Today was the release date of the latest book in Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play series, which has to be, hands down, the HOTTEST covers in contemporary romance. I had her first book, The Perfect Play, on my to-read list for a while, but always choked at the full retail price for the ebook. Normally I lean toward ebooks under $6 for my romance addiction, but I will pay full price for a known entity who I trust and can’t live without. Not having read anything by Jaci before, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the risk, but the continued good reviews on Goodreads convinced me to chance it. It was worth it!
Sexy, professional quarterback Mick Riley is at yet another glittering party when a gorgeous woman catches his eye. Tara Lincoln is the up and coming event planner who doesn’t immediately fawn all over him, which Mick realizes is just what he’s been missing. They tumble into bed for a passionate one night stand, but after she sneaks away in the morning to go back to her teenage son and her work, he realizes that he wants more. Much more.
I loved this book – the characterization was outstanding and Jaci manages to introduce the whole family effortlessly (remember, this is a series), making the reader fall in love with the Riley clan. Tara and Mick both have their baggage, but it’s nothing each other can’t handle. As they prove that to one another, they fall deeper in love, but Mick’s career, specifically his dedicated agent who isn’t sold on Tara’s role in his life, could cause these two to part.
Having adored the first book, I was sincerely worried about the second one, Changing the Game, considering the focus was the romance between Gavin Riley, Mick’s professional baseball playing brother, and the cold agent who represents them both, Liz Darnell. Liz was portrayed in the first book as very calculating (exactly what a good agent should be) but someone who nevertheless cares about the players she represents. Liz realized at the end of the last book how she betrayed Mick’s trust and attempted to make amends, but he has dropped her and gone onto another agent.
Liz has secretly been in love with Gavin for years, but never wanted to mix business and pleasure. Coming from an abusive home, Liz has used her brains and devastating beauty to claw her way to the top but in losing Mick’s friendship she is beginning to worry about the cost of her life decisions. Jaci does an amazing job showing the vulnerability of Liz as well as the tough family dynamics that have shaped Gavin’s personality. My worries were totally unfounded as this couple hit a home run for me!
Just today, the third book in the series, Taking a Shot, focusing on Jenna Riley, the edgy sister who has stayed home to manage the family sports bar, debuted. Readers were introduced to ice hockey player Tyler Anderson in the previous book when Liz takes him on as one of her clients and the sparks fly when when he and Jenna lay eyes on each other.
The only problem is that Jenna wants nothing to do with professional sports figures, having quite enough experience with her brothers and the testosterone soaked environment she works in. Jaci’s formula works fabulously well here again. Jenna has a ton of suppressed creativity that didn’t get nurtured in a house with a focus on sports while Ty is still nursing the scars of his parents disastrous divorce. Neither is looking for love, but slowly begin to realize that there is something more than incendiary chemistry between them. The question is: can they make it work?
Like so many writers, Jaci mentioned in a recent interview that she was in love with romance from an early age and considers herself influenced by not only classic authors of the 70s and 80s like Kathleen Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsay, and Jude Deveraux but also modern powerhouses like Nora Roberts, Maya Banks, and Jill Shalvis.
Jaci’s voice is an extremely modern one and has a tone that reflects the truly modern contemporary romance novel. While many readers are used to the degree of sensuality that is seen in Harlequin Blaze or some Berkley historicals, this series is published by Heat (a division of Berkley) and this house is comfortable treading into what many readers would call erotic romance. Make no mistake, there is still a lengthy, amazing story here, but the sex scenes don’t shy away from language and occasionally go beyond just different positions. This doesn’t bother me at all (I love how comfortable the characters are with their sexuality, actually) but for a reader expecting the standard romance euphemisms might need a cold ice tea and a fan!
While she’s written in a variety of subgenres, Jaci has stated she always comes back to contemporary romance because it’s what she most enjoys.
“Writing is my full time career and something I love so much I can’t imagine a day that isn’t filled with hot, sexy heroes who save the day, strong, capable heroines who don’t need a man to save them, and the happily ever afters in every book.” (from Jaci Burton’s website)
I for one, am extremely glad that Jaci Burton listened to her husband and began writing romance novels as she is a talent that anyone can enjoy. Her fourth book in the Play-by-Play series will focus on Riley cousin, Cole (also a professional football player) with a fifth book planned starring his sister Alicia. The teaser at the end of Taking a Shot was fantastic and I cannot wait to see bad boy Cole get an image makeover courtesy of the beautiful but cool Savannah. Their book, Playing to Win, will be available September 2012. You can bet your boots I’ll have this one pre-ordered as soon as I can.
Jaci has an active Twitter presence and publishes her blog not just on her website, but also to her Goodreads account, so if you are on there, you really should become a fan or friend her to keep up with the latest news. If you are looking to keep all her characters and details in place, you might want to take a look at the page on her website which details the series list of characters, etc. It’s helpful if it’s been a while since you’ve read one of the previous books and you need a quick refresher.
Can someone please hit the blaring siren for Jaci Burton? She has scored yet another goal with her latest novel, Taking a Shot.