Playing at Love

Ophelia London
Playing at Love
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Entangled Publishing
Release Date
September 2012
Book 1 of Perfect Kisses
Contemporary Romance

Show choir teacher Tess Johansson loves three things: music, her job, and sharing that passion with her students. But when a school budget crisis forces funding to be pulled from either the sports or music programs, she finds herself going head to head with Jack, the gorgeous new football coach who broke her heart fifteen years ago.

Jack Marshall wants two things: to be closer to his young daughter and to make his mark as a football coach. Taking the new job, with the promise that he'd have time to build a solid team, gave him both. But now he must win the season with a group of boys who aren't anywhere near ready or he'll lose everything he's worked so hard for. Being pitted against Tess, the summer love he never forgot, is like being fourth and long with only seconds on the clock.

On opposing sides of a fierce battle and with everything at stake, Tess and Jack find themselves torn between doing what it takes to win and doing what it takes to be together.

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Dec 10, 2012   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
68 people found the following review helpful
I adore couples with a past, and Ophelia London's story of teenage love and high school rivalry certainly delivered. With engaging characters and an all-too real story of sacrifice, this was an enjoyable read in a promising series.

Fifteen years ago, Tess Johansson and Jack Marshall spent an idyllic summer together. Both were head over heels for the other, but Jack never arrived for their last night together, and Tess has never known why. Now a music teacher at her old school, Tess is totally devoted to her students and their award-winning show choir, and looking forward to starting a new school year. But at the first meeting of the year, the faculty is face with some heartbreaking news: thanks to poor management by the former school superintendent, Tess' school's budget is woefully inadequate, and one of the major extracurricular program is going to have to be cut in order to save everyone's job.

The two programs with the largest budgets are Tess' show choir and the football program, which has just hired a new coach in the hopes of a winning season—the program with the highest success rate by November will be saved. And as if the threat to her job and her student's prospects wasn't enough, Tess realizes that the new coach is none other than Jack Marshall.

Jack is back in town hoping to connect with his daughter and determined to make a success of his team. Now he was faced with assembling an unbeatable team with less than a week's notice—and competing for his job with the first woman to capture his heart. In his head, Jack knows why he never met Tess that long-ago night, but his heart has always remembered her, and he is slowly realizing that while he wants desperately to win, he'll do whatever it takes to earn Tess' trust once again.

I really enjoyed the "new love" feeling that sparked between Tess and Jack. Their memories of their summer together were wonderfully bittersweet, and it was clear that, despite all the time that had past, their old rapport was still there. Though the struggle between their desire and their guilt or concern for their jobs did get frustrating at times (for them, as well, I'm sure!), it was still interesting to see how a teenage love story became an adult romance.

The world of Tess and Jack's high school was well-developed, and the special relationships both characters formed with their students added a lot to the story. That having been said, I would have liked more interaction between Tess and Jack outside of their school and rivalry. They had that magic between them that makes for a sensational couple, and I would have loved to see more of it. I also wasn't completely convinced that Tess' trust issues had been fully resolved by the end of the book, but with Jack's tenaciousness, I have no doubt they are well on their way.

The secondary characters, especially the kids, were very well-crafted and added terrific depth to the story. I especially enjoyed Charlie, Tess' brother, and his renewed friendship with Jack. There was a very interesting subplot involving Tess' best friend Mac that I desperately wanted to investigate in greater detail. Mac's quirky humor and insight made her a perfect foil for Tess, and I would love to know just a little more about what made her tick, as well as the details of her own extracurricular activities.

Ophelia London has created a very enjoyable story with engaging, emotional characters. I found myself drawn quickly into the world of school rivalries and long-lost loves, and though more interactions between the characters would have added some depth, I was rooting for Tess and Jack to finally find their happily ever after from the beginning. I know I'll be watching for the next Perfect Kisses book to arrive soon!
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