Review: Playing House – Amy Andrews

Review: Playing House – Amy AndrewsPlaying House
by Amy Andrews
Series: Sydney Smoke Rugby #5
Also in this series: Playing By Her Rules, Playing Dirty
Publisher: Entangled: Brazen
Publication Date: February 12, 2018
Genres: Romance
Pages: 250
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Eleanor is content with her boring life—mostly. She’s even fine being the quirky sister in a bevy of beauties. So imagine her surprise when one of her brother’s Sydney Smoke mates hits on her at an engagement party. Her. The weird sister, who wears vintage dresses and prefers her books to parties.
Bodie is shocked the next morning to find the soft, sexy virgin who seduced him with corsets is his best friend’s little sister. If he could kick his own ass, he would. And two months later, she’s got an even bigger surprise for him. Now he needs to convince the corset-loving wallflower that he loves her uniqueness if they’ve got a chance at forever.

He always did love a challenge…

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4 stars icon australia contemporary icon romance icon rugby sports icon

Trigger warning: View Spoiler »

Oh my goodness, this was adorable.  I’ll admit that I was a bit worried about the whole virgin and pregnancy thing, just because I’ve been burned by some of those in the past, but I was pleasantly surprised.  This is also has the “best friend’s little sister” trope, so while this could’ve devoted into trope stew, they actually complimented each other well.  While this is the fifth book in the Sydney Smoke Rugby series, each book can be read as a stand-alone, though, seriously, if you haven’t picked up the others yet, what are you waiting for???

“She glanced down at her plumped-up cleavage. She so would have rocked the nineteenth century. If only she didn’t like things such as personal hygiene and voting rights so damn much.”

Eleanor is one of Ryder Davis’s four sisters, and she lives with her parents on their cattle station out in woop woop (an Aussie term that means the middle of nowhere).  She’s a bit of an outlier in the outback, as she’s enamored with Victorian England – the clothes, the customs, the courting – and anything Austen or Heyer.  Besides helping out on her parents’ farm, she also runs her own successful business sewing reproduction clothing.  When she’s hit on by her brother’s teammate, Bodie, at Ryder’s engagement party, she decides it’s finally time to lose her v-card.  Only, she didn’t expect the ramifications of the night to possibly derail all of her romantic hopes and dreams…

“You’re my best friend’s sister, and you’re pregnant with my baby.”

Bodie has been out of the dating rat race for a while after being dumped by his cheating ex.  The only son of a wealthy businessman, he’s a disappointment to his parents for refusing to get married to his equally prominent ex, and for abandoning his father’s business to play rugby.  It’s no surprise that he’s drawn to Eleanor, who’s soft and shy and real, the opposite of everything his previous relationship was.  Even after finding out that she’s his best friend’s little sister, he still can’t get her or their one night stand out of his head – he looks up Victorian porn, for goodness’ sakes – so he’s excited she looks him up when she’s in Sydney two months after they did the deed.

“Eleanor quashed the well of disappointment at the thought of a quickie marriage at City Hall. No heart-thumping courtship, no romantic proposal, no asking her father for her hand in marriage, no Victorian-inspired wedding dress she’d always dreamed of making for herself, no local church with her nearest and dearest as witnesses.
No I love yous.”

I was initially unsure what to make of shy, wallflower, historical-romance-obsessed Eleanor.  I have a pretty well developed vicarious cringe response, and the first chapter or so worried me, but her later interactions with Bodie firmly cemented her as pleasantly quirky rather than tragic.  She’s taken her hobby and turned it into a lucrative business, and has developed her own Victorian-influenced style.  She’s also not blind to the problems of Victorian England, but she’s happy and able to take the good and leave the bad.  While she does acutely feel different from her classically beautiful family, she’s also happy with what she has and unwilling to compromise on what she wants.  More importantly, Bodie appreciates her unusual hobby and quirks, and though they’re pretty much exact opposites, their relationship is steamy and fun, though a bit shallow.  When Eleanor arrives in Sydney to confront Bodie, they end up having sex two times before she finally tells him the real reason she wanted to see him.  Though it seems silly, I actually appreciated that they didn’t understand each other’s hopes and dreams in the few short weeks they spent together.

“No reason?” He glowered down at her. “I love you. Isn’t that enough reason?”
Eleanor gaped at him. She’d spent a lot of time fantasising about this moment. Both in a general sense throughout her life and in a more specific sense in relation to Bodie.
This was not how it was supposed to go down.
There was no grand gesture, no music, no flowers. No beautiful scenery. Just a man in his underwear glowering at her as he threw down the three words she’d most wanted to hear from him.”

The serious event at about three-quarters through was a complete gut-punch.  While I do expect some angst from Ms. Andrews’ books, they’re generally pretty cozy and light-hearted.  So it felt like that bit of tragedy blindsided me, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it in regards to the book as a whole.  It’s balanced out by some particularly swoon-worthy actions at the end of the book which made the HEA believable.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though it felt like a departure from the previous books.  This is a wonderful series, and Amy Andrews remains an auto-buy for me!  Definitely recommended for any fans of rugby romances!

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