Monday, September 10, 2012

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW "Playing to Win" by Jaci Burton

Cole Riley
Savannah Brooks

Cole Riley is a hotshot Wide Receiver for a fictional St. Louis Traders NFL team. He’s been recently traded despite having a record season with Green Bay. The problem? He’s got an image problem. His reputation as a hothead, narcissistic, egoist has worked against him. He wants his stats to speak for him, but his defensive reaction to the media has made him a team liability. In comes Savannah Brooks, an image specialist. She is hired by Cole’s new agent, Elizabeth Darnell (from Changing the Game) to rehabilitate his image.


This book is a departure from the previous three in the series. The sexual encounters do not drive this story. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of hot, steamy scenes, but it doesn’t dominate the narrative. The story is not complicated. Cole and Savannah’s attraction is instantaneous and physical, but they also share a fear of abandonment. Cole doesn’t make friends or put down roots with any team because he feels that the teams he has been on in the past have not fully committed to him. Savannah has a difficult childhood where her neglectful mother has abandoned her. The joy is watching these two figure out this journey together.

Jaci Burton has really hit her stride with this one. One of the most common critiques I have about sports romances is when an author doesn’t do anything with the sports angle. In more than a few stories, the occupation is incidental, not integral. The hero could be a cop, firefighter, soldier, etc. The fact that he/she is an athlete doesn’t mean much to the story except as an occasional filler. Jaci Burton, however, knows how to weave the athlete’s story into the narrative. Granted, there is probably less sports in this story than in her last, but the amount felt right - organic, not contrived. has really hit her stride with this one.

Jaci Burton has arguably the hottest covers in her Play By Play series.  Really, I think I'd buy the book just for its cover.  Luckily, this book is a great blend of sports and romance. This was a sweet read and I would recommend this to others. I am excited about the next installment, Thrown for a Curve.

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