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Review: Playing to Win by Jaci Burton

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Playing to Win
Author: Jaci Burton 
Release Date: Sept. 4, 2012
Publisher: Berkeley Trade
Play by Play #4
ISBN: #978-0425247839
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format(s): Paperback (320 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher

About the book:

     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.

What Nimas talking about:

     The fourth installment of Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play series, Playing to Win, is worth picking up just to stare at the cover.  Fitness model Jed Hill once again lends his “hip dents” or “hip dips” to ignite our imagination of what main character Cole Riley might look like in the flesh.  In an interview with About Happy Books, Burton said of Hill’s previous appearance on her book The Perfect Play, “Of course, who can deny the appeal of a hot, sweaty guy on the cover of a book, right?”
     If you can tear your eyes away from the cover, (or maybe the cover away from the book so you can pin him to your pillowcase) to actually open the book, Cole Riley comes to life.  I liked Cole.  I didn’t always understand how his past produced his current behavior because he was a good guy at heart from a good family.  His family seemed to keep him grounded, but he had this apparent need to act out and it didn’t feel genuine.  Savannah’s need to keep a professional distance from Cole made more sense.
     Parts of this single-afternoon-read were clearly formulaic, but not in a way which I can really fault.  It felt more like I could predict what was coming next just from the pacing of the relationship rather than Burton following a mandated script.  I admit it did lack a certain intensity; there is no real major conflict that must be resolved other than the two main characters needing to get over themselves.  When it finally does get off the ground, the relationship between Cole and Savannah isn’t just steamy, it’s creatively steamy.  There are few word choices that I could live without, but they were just blips rather than hang-ups for me.
     I was pleased that there was some actual football in this tale.  I think it’s a failing of a book with a defined profession that never appears as a part of the plot when clearly, it’s a part of that person’s life.  Burton does bring on some football.  As the wife of a football coach, I could have even handled a little more, maybe even as a point of conflict???  Nevertheless, I’ll definitely read the next one.  I like this community of characters.
     It’s not necessary to have read the first three books before reading Playing to Win, but readers who have will enjoy seeing characters they know pop up.  You can read an excerpt HERE.

Nimas Rating:

Enjoyed – strongly recommend (A-)
Purchase Info:
Playing to Win (A Play-by-Play Novel)
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