Review: Rules of the Game by Sandy James

rules-of-the-gameReviewed by Janell

You guys, this is romantic fiction. We know that a romance has to have a main romantic plot, right? This started out as a romance, but the heroine, the sole narrator, gets so many subplots thrown at her that the romance took a back seat for a while. She got her HEA, but man, there was a lot of drama happening.

Maddie Sawyer is a successful romance author (how do we feel about author characters, btw? This one was handled fairly well, considering she barely worked during the story), writing under a pseudonym. Her persona is a confident New York City gal, but in reality Maddie is timid and freaking out about her high school reunion. She decides to hire some biker dude to be her fake boyfriend, because that will Show Them All! I enjoy the fake boyfriend trope, so I’m in.

It takes a long night of bar hopping, but Maddie finds a hot guy in a leather jacket who takes her offer seriously. They have chemistry, and he’s a total gentleman, so things are looking great. He actually decides that they should date for real, but he won’t allow sex before the reunion, for secret moral reasons or something. So much for the fake boyfriend thing.

Scott is a decent guy. There is nothing wrong with him. Maddie’s only critique is that he’s some blue collar guy who works long hours, and she’s afraid that her high-paying, high-status job will intimidate him. She doesn’t tell him her fake name (even though she’s got copies of her books all over her apartment), and he doesn’t talk about his work, and everything is great. Even her giant dog loves him.

Then they get to the reunion. It’s a few states away, so it’s a road trip. Scott runs the parental gauntlet where Maddie’s mom asks all the marriage questions, and he learns Maddie’s Dark Secret Number One.

Her brother was killed by a drunk driver when she was young, and the driver never went to jail.

He does the first reunion thing, spotting Maddie’s bully right off. This brings up Maddie’s Dark Secret Number Two.

The bully raped her at a party, but he claims it was consensual.

Scott’s cool with being the protector. Then, at the second reunion thing, Maddie’s Dark Secret Number Three gets dropped.

She got pregnant, gave the baby up, and only her sister knew. Her now-teenaged son shows up, bitter and angry, and demands some time with her.

This is a lot to throw at Maddie, and even more to throw at her new boyfriend who’s pretending to be a lot more. But, like I said, Scott is a decent guy. This is when the book veers away from the romance, because Scott just sticks by Maddie. Back in New York, crazy things happen, and he’s a rock, solving her problems. Everything is going so perfectly that Maddie has to try really hard to create a black moment. Which she does, because for some reason, she’s created a thing in her mind that she Will Not Stand For, but Scott is connected to that thing.

Basically, she the black moment is created solely in her mind, and then lifted when a third party tells her she’s being stupid. It felt very unsatisfying to me. Scott was basically perfect (whatever the male version of a Mary Sue is), and Maddie immaturely freaked out, but then everything was fine and rosy and perfect. So, meh.

Rating: C+

Click to purchase: Amazon

Rules of the Game
by Sandy James
Release Date: April 2, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

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