Playbook, Book 1
Heat Factor: Not all closed door, but not burning down the house either
Character Chemistry: When both parties are crying during the hard parts of the relationship, I am here for it!
Plot: Woman needs to figure herself out without men getting in the way. But what happens when one man is kind of perfect?
Overall: I need more!
I will begin by noting that I started this book shortly after this year’s Super Bowl (which I confess I did not watch), so the image in my head re football romance is this:
I know nothing about either of these people but that’s one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. It’s a nice aperitif for some football smut, no?
When this book first published I was a huge snob, so I was 1) not reading contemporary romance, 2) definitely not reading sports romance (what are sports again?), and 3) scoffing at illustrated covers. But new and improved Erin reads anything, so I thought, “Let’s have a go.” And I put a hold on Intercepted at the library.
I just want to put my biases right out front by saying that any character in an on-again off-again relationship for 10 years with absolutely no commitment–plus cheating, which I think of as a problem indicator rather than as a dealbreaker–any character in that situation should see the collapse of said relationship from 100 miles away. All signs present there.
Also, if you had the best sex of your life while you were on a break four years ago and you have compared every subsequent sexual encounter to that interaction…What have you been doing for four years? Even if best sex guy isn’t the guy, current sex guy almost certainly also isn’t the guy. Right? Right.
Marlee Harper has been on-again-off-again dating wide receiver Chris Alexander for the past ten years, since she was sixteen. She’s had only two sexual partners, one of whom was a one-night-stand while she and Chris were on a break. Fun story, she split on the one night stand when she woke up and realized he was also a professional football player. What are the odds?! Also fun story, he’s a quarterback who’s been picked up by Alexander’s team for the season. So that’s awkward.
You know what else is awkward? Having the new quarterback show up at your house with your boyfriend the afternoon you found out that he’s been cheating on you. Again. But Mr. QB holds no truck with cheater cheater pumpkin eaters, so he’s happy to rescue Marlee and give her a ride after Alexander keeps the car he gave Marlee as a birthday present. What a jerk, amiright?
Gavin Pope, I thought as I read, is an honest-to-goodness, too-good-for-this-world cinnamon roll. He does the dishes when none of the other football players do. He doesn’t treat women like property. He plans the cutest dates. He’s so respectful, I about died. Until he makes a super huge mistake, but we’ll get to that. Gavin is probably summed up in this exchange with the holier-than-thou wife of the quarterback he replaced:
“And I’m so disappointed in you, Gavin. I don’t expect much from [Marlee], but you should know better. I can’t believe Coach Jacobs replaced Kevin with someone who would fight a teammate. Kevin would never behave the way you have tonight.”
“You’re right,” Gavin says. Courtney’s eyes widen with surprise–her forehead still doesn’t move–and it’s clear to anyone around us she approached us looking for another fight. “Kevin would never stick up for a woman who’s being harassed. Which is the reason I was brought in. Your husband lacks the integrity and leadership it takes to have a winning team.”
The plot is primarily based on conflicts surrounding the football team. Marlee has conflicts with the football wives (that catty behavior is next level). Gavin has conflicts with Alexander. Everybody thinks Marlee’s a tramp because she seduced Gavin after chasing Alexander for so long and then got Gavin injured. So I guess that’s a conflict with the media? Life? And Gavin is a football player, so he could end up playing for any team in the country, and Marlee is from Denver. There’s no permanence.
For the most part, Gavin and Marlee were figuring themselves out and I was trying to figure out where the drama was coming from for the end of the book. Despite some potential for nail-biter drama, Gavin and Marlee (though more Gavin than Marlee, TBH) handle their relationship and the world with maturity. So why Gavin pulls the nonsense he does for the final conflict, I don’t know. On the one hand, I get where he’s coming from. He’s all in for the relationship, and he wants Marlee to be with him. It doesn’t even have to be about Gavin making all the money–military spouses also have to deal with job hopping issues, for example. On the other hand, Gavin cannot possibly be that stupid, right? Apparently he can.
While this conflict does rely on a sort of version of the Contemporary Romance Runaway, Martin handles the resolution of the conflict in a sensible way. Marlee and Gavin are adults, and they act like it, even when they’re struggling. I cannot tell you how annoyed I am when there is a proposal of marriage after protagonists don’t speak to each other for a month because they had a big fight. So hats off to Martin for her emotionally mature characters. Also, I love, love, love that big hotshot quarterback Gavin cries when he’s hurt. Men have feelings and broken hearts, too, and it’s so great that Martin showed a man being that kind of three-dimensional.
I wish I could forget this book and read it again for the first time.
Buy Now: Amazon
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