Review: Playing it Close by Kat Latham

playing it closeReview by Janell

This is the second book in Kat Latham’s series about the London Legends, a rugby team with sexy, funny players. The first book, Knowing the Score, was surprisingly fun, so I was anxious to read the next one.

Tess has been at the center of a scandal for the past year. She was one of the few women who worked in London’s financial district and witnessed (and was the subject of) almost daily sexual harassment. She wrote an anonymous blog, parts of which are quoted in the novel, and the situations were extremely coarse. When she sued for wrongful termination after sleeping with her boss, everything hit the metaphorical fan. She was outed as the blog writer and had to testify at an legal inquiry. She is frankly fed up with anyone having any opinion about her body (thin) and her boobs (small enough to earn her the nickname “Titless Tess”).

As the story opens, Tess is on vacation in Venezuela, trying to rediscover herself and try new things, like dying her hair pink and skinny dipping. She gets trapped in a broken elevator with Liam, the rugby player. Now, Tess is a lifelong Legends fan, and she recognizes him instantly. But Liam tells her a fake name, and she understands his desire to be anonymous, so she plays along. She even tells him that she prefers football to rugby, which is a very telling character trait: “The choice between football and rugby said so much about where a person had grown up and in what circumstances.”

Liam is attracted to Tess because she’s from the “real world,” not a stalker fan. Tess responds to his attraction and sets aside her insecurities for the duration of the vacation, and they spend a fabulous day together that includes some sexy times in (and under) a secluded jungle lake and waterfall.

Back in London, they meet up again when Tess has a new job working for a team sponsor. Their first business dinner is full of tension, misunderstandings, and emotional roller coasters, as Tess and Liam both have all their defenses up. I loved every minute of it. The book plays with the “I hate you/I want you/I can’t have you” trope before the characters agree that maybe they could try hooking up. In secret.

I thought Tess was a really interesting character. At first she was so defensive about her body that I thought she was just really sexy and tired of hearing about it. But she’s not, at least not in a stereotypical way. She’s also got a scrappy fighter instinct, mouthing off when she should stay silent, making impulsive decisions that cost her. But she’s sticking up for the underdog, for the women, and for herself.

When Liam makes an off-color comment about football players faking injuries, calling them “little girls,” Tess says, “I think you’ll find they’re not girls, and whining and cheating doesn’t make them girls. Not unless they were born with vaginas. That would make them girls… I get a bit annoyed when men assume that girl is an insult.” I loved the author — through Tess — making that point.

Liam isn’t as strong a character.  He’s just a guy who’s struggling to get the girl. His job has kept him from having any long-term relationships, so he mainly knows how to buy gifts and look handsome. Tess is so strong and so independent that she doesn’t want anything from him, leaving Liam feeling like he can’t bring anything to the relationship. His insecurity felt a little forced to me, but luckily he didn’t dwell on it for long.

This book includes a brief dictionary of British and rugby terms, so you’ll learn something as you get properly immersed in London life. It’s a fun ride, deftly written, and it makes me want to watch rugby.

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon

Playing it Close
by Kat Latham
Release Date: April 14, 2014
Publisher: Carina Press

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