Saturday, February 4, 2017

Jaci Burton - Playing to Win

Football star Cole Riley is notorious for doing as he pleases—on the field and off. He parties hard and fights harder, but if he doesn’t clean up his act, his career is over—so Cole reluctantly agrees to work with image makeover consultant Savannah Brooks. He’s not used to being told what to do, especially by some (admittedly hot) Southern belle. As for Savannah, she’s not convinced she can transform this cocky (and aggressively sexy) force of nature. But she’s determined to give it her best shot.
When the sparks start to fly, Savannah lays down the ground rules: no personal complications. If she can turn off the tingle she feels every time Cole gives her a hot stare with his gorgeous baby blues, he can turn off his desire as well. But for two people determined to have it all, a hands-off policy can only last so long before one of them yields.

Comment: This is the fourth installment in the Play by Play series by author Jaci Burton. I've been trying to go through these books not only to get them out of the pile but mostly because sports romances can be interesting and offer different dynamics on how a romance happens, especially if the characters take heir careers seriously.

Cole Riley is a football player who hasn't had much luck in the teams he's played for, not in terms of performance but when it comes to his relationships with others and the media. Now, Elizabeth (heroine from book #2) is his agent and he is playing for the Traders, a team in his hometown. He is feeling good but keeping to himself again and so Savannah Brooks is asked to help him improve his social persona and help him change from a bad boy when talking to the media to someone with a better attitude.
The two of them spend a lot of time together and they are attracted to each other but can they do something about it without putting it all in jeopardy?

As it happened with the previous installments in the series, this story was also interesting, had good elements but the focus in things not as important (in my opinion) sort of washed out what could have been, again, a stronger romance.
This necessity to add an erotic feel to these little stories is understandable from a marketing POV but the content doesn't always seem balanced because, to simplify a bit, why does it matter if they are sexually compatible? Neither needs it to evolve as a character... I get it and I knew it would have erotic scenes but I just could do without it.
In fact, I skip the sex scenes and I don't think I'm missing much development because of that.

For me, the most interesting details are related to the protagonist's state of mind, why will they become better characters if they are in love or if they realize the support of the other person means something to them...the psychological attitude is what drives me to try these books.
Savannah was the most intriguing element of the couple. She doesn't immediately reveal things about her past but when we learn about them, some of her actions make sense. I actually liked her as a character and her positive look on things even if her role models weren't always good. This proves people don't need to be a copy of their surrounding, we can all be better.

Cole isn't bad but I struggled a little bit more to like him because his issues seemed a bit out of tone to what a professional athlete must think of...but I don't know any personally so... still, his character seemed too "fake" to make me truly believe in his social behavior in certain situations. But when it came to his relationship with his family he did win points.
The relationship between Cole and Savannah started well enough, they were supposed to be professionals but feelings got the best out of them. But I have some difficulties to accept people can so quickly go from polite professionals, to buddies to lovers. Savannah tried to avoid a personal relationship with him but we are just told at some point, after several situations, they are in love. Ok... but then what makes them perfect to one another so quickly? I think the sexual aspect just makes everything faster and I miss a more "soulful" connection first.

Despite the things I'd change or remove, I still think this is an interesting story, I especially liked all the elements related to the protagonists' jobs and what it entailed and also the character interactions with family members and such.
Not the best thing ever, but still, pretty much acceptable to spend time with.
Grade: 7/10

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