Review: Playing To Win by Jaci Burton

Playing To Win Jaci Burton
I’ve seen the covers for this series countless times (you can guess why they’re popular, I’m sure), but before now I’d never been interested in trying them out. I kept hearing about how hot the guys were and how sexy the books were, and somehow I got the impression that they were ER that was light on substance and high on fluffy excuses for sex. I don’t know where I got the impression, but there you have it. Luckily I decided to be adventurous when it came time to choose review books this month and discovered that I had been completely wrong about what type of story I would find.

Have you ever seen the movie Goon? At times the hero, Cole, reminded me of the main character from that movie. He’s a nice guy, he just comes across wrong sometimes. Poor Cole has a hard time keeping his cool around the media and allows them to bait him into losing his temper, providing them with an easy opportunity to report on some drama. Cole’s name is mud in the sports world. He’s a great player, but he looks like a bad bet to any potential team out there because of his crappy reputation. He was able to sign on with a new team after being dropped his last one, luckily, but if he screws up this time and gets dropped again then his career will be finished.

Cole is frustrated that his sport merits don’t stand on their own. He doesn’t understand what his life off of the field has to do with his career and has made little effort to change his ways to look more appealing to the rest of the football world. He’s insulted when an image consultant (the heroine, Savannah) is brought in to “fix” him, but he doesn’t want his career to be over so he’s willing to do what he has to in order to turn it around. Their relationship starts off a little rocky, but they soon begin to fall for each other.

I really, really liked Cole. I know that he created his own bad image, but I felt bad for him. He treated his teammates like coworkers and didn’t bother to try to build any friendships with them, he wanted to be left in peace to dance and party at a club if he so chose, and he didn’t feel the media had a right to bother him when he was with his family. Honestly, I find all that understandable. Yes, he had anger issues, and yes, he didn’t quite understand what true friendship was, but he got a raw deal. I’m glad the author showed him having a hard time adjusting to Savannah being thrust into his life. He found her attractive and was interested in her personally, but whenever her role came to the forefront, he got angry. Who could blame him? All of a sudden she’s in his back pocket, watching every move he makes, asking questions and weighing in on everything from his dating skills to his reluctance to have people over to his house. It would take a saint to bear that with a smile.

Savannah’s surprised to find herself so attracted to Cole. She spends a lot of time wrestling with her hormones and trying to stay professional with him. Once Cole gets over his anger and starts to implement her suggested changes willing, he doesn’t see any reason why they can’t hook up, but Savannah’s stuck on the fact that he’s her client. You don’t get ahead as an image consultant by being known for sleeping with your clients. Her issues and insecurities lead to a rather hilarious game of hot and cold. One minute she’s sleeping with him again and the next she’s running for the hills. It made me laugh, even though I had to wince in sympathy for poor Cole. That man was a trooper for sure.

The relationship built slowly and the time that hero and heroine spent together made it feel like they had a solid foundation by the time they had their HEA. The obstacles in their relationship were internal, with a few misunderstandings along the way, but nothing (at least in my opinion) that would cause any readers to be angry about their lack of communication. We got to see some of the previous couples, who were all blissfully happy, and I got the impression that they were a fun group. I’d like to backtrack in the series and see more of them.

While reading this story I was strongly reminded of the Kowalski Family series by Shannon Stacey. I immediately emailed Sophia to ask if she had read any of this series, given that I know she’s a huge fan of the Kowalski Family and is always on the lookout for more series like it. Unfortunately she stole my thunder by having already read the series, but she agreed with the Kowalksi Family reference. So, if you’re a fan of that series, or just a lover of simple, sexy contemporaries with charming characters, this might be right up your alley.

Favorite Quote:

”I think not only do you have secrets, but you’re sexually repressed. That’s why you have this job helping people. Focus on someone else so you don’t have to deal with your own issues—whatever the hell they are.”

She let out a soft laugh. “I can guarantee you I’m not sexually repressed. I know exactly what to do with a man in the bedroom, and am given multiple opportunities to do so. But thank you for offering to save me, Cole. Unfortunately, I’m in no need of saving.”

Rating: A-
Playing To Win by Jaci Burton
September 11th 2012 by Penguin
Amazon || Barnes & Noble

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  1. says

    *gives thunder back* Sorry! :)

    But yes I agree with the comparison to the Kowalski family series. I love romances with big families. That this one has a sports theme as well is a big plus!

    BTW, I’m excited the new Kowalski book will be released very soon. AUTO BUY!

  2. says

    I am really looking forward to this one, and really excited about a new Kowalski book too!

    I am currently listening to the audiobook of the third book in this series and really enjoy the way that the author has portrayed the characters. I would suggest that this series is possibly a bit more steamier than the Kowalskis but other than that it is a fair comparison.