Title: Playing at Love
Author: Ophelia London
May Contain Spoilers
When I saw this new Bliss title, I jumped at the chance to read it. It has my favorite trope – you guessed it – second chances at love. I just can’t resist that one, so as I settled into my seat for the flight back from OKC, I started gobbling up this book. It is a sweet romance, with rapid pacing and fun characters.
Tess loves her job as the show choir teacher at Franklin High. She loves mentoring her students and pushing them to be the best they can be. When her job is threatened due to budget cuts, she is on the defensive. The only way to save her show choir is to take first place at Regionals, and even then, she has to hope that the new football coach, Jack, meets with failure. If Jack can’t win 4 out of 6 games with the beleaguered football team, his new position will be going down the toilet. Their rivalry is fueled by Jack’s betrayal when they were teenagers. As the entire town starts to choose sides, Jack and Tess must decide what’s most important – winning or falling in love.
I liked Tess, and felt that I got to know her and what made her tick. She’s appalled to face a ghost from her past, and infuriated when Jack’s football team threatens the survival of her show choir program. She loves her job, and she needs a paycheck to help keep her parents’ home out of foreclosure. When Jack comes waltzing back into her life after breaking her heart all those years ago, Tess doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. She still hasn’t gotten over his betrayal. She can’t trust men, and something always drives her away from a serious, steady relationship.
Jack has always regretted what he did that summer, all those years ago. Now he has a chance to make up for it, but Tess won’t give him the time of day. He’s beyond dismayed to learn that his new dream job may go up in smoke, and he can’t believe that his team has to compete with the show choir for survival. The added conflict to their relationship kept me engaged in the story. Since one of the programs has to go, I kept wondering how either protagonist would accept defeat. As the competition began to divide the school, and eventually, the community, both Jack and Tess began to see the damage that was being done as pranks between supporters began to get out of hand. I enjoyed reading along as they tried to come up with a mutually agreeable solution to the mess they found themselves in. As their October deadline approached, they each began to question what was really important in their lives. As they worked through this dilemma, it seemed that their relationship would take one step forward and two back, but I never felt that the pacing suffered, regardless of all of the new road bumps they encountered.
Playing at Love keeps a flirty tone throughout. I didn’t feel that Tess and Jack’s past was explored enough, but the story kept me entertained through a mechanical delay, a late flight crew, and a layover at DFW. My one nitpick – I felt that it lacked depth, and the ending was wrapped up too quickly, and too conveniently. Still, there is a good time to be had by all, and I believe that Jack and Tess won’t squander their second chance at a happy ever after.
Review copy provided by publisher