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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:  Imaginary Lines by Allison Parr

REVIEW: Imaginary Lines by Allison Parr

Allison Parr Imaginary Lines

Dear Ms. Parr:

This book is definitely my favorite in the NY Leopards series of books. It has two tropes that I love — reunited lovers and friends to lovers.  There was one other thing that made it memorable for me. Both characters are Jewish and their faith and families played an important but not overwhelming role. It just served to remind me of all the cultural differences in our world and how very Anglo Saxon romances are that this particular aspect was memorable.

Tamar Rosenfeld has been in love with Abraham Krasner since the age of twelve. She even screwed up the courage to tell him so. He’d always known but as a young buck about to get drafted he didn’t have an interest in young Tamar, the daughter of a family friend.

When Tamar moves to New York as a new journalist for an online sports magazine, one of the beats she’ll cover is that of the NY Leopards. She doesn’t immediately reveal her past with Abe nor does she seek him out. She moves in with three other young women and makes up a list of things to do while she lives in New York including get over Abe Krasner.

Abe reaches out to her because her mother told his mother that she’d moved to Manhattan. Suffering a mix of excitement and trepidation, Tamar allows Abe back into her life.  Despite Tamar’s early feelings of rejection, I was super disappointed that she did not move on emotionally and mentally from Abe. I wished she had dated someone other than Abe and that she allowed him back into her life too quickly.  Tamar is a virgin and honestly if she had had at least one other sexual encounter I would have felt better about it. She does try to resist him but her friends, interested in having someone famous around, kind of thwarts her efforts.

While Abe’s excuse for why he rejected her made sense, I wanted to see him have to work harder to win her back.  While Tamar didn’t act like she had no backbone, I felt she was too pliable when it came to Abe. The internal emotional conflict frustrated me from that standpoint. Yet I couldn’t be unhappy entirely because I really liked Tamar and Abe, despite that initial rejection, was a lovely suitor.

The second half of the book relies more on an external conflict. Tamar is doing a piece on concussions and helmets in the football league. There’s a safer helmet available on the market but not every team uses them. A competing manufacturer just so happens to have an official sponsorship deal with the League, generally, and the Leopards specifically. The timeliness of this issue helped ground the story in realism. Concussion syndrome in the NFL is a big deal yet no one believes the actual League is doing more than lip service but worse, there are many players who want to play hard and win at all costs no matter what the long term repercussions may be.

Later in the book, Abe stands by Tamar in a very strong fashion which made up a bit for his earlier rejection. There was something endearing about the way that the two interacted. The longstanding friendship that morphed into something stronger and more intimate was sweet and tender. Of course, there are moments of typical possessiveness but I enjoyed those because they came at the right time in a way that reassured Tamar, and the reader, of Abe’s intentions.

His jaw firmed up, and in an instant he had pulled me flush against his body and kissed me so intensely all thought fled my mind, replaced with a perfect storm of heat and desire. His mouth played a symphony of pleasure against mine. It reverberated throughout my entire body until I was weak and clung to him.

When he raised his head, he was smiling in satisfaction, and I was utterly breathless. “What was that?”

“That,” he said, “was to let you know that you will never get me out of your system, Tamar Rosenfeld.”

You get scenes of past characters together as well as witness the wedding of the one non white couple referenced in the Leopards’ books.  Overall, this was a solid B- read for me. I would have given it a stronger grade had I not felt like Tamar was in stasis for all of her young life, just waiting for Abe’s kiss to awaken her. B-

 

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