The Perfect Play
by Jaci Burton
(Berkley, $15.00, R) ISBN 978-0-425-23881-3
***
The Perfect Play is a modern, fairly erotic story starring a couple of real characters.

Tara Lincoln is a party planner, a single mom working her way away from her past mistakes. Tara’s focused on her career and raising her teenage son. Tara has determinedly decided not to have sex or get involved with anyone until Nathan goes to college, which is long years away. She’s just getting her business off the ground, and it gives her the perfect excuse to throw all of her energy into something other than a romantic interest.

Tara’s pumped when she lands a big gig – planning the team summer party for the San Francisco Sabres. Even though she kind of landed it by fluke, she has put a huge amount of effort into making sure everything goes right. At the party, Tara is hanging around the edges, making sure everything from the food to the music is going as planned, and then she’s approached by Mick Riley, San Fran’s quarterback and media-loving playboy.

Tara only knows the tabloid version of Mick Riley, and she’s pleasantly surprised by his subtle wit and unexpectedly diverse interests. When Mick sticks around until the end of the successful party and invites Tara up to his room, they have a sudden, super hot one night stand. When Mick wakes up the next morning, Tara’s gone, and he’s determined to find her.

Mick’s been a quarterback for a few years now. At first, he was enthralled with the drinking, and partying. Rich and famous, womanizing came naturally with the pro athlete territory. Lately, though, Mick’s felt a slight dissatisfaction with the rounds of social events, and cheap sex, although not enough to stop any of it. When he meets Tara, he’s drowning in lust. Their one night stand was great, but he wants to see her again and so he tracks her down at her office.

Tara’s shocked and tells Mick that they can’t see each other again since her responsibilities are overwhelming. She figures that he’ll forget all about her in a few days. Mick surprises Tara by enlisting her friend’s help to get him another date, and then insinuating himself into other facets of her ordinary life. Tara’s flattered but she thinks that Mick’s just looking for a summer fling in the off season and that as long as she keeps things fun and flirty, it will just be a good memory in the future. Tara and Mick soon realize that their affair is becoming more serious than they planned, and both of them are scared to commit to anything more than a fling, for different reasons.

Also, Mick’s sharp as nails publicist Elizabeth decides that dating blue collar Tara isn’t great for Mick’s carefully cultivated man whore image, so she ups the ante and plans a slew of celebrity dates for Mick to attend to keep his face on the entertainment pages. With all of the uncertainty and pressure, Mick and Tara have to decide what to do with their new relationship, and neither of them knows where to go with a confusing relationship that started out as just sex.

The Perfect Play is a good story, but the execution was a bit lacking

The good: I loved the plotline, the kickass modern heroine who has made her own way but still has a hint of vulnerability, the god-like hero, and the modern touches in the writing. The story itself was enthralling, original with a hint of Cinderella. Tara was so understandable, a pretty caricature of the New Age woman with a job, a kid, and heavy responsibilities to both. Watching her give way to something she really wants is a cheering moment for the reader. Mick is something that every girl wants in her dreams, a rock star like media hero with money and a great body, with charm and a well hidden sweet and needy side. The addition of Mick and Tara’s families to the background story, and their perspectives really help round out the tale.

The bad: Mick and Tara’s relationship never moved beyond the physical for me. It started out very fast and furious and continues along the same pace for the rest of the book. There’s no anticipation, getting to know you talk, or prolonged flirting. While that can be good, it also seems really hollow when the characters jump into bed over and over. While I appreciate a well written erotic story, this is no love story. When Burton attempts to make Mick and Tara open up to each other, it seems forced and false. Also, considering the magnitude of Mick’s career and image, Tara seems very foolish to believe what he tells her in the beginning of their relationship. She doesn’t seem to give more than a passing thought to the implications of their affair, although very rarely the author sticks in an agonized “what am I doing?” kind of moment. It kind of undoes Tara’s initial spunky and determined traits.

While The Perfect Play might be right up your alley, first decide what you are looking for in your newest read. If you want a tender, sighing love story, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a hot one night stand that might make you feel a little bad the next day, but it was worth it, here’s your book.

--Amy Wroblewsky


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