Review: Playing the Game

playing the gameReviewed by Shelly

This was a recommendation from Goodreads. Once I read the sample I was completely hooked; read it in one sitting. This is Barber’s debut story and she brought it! I know that m/m/f is not for everybody, but this time I’m going to extend my recommendation of this story to include those who wouldn’t normally read that category. This is a strong, solid story that builds on the premise of friends with benefits. But different than many others, this doesn’t develop into a typical love story because there’s absolutely no discussion of love, but it’s not just about the sex either. The writing is quick, smart and witty. The character development, especially of the heroine, and plot progression work well with this trio. Just so you know upfront, this is a HFN not HEA, but I’ve been assured that Part 2 is coming up soon – end of 2013/early 2014. I can’t wait, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that will happen sooner than later.

After moving into her ‘big girl’ apartment, free of lousy roommates, Alice develops a friendship with her two neighbors – Henry and Jay. Henry and Jay are the epitome of helpful and kind neighbors. On Alice’s moving in day, she’s befriended by both guys who not only help her carry boxes and furniture, but going above and beyond by providing her with a support system that even Alice didn’t know that she needed. She’s very strong and way too independent and will not depend on any guy, much less fall in love with one. But even with all that, Alice is a fun character to read and get to know.

I enjoyed all three characters immensely – so much so that I was trying to find something I didn’t like, because I can usually pick out someone or something that just rubbed me wrong, but nope, not this time – all three were very likable. The dominant in the relationship, Henry, is a throwback to an era when men held doors for the woman, offered her an arm to sit down or get up from a chair. He waxes poetic phrases to describe the simplest things – it’s so … chivalrous. I’m kinda crushing on Henry right now. His dialect is formal but Barber somehow made his words lyrical without sounding corny or over the top. There were a couple of conversations between Henry and Alice that I read his words out loud – props to the author!

The quirky yet endearing way that Henry communicates with and about Jay initially came across as a bit prudish, but once I got to know both of the guys, I completely jumped on the Henry wagon, started enjoying his uniqueness and ended up liking him a ton. His passion for Jay and Alice was so much fun to read because I got the sense that he’s building up to something with Alice but she’s so skittish and he knows this about her; he’s practicing patience but he also has to keep her interested and that’s a very fine line to walk. Jay the adorable submissive, has lived with Henry for a couple of years and is simply adorable. Or at least he is in this installment. I’m really hoping that his character will develop into something more three dimensional because right now he seems a bit on the outside and Henry’s selective sheltering has to stem from something — but what? I just can’t wait until the second story comes out.

The chemistry between the three of these characters is an immediate vibe from the first page but the romance and sex doesn’t start for quite some time and this is where this story takes a well-timed and distinctive turn for the better. These three have a stable and established friendship before anything in the bedroom starts. The ‘I love you’ never gets thrown about and for me that gives a plausible feel to the story. Well done Barber!

If I go on, I’ll start giving spoilers and I’m not going to spoil the fun for any of you. For my own selfishness, I’m hoping that Barber’s second story makes a quick appearance so Henry, Alice and Jay can finally get their HEA.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: A-

Click to purchase: Amazon

Playing the Game
by MQ Barber
Release Date: July 1, 2013
Publisher: Lyrical Press


  1. DanielleH says:

    Nice review Shelly. Will check out this book. Thanks!

  2. Joyce Dingman says:

    I completely agree with Shelly….great review for a great book. I have ended up rereading the whole set and I liked them better the second time thru because I knew where the story was going. I liked knowing why Henry acted the way he did or what each person was thinking at the time. They were just such nice people in a truly believable relationship. Knowing Henry, there is something diabolical planned for that jerk Cal. Hopefully something really nasty…………
    Sincerely, Joyce

  3. Just read this after being tipped the wink by fellow reader Joy, following my disappointment with another of Barber’s books. This was a much better read. I like Alice and her independence, I like Jay and the sex scenes are pretty good too. It’s a well written book.
    There were three things I disliked though which affect whether I’ll continue with the series – I just can’t like Henry that much, try as I might he just comes across as a bit creepy to me 🙁 Secondly I found it a little claustrophobic, with few locations other than the apartment block. Lastly I need HEA or a hint of that at least. HFN doesn’t do it for me. Without spoilers I just don’t see a future for them where together they are stronger. That emotional stuff is my catnip. I might go on to read the second but there are so many other series RHB has introduced me to that I might not x

