Playing for Keeps is the second novel in The Game series and tells the story of Megan and Aston. Sweet and careful Megan is overly protected by her best friend Braden (the leading man from The Love Game) and can’t admit that she’s in love with bad-boy Aston. Aston’s bravado is covering up a painful past and he never means to get involved with Megan. One night together changes everything.
I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Love Game and wanted to like this book, but it ultimately fell short of my expectations. The book is trying really hard to be something it’s not. It wants desperately to be deep and moving, but it comes across as more melodramatic than touching. The emotion is forced and contrived.
Just like in her first novel, the author does have a very good male voice in Aston, but the voice of Aston’s Gramps, who plays a major role in the story, is disjointed and forced. Somehow Hart never manages to capture the voice of an elderly gentleman in an authentic way, so it comes across as a crude caricature of an older person. Also awkward are the flashback scenes in which Aston is speaking as a child. The child’s voice is not believable and once again tries to force emotion. In the end I had a hard time feeling anything for Aston despite his traumatic past. You have to make me want to have feelings for a character and unfortunately Aston is such a jerk to Megan in the beginning that it was hard to feel for him. Yes, I understand the author is trying to show his grand transformation, but the despicable behavior in the beginning was too much.
As for Megan, the book is clearly Aston’s story, but I would have liked to have heard more about his leading lady. Although the story flips between point of view to feature both characters, Megan is underdeveloped and flat. It’s hard to like a character I know very little about.
Are the sexy scenes steamy? Yes, undoubtedly so. However, the first sex scene occurs five pages into the novel and it was frankly too much too soon. I could have used more story to get to know the characters better. (You know, like foreplay. A New Adult author should know all about that). I like a good sexy scene as much as the next girl, but don’t need it forced on me right away.
After finishing Playing for Keeps I’m left disappointed. I really wanted more from this second book in the series. I’m not sure if the author has other books planned for The Game series, but she has unfortunately lost me altogether.