There’s nothing quite better than a fine-looking man who likes to give foot rubs and quote The Sandlot. I’ll have me s’more of that. And yes, I would like s’more even though I haven’t had any yet. For those of you who don’t see the connection here, for the love of God stop reading this and go watch the fabulous classic that is The Sandlot already!!
What’s it About?
When Cassie Randall spun a globe several years ago and her finger landed on Oklahoma, she didn’t know what to expect. A native Alaskan, all Cassie had known her whole life was snow and ice…and fear. Running to a state thousands of miles away was her only way to survive. And it worked. Now, with new friends and teaching degree only one semester away, Cassie feels like she has the life she’s always waited for. When Jamal Jenkins, the starting point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, walks into her life, Cassie isn’t impressed. In fact, she doesn’t even know who he is.
Jamal Jenkins is the consummate NBA player – cocky, confident and casual. That’s the media’s portrayal of him, at least. In reality, Jamal is nothing but an everyday guy trying to make a living for his family doing what he loves – playing basketball. When he is paired with Cassie to walk down the aisle at their mutual friends’ wedding, he isn’t excited to spend time with a woman people describe as a bookworm. After meeting her, however, he can’t get enough of the Alaskan beauty who knows nothing about sports or the fact he is a household name.
Cassie is running from her past. Jamal is trying to solidify his family’s future. What happens when their paths collide is anyone’s guess. Genuine, warm and funny, Playing for Love is a story about finding family, hope and new beginnings when it’s least expected.
On paper, it seems like Jamal and Cassie are polar opposites. She’s an introverted bookworm who couldn’t play a sport to save her life. Jamal on the other hand is a sociable, sarcastic and cocky professional basketball player, not to mention a single father. They seemingly couldn’t have less in common. But when they are paired to walk down the aisle together as part of their best friends’ bridal party, well…that’s practically a guarantee for these two to end up in the sack! Jamal is immediately smitten with the doe-eyed beauty he likes to call Bambi, but Cassie tries her hardest to keep the handsome sportsman at bay. After their first passionate kiss though, any attempt to have a platonic relationship with the man is thrown out the window. He’s a loving father, he’s funny, sensual, and apparently he bears a striking resemblance to Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy. Seriously you guys I lost track of the number of times this comparison was made, and I now feel contractually obligated to show at least one photo of the man!
Ok here’s another one.
Aaaaaand just one more for good measure.
Mkay, I think we’re all good now.
A Cut Above the Rest
There is one character in this novel who, without a doubt, steals the show above any other and that would be Jamal’s daughter JJ. She’s such a firecracker with a quick wit and sassy repartee. Even I want to hang out with this kid! And believe me, after years and years of babysitting I will say children can get on my nerves, so the fact I want to willingly hang out with this one is saying an awful lot. Personally I really appreciated that the author chose to feature JJ front and center rather then constantly try to hide her away at a friend’s house so Jamal and Cassie could have some alone time. This seems to be a convenient technique (aka the easy way out) employed by authors who don’t know how to effectively incorporate a child into a story line. JJ also proved a crucial figure for Jamal and Cassie to bond over, and helped to thaw Cassie’s initial hesitancy to spend more time with Jamal. Their open love and affection for JJ helps define their own love for each other, and is an essential element for their relationship to succeed.
A Complicated Past
Throughout the novel we are presented with hints to Cassie’s tumultuous past, including references to darkness and bruises. As it turns out, Cassie had an extremely abusive and alcoholic father who was the sheriff of their small Alaska town, where nobody believed the claims that she or her mother made against him. Eventually this resulted in the death of her mother, and Cassie inheriting one million dollars. She knew this money would be an obsession for her father, so she chose to flee to Oklahoma in an attempt to leave her past behind. We quickly see how this complicated past has impacted her personal life. She never brought boys around when living with her father, and after she fled she was so focused on school and studying she never really had a relationship. This means she is still a virgin when good ole Jackson Avery, I mean, Jamal Jenkins comes around.
One aspect of their relationship which I found particularly interesting was that, all things considered, Cassie was very quick to trust Jamal. You’d think that with the strained and abusive relationship with her father she’d have difficulty trusting men, but with Jamal that is never really a huge issue. Sure it may have been a slight cause for concern in the beginning, but after spending some time with him it is never something which comes between them later on. Instead her eventual inner debate over whether or not to end things with him results from the fact that she doesn’t want to bring her complicated drama and baggage into Jamal or JJ’s lives. She’s convinced that eventually something will happen that will cause her to leave them, and the last thing she wants is to abandon them just like JJ’s mother did. She tries to save their feelings and her own by keeping her distance from them at the start. Well…not if Jamal will have anything to say about it.
Something I wasn’t a huge fan of was how Cassie’s complicated past eventually comes back to mess with her present. I must say it was a rather predictable ending, and we have to wait around so long for it to come about. Then when it does, it’s resolved so quickly! The climax hits at the 91% mark and is finished up by 92%. What comes after the drama though is a delectably sweet conclusion which highlights how important Jamal and Cassie are to each other, and as a family unit with JJ. A lot of thought and care went into the ending. And of course, there’s one last final dig at Cassie’s inability to play sports.
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Series: Playing Series, book 2. We do get to see some scenes with the couple from the first novel. My God though the fact that the woman from the first novel is named Callie and this one is named Cassie, and they’re best friends who are often featured in the same scene? I’d say it wasn’t until the halfway point that I could definitively distinguish their names.
Should you read it? I did enjoy the fact that Jamal’s daughter played a prominent role in this book, and wasn’t just brushed aside to focus on all the lovey doveyness going on between him and Cassie. The dude is a single dad, his daughter comes with the territory! That being said, the story is a bit light in the drama department. I feel like there was a slightly missed opportunity to incorporate more depth and suspense surrounding her father. I wish it had been more of a continual discussion throughout the book rather than providing a quick climax at the end. Also, it would have been great to see more focus describing Jamal’s life at 17 when he was left to raise a baby all on his own after his girlfriend abandoned them. We could have seen some more emotional drama on multiple fronts here.
Smut Level: Pretty clean read. A few smooches here and there, but nothing scandalous.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 274 Pages.