Aug 30 2012 9:30am

First Look: Jaci Burton’s Playing to Win (Sept. 4, 2012)

Playing to Win by Jaci BurtonJaci Burton
Playing to Win (Play by Play #4)
Penguin Group / September 4, 2012 / $15.00 print, $9.99 digital

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

In Playing to Win, the fourth book in Jaci Burton’s Play by Play series, Cole Riley hasn’t had any luck with longevity with his football teams. After being traded to his 3rd NFL Team, Cole needs to clean up his image. In comes Savannah Brooks, a Georgia Peach who’s an expert at making over an image. Cole doesn’t think that there’s anything wrong with his image. If his image is tainted, it’s because of the media, not him. Savannah’s job is to convince Cole to knock that chip off his shoulder and to play nice if he wants to have a long career with the Traders.

Playing to Win is a great addition to the series and stays in line with what I love about the series the most (other than the hot beefcake covers you can always expect). Not only is it a sexy read with sizzling chemistry between the hero and heroine, but the budding romance is the center of the relationship. Despite the attraction, Cole and Savannah’s relationship starts off as a business relationship and slowly transitions from business to friends to lovers. They aren’t quick to jump into the bed with each other and they both contemplate the consequences of taking their relationship into the bedroom. The push and pull between Cole and Savannah is subtle yet real. You feel her hesitation to mix business with pleasure, while Cole isn’t willing to not pursue their relationship further.

“You can’t keep running away from me. From us.”

“Yes, I can.”

Jaci Burton successfully writes sexy, likable characters that aren’t over the top. They are everyday folks that you can imagine living next door to you. With Cole being a football star, it would be easy to make him an egotistical asshat. His issues with the media is based more on his attitude about having to deal with them as part of his job description than how he feels like he’s a superstar and shouldn’t have to deal with them at all.

“You want to know who I am? This is who I am. I never hold anything back. What you see is what you get.”

Family is also a huge part of this book. Cole comes from a family that is big on sports, his cousins being a NFL quarterback and a MLB player. The Riley family rally around each other and support each other. A visit from the extended Riley family is always a highlight in this series, and Cole’s family's visit in Playing to Win is no different.

“Mom. No. Don’t drag out the photo albums.”

“Oh, come on. What fun is it to be your mother if I can’t embarrass you?”

What I love about Playing to Win and this series as a whole is that it’s not just about the hot, steamy sex scenes (though it doesn’t hurt), but also the likable and realistic characters. The heroes are not over-the-top alpha. It’s the perfect combination of heat and romance that makes this series a must-read.


Marquetta: Reader, Blogger, Smut Lover.

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1 comment
Saundra Peck
1. sk1336
As a huge football fan, this book is now on my Tuesday list, and if the first 3 are also about football, guess I will have to start from the beginning! Thanks for the HOT cover is my FAVORITE time of the year!!!
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