Pub Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: HQN (Harlequin)
FTC: Review copy from publisher via Netgalley
Way back in 2008, Susan Andersen was publishing a trilogy about 3 childhood friends. The first book, Cutting Loose, came out and I loved it. [Anyone looking for a rugged, hunky hero should check that book out!!] The second, Bending the Rules, came out 11 months later in summer 2009. It was ok, didn't love it like the 1st but didn't hate it either. Then I waited for the 3rd book. And waited. And waited some more. Turns out that Harlequin had up and decided to not publish the 3rd book!
Oh, I was pissed. As were the other rabid Susan Andersen fans who wanted that last story. We sent letters to her publisher. We gnashed our teeth on social networks and blogs.
Finally, HQN relented. I haven't heard exactly what had to happen behind the scenes to make this happen, but we FINALLY have the last story in the trilogy. Hot damn!!
Playing Dirty is a classic story of betrayal. Sort of a lovers to enemies to lovers story. And I'll admit, given what the hero does to the heroine, I didn't think Andersen could pull off a reconciliation that I'd believe.
When high school golden boy Cade Gallari publicly revealed he’d slept with “fat girl” Ava Spencer to win a bet, he broke her heart. Now a decade older and a head-turner with her own concierge business, Ava isn’t the gullible dreamer she once was—and she plans to prove it when Cade, hotter than ever, breezes back into town with an offer she can’t refuse.
A documentary film producer, Cade is shooting a movie about the mysterious mansion Ava inherited. And he wants her as his personal concierge. She’s certainly professional enough to be at his beck and call without giving him everything he wants. Like another shot at having her in his bed. But Ava doesn’t count on Cade’s determination. Because he’s never gotten over her. And he’s not above playing dirty to score a second chance at a red-hot future…
Now, the whole "sleep with her on a bet" thing has been done before. But I've seen it mainly in historicals. This one...this one hurt. Take a teenager already insecure about her appearance (and getting put down at home by her mother about her weight) and have the guy she thinks she loves (and has just slept with) announce to the entire high school cafeteria that he'd slept with her on a bet.
Yeah. Ouch. I'm not sure I'd ever be able to get over something like that. Sure, it was high school, but some things scar you. And this did scar Ava.
Fast forward a decade. Ava is drop dead gorgeous but still hypersensitive about her weight. She's a successful personal concierge. And Cade, a documentary filmmaker, needs her help. Both for access to the mansion of his latest film's subject, and for her community connections. Watching these two people, both responsible and likeable adults, work through their issues kept me glued to the book. It is soaked in emotion, something that so few books seem to accomplish any more.
There's a side mystery in this book (but as with the other two books, you know right from the beginning who the bad guy is and what he wants). I'm not really sure the book needed that because there was SO MUCH internal tension. But it didn't harm the book either, so I'm not going to complain.
I honestly didn't think I'd be able to accept a Happily Ever After for these two. I bled for Ava. And even though we get some reasons for Cade's actions and he is genuinely remorseful, it took some doing for me to buy into their relationship. But in the end, I did believe that Cade and Ava could get beyond their past. That's some masterful storytelling there.
My Grade: A