figure out how to work with the one woman who ever left him wanting more, but also convince her that their feelings in the present mean more than any lies they’ve told in the past.”

Dear Ms. Latham,

I’ve been eagerly waiting for this follow up to one of my favorite books of last year – Knowing the Score. That book was a fresh and funny introduction for me to the sport of rugby, a great hero and heroine and your writing. I haunted the Carina Press website for the past 2 months watching for “Playing it Close” and pounced on it when I finally saw it offered. Well, while I sped through the story, it didn’t match up to my hopeful expectations.

The book starts with a standard romance trope meet-cute, hookup and then separation followed by the “never expected reunion” which leads to the “thrown together professionally while sparks, which must be ignored, fly” finished up by the “Big Mis” and finally the “all is explained and true love wins out.” This is all fine, well and good, the characters are nice and unexceptional, the set up is believable if uninspiring but honestly it’s nothing I’ve not read before many times. If this were all it would have been a pleasant enough read but nothing special.

But as I read, a series of things began to stand out to me that I found harder to stomach. I don’t care for situations that in some way belittle or humiliate the heroine but here the stakes were raised even higher. Tess has endured public slut shaming because of her assholic coworkers in The City’s financial district. She struck back with an anonymous blog that Told All which lead to hearings on the gender issues running rampant in her workplace. Her former employer then hit back by releasing a drunken email she sent to one of her tormentors causing her further public embarrassment. In other words, Tess has already been put through the wringer.

So what happens to her over the course of the book? She gets caught by Liam in an elevator looking like an escapee from a wet T-shirt contest. She gets caught in a shower with nothing but a wash cloth and her hand to protect her naked dignity from the gaze of 12 of the London Legends rugby players, then she’s required to serve as a body double for a team calendar photo shoot after listening to the photographer denigrate her looks. And finally after having rejected Liam publicly, she feels she has to make it up to him by publicly apologizing. One of these events I could have tolerated but as the number of them piled on I began to get upset. They were no longer cute or endearing ways to catch Liam’s attention. Tess had suffered enough, in my opinion.

There are things about it that lift it back up for me. Tess wants a new job for her own peace of mind and won’t be satisfied to sit back and live off the hush money she got from her old job. Working and being productive are important to her. Liam cooks! Brava to Tess for getting it through to Liam that the word “girl” should not be used as an insult. Liam realizes early on that his relationship with Tess is different from all his past hookups. Good for Liam in explaining to Tess that if she wants implants that’s fine but he loves her body as it is. And I adored the short dinner scene at Spencer’s house and getting to see that crew again.

Overall it’s okay but just not up to how much lurve I have for the first book. Granted the bar was set high with that one. I can appreciate that you didn’t just write the same book as before or plagiarize your own characters and just give the new ones different names but this one didn’t quite hit the same high note. Pretty please for the next book can we have a hero who is one of the small but scrappy, fast and mean as a hornet rugby players? B-/C+

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Slip Point by Karalynn Lee

REVIEW: Slip Point by Karalynn Lee

Slip-Point

From childhood, Shay had one dream–to join the Space Corps with her best friend and sweetheart, Jayce. When the Space Corps reveals that the father she thought was dead is actually an infamous pirate and rejects her application, the dream dies and she leaves the planet without saying a word to Jayce.

Ten years later, Shay is a pirate herself. She captains her own ship and has earned a reputation as one of the slipperiest pilots around. That’s why she’s recruited for a dangerous secret government mission. But the cargo she’s assigned to smuggle turns out to be a woman with a government bodyguard–Jayce.

Jayce never thought he’d see Shay again, and when the mission forces them together on her ship, he isn’t sure he can forgive her for deserting him; but their desire for each other is stronger than ever. Jayce knows he wants to be with Shay, but how can he trust a woman who’s both a pirate and the girl who broke his heart?

Dear Ms. Lee,

I was in the mood for something different and thought, “Now what haven’t I read in a while?” The answer was SF and doing some more thinking I remembered that I had one last novella of yours I’d bought but not read. “Slip Point” it is. I’m still looking for the magic of “Back Across the River Styx” to bewitch me again but this one is pretty darn good.

It starts by giving me a good immediate feeling for the characters, time and place. I can sense their frustration at being stuck on backwater world and of wanting off – kind of like any teenager stuck in one horse town waiting on their 18th birthday and Grayhound bus out of there. Only Shay and Jayce want the stars and the new worlds they’ll find there.

I can understand why Shay is blindsided by her true heritage and also why she raced out of the recruitment center with no word to her best friend as to why she’s leaving him. Her pride is wounded, she’s reeling from what she’s learned and she only wants to lick her wounds in peace. I was kind of looking for the mystery of how her father and mother hooked up to be explained but can see why she doesn’t want to go back to question her mother and unable to ask her father – what with everything else she has to suddenly learn.

It’s a quick defection for Shay from a potential future in the Corps to life of crime but this is a novella with a limited word count. Once she goes, she goes fast and goes after what she wants with intelligence, determination and flair. I admired her for that.

The whole set up for the scenario that brings Shay and Jayce back together is held together with cobwebs of understanding that I could follow as it was being laid out but which got convoluted the more it went on. After a while I just went with the whole thing and didn’t try to think too much about it. Both Jayce and Shay display quick thinking which I would expect from a man in the military and a woman who’s run from that military and captained her own ship for ten years.

The SF speak/tech seems believable to me but then I’m not a SF geek so YMMV. It sounds good anyway. The sprinkling of things like clones and Shay’s awe at the unknown mysteries of the aliens helped me believe in this world too. And it’s got humor as well. When Jayce and Shay infiltrate a medical center and Shay kicks some ass, Jayce seems a little stunned at her capability.

The orderly made strangled noises as her leg buckled, and she staggered. Shayalin allowed their combined weight to carry them backward a couple of steps. Then she twisted around and slammed the woman’s head into the back wall.
The orderly slid to the floor. Shayalin stood over her, panting hard. The woman didn’t move. No, there—her chest rose in a shallow breath, and Shayalin felt a rush of relief. Besides, she reminded herself, they were in a top-class medical facility. Cuoramin would patch her up.
Jayce said after a moment, “Can I kick her? Just to feel like I was part of the fight.” Beneath the attempt at humor, she could tell he really was taken aback.

The timing of the sex scene actually made some sense as the two of them were going up against the whole Corps with no guarantee of success. The LOL here helped too.

After she dropped the last article on the floor she stretched out on the bed. She was cold, naked. Goosebumps spread across her skin and her nipples hardened from the chill. He still stood by the doorway, and she propped herself up on one elbow to look at him. “Jayce?”
He crossed the room like a sleepwalker, slow but unerring. “I’ve dreamed this before,” he murmured.
“And did you let my dream-self freeze to death?”

The whole story zips along to the end. Shay and Jayce save the human world – yah! – and then finally get their own HEA due in part to Shay’s keen negotiating skills. Win/win all around. B

~Jayne

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