    • Joyce Dingman says:

      Oh……..Jo, Jo, Jo……… You’ve got to stay with me now. The next book is all the catnip rolled into one…… I just wrote a review of it for Amazon and you can read it or…….. I give you a few dozen hints.
      I Loved, Loved Loved this book ! ! Jay is hurt which moves Alice closer to what she wants but is afraid to Ask for…..and then there’s a snowstorm that shuts the power off so theres a lot of snuggling going on. Because it happens to be Valentines day and Alice being Alice, she feels that she’s intruding so theres lots of anxt. That love/sex scene is outstanding! The trio grows emotionally closer and stronger. They have their first bondage scene. Hot! True thats one local, but then Henry takes them to a Art showing of
      his work and thats a nice evening away. The story takes a deeper turn when Henry goes solo to his old sex club to scope out the possibilities of taking Alice and Jay there. Alice doesn’t understand why he left her behind and the ensuing love scene when he came home is so wonderfully tender and emotional…..WOW! The dialog is great and Henry is a wonderful flawed hero! The decision is made for all 3 of them to go back to the Sex club where he and Jay met. So now you’ll get a lot more of the back story of how Jay got so broken, and to top it off Cal is there and tries to wreck Jay all over again. The dynamics of the club, and William, a very old friend of Henry’s add just the right touch to the story. Alice gets Jay to Henry and William so the ensuing conflict to save Jay from Cal is very emotional. This book brings in several new people to the storyline and fills it out with new by play. Who knew there were such niceties to be observed in a sex club……lol And finally, there’s a great scene at the end of that long night with Henry finally holding poor lost, odd girl out Alice and saying everything she always wanted to hear. I thought I’d melt when Henry said,……..” Welcome home Alice.” ……………

      PS OK Jo……….. You’ll be so mad at your self if you miss this story…….. Think Paul Newman instead of Henry. Forget that other old guy you knew. He’s screwing up a perfectly lovely new story……
      ……….and I thought of that about the picture……… If you want to see it you’ll have to contact me and I’ll send it to you instead of posting it……….lol

      • Hey Joyce, my arm is so almost twisted by your review. Your enthusiasm for it is very compelling! I like the sound of where it’s going in terms of a bit more love than lovin’. But I don’t know that the format is right for me over all. The stories I like best are 1:1, can’t live wihout, crazy in love, out of control stuff. Henry is too in control. I have one question for you which will seal the deal – does Henry crack? Is there a chink in his control? If yes then I will buy it. If no, then I think I might give it a miss xx

        • Joyce Dingman says:

          Hi Jo……Well your a hard sell………….. Wanting poor Henry to suffer! You’ll be happy to hear that there are chinks in his armor. Namely Jay and Alice. The night he allows Alice to talk him into taking them to his Club had to be that point. He wasn’t sure that they were ready to go and when he takes them and the evening ends badly he suffers. Cal the arch villain catches Jay and Alice when they’re away from Henry’s protection and he causes a great deal of trauma to Jay. When Alice dares to get in Cal’s face he demands that Henry punish her. It’s either him, or Cal gets to……………….. Henry is devastated because he hates Cal and he doesn’t think that Alice deserves it. That was hard on him to punish her unjustly. I thought this book was even better than the first and I really liked the people MQ added to the story. Each has such a good back story and you get some insights to a younger Henry. There is such an emotional ending to this book I don’t know how you couldn’t like it. To me it’s Jay that gets a little wearing………I get that he’s a big puppy but aside from the fact he’s a good contrast to Henry I think he’s a wimp. I have pre ordered the last book because I am just bloodthirsty enough to want to see Cal go down hard! I better not get sick this Winter and not get to read the end…….lol
          What are the titles that you would recommend for me. If I know what books you have liked I may have an easier time suggesting something……….. try Alice close your eyes by Avril Dean……LOVED IT!!!

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