by Amy Andrews
Series: Sydney Smoke Rugby #1
Also in this series: Playing House, Playing Dirty
Publisher: Entangled: Brazen
Publication Date: July 11, 2016
Hot rugby star? Check. Ambitious style columnist ex? Check. A six-part feature series neither want to be part of? Check. Check. Check.
Sydney Smoke captain and rugby god Tanner Stone wants to be interviewed about as much as he wants to snap an Achilles, but it may just be his chance for a rematch with his high school sweetheart.
Matilda Kent’s big mouth has landed her an interview with the one man she hoped to never see again—her high school boyfriend who broke her heart. But, with a promotion on the line, she’s prepared to play nice while dishing the dirt on the guy.
An epic war or words leads to a flurry of action both on the field and between the sheets and this time winner takes all.
Each book in the Sydney Smoke Rugby series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order. Series Order:Book #1 Playing By Her Rules Book #2 Playing it Cool
Adorable slow-burn second-chance romance. This is the first book in the Sydney Smoke Rugby series, and the team name is very apt – these books are HOT! I’m rereading this in preparation for reviewing the fifth book in the series, and I liked it just as much the second time around!
“Tanner freaking Stone. A close-up of him shirtless, bending and stretching, his perfect, tight ass in the air, almost made her forget there were pearls in places they had no right to be.
And the fact he was a lying, cheating scumbag who’d stomped on her heart, turned her into a romantic cynic at the tender age of eighteen, and caused her to sabotage every relationship she’d ever had with a man.
He was the reason her grandmother kept bitching at her about the lack of great-grandbabies.
Matilda would have liked to think she was mature enough now to be over him. Sadly, she wasn’t that evolved. The wound may have healed, but it wasn’t all neat and perfect. It was jagged and messy and if you poked it, it still hurt from time to time.”
Matilda – Tilly – is a journalist, currently writing the style column but with high hopes to move to features. After all, she didn’t go to Stanford for journalism so she could writ about crotchless lingerie with strings of pearls in interesting places. When her boss finds out that she used to date star rugby player Tanner Stone in high school, she’s given the assignment of writing a six-part feature on him, or she’ll be knocked down to obituaries. She decides to make the best of it and get revenge on the man who broke her heart when she caught him kissing the high school mean girl. Tanner’s given an equally stern ultimatum from the rugby higher-ups – cooperate with the journalist (and take the spotlight off the drunken antics of some other rugby players) – and then he finds out the journalist is Tilly. He broke her heart – for good, if very teenager-ish reasons – but never got over her, and he’s anxious to see her again. When they finally meet – in the locker room after a rugby practice, no less – he’s shocked to realize she’s a completely different, joyless woman, not the happy, funny girl he remembers from eight years ago. Tanner decides to coax out the old Tilly – not to necessarily get a second chance with her – but just because he feels responsible for breaking her.
“It was her dress that had done it. He’d come here tonight determined to cooperate. To set her at ease and by doing so, draw her out, make her laugh a little. But then he’d laid eyes on her in that dress and it had taken him one second to realise he wanted her back.
Yes, he’d screwed up. Big time. Yes, he had a lot of making up to do. But he hadn’t realised how much he’d missed her. Until now.
And he was determined to win her back.”
Despite this featuring one of the tropes I don’t usually care for – the “one conversation would’ve resolved this!” – I really enjoyed the tension between the Tanner and Tilly. He kissed that girl to force a breakup, so that she’s take the scholarship to Stanford instead of following him around the rugby circuit, figuring she’d get over him quickly. While Tanner’s eager to pick things back up, Tilly’s much more invested in keeping him at arm’s length. While she still wants him, she realizes that sex isn’t love, and he hurt her so badly before that she hasn’t been able to have a relationship with anyone else since. Rather than fixing things, their enforced proximity only makes things worse. Tilly realizes that Tanner is a really great guy – he fixes her grandmother’s porch railing, for goodness sakes – and starts to believe that she must’ve done something to make him cheat on her. I especially enjoyed that once they finally have that conversation where Tanner’s motives were revealed, rather than make everything hunky dory, it makes Tilly even more opposed to a relationship with him.
The secondary characters are great. Obviously, the other hockey players are being set up for later books, but my favorite was Tilly’s grandmother, Hannah. She was an absolute hoot – for one thing, she says that Tanner could dress up in drag and not be emasculated – but she also is there for Tilly when’s she down and needs sense talked into her. I also loved the silly Twitter conversations and tags, like #mightbelove.
Overall, this is a great start to a series. This was my first rugby romance, and it was a great one to start with. Very enjoyable, and very much recommended! Four Captain Cunnilingus stars!