Desert Isle Keeper
Playing Dirty is the latest installment in Amy Andrews’ incredibly enjoyable Sydney Smoke series, about the rugby players of the team by the same name. This novel centers on the team’s newest hot shot player, Kyle, and the coach’s daughter, Val. There’s insta-lust all over this one, along with Ms. Andrews’ signature banter and ability to draw richness out of her characters in a short period of time. I have yet to read a book by this author I didn’t like, and this is no exception.
Kyle Leighton is beyond excited to play for the Smoke and celebrates his move with the best one-night stand of his life. He’s desperate to know her name, but she vanishes Cinderella style. and he goes about his business settling in with the team. He’s a league leader in most of the important statistics and knows he is going to be such a benefit to the Smoke that he’s a little confused as to why the rest of the team is cold towards him. And that’s before… well, I’ll get to that.
Val King is really tired of being her father’s daughter. As the surviving child of a horrific accident when she was a toddler, Val’s relationship with her father – Griff – has always been fraught. As readers, we’ve been privy to some of the tension in previous books in this series, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say this isn’t a standalone work. Knowing some of the backstory for this particular subplot adds richness, but Ms. Andrews is good at putting everything on the page that we need to know. The tension between Val and Griff is exacerbated by the fact that rugby is a massive passion for her. She’s at every game, knows every stat, every player, every everything. So when Kyle sidles up to her at a bar one evening, she knows exactly who he is. And when she has a night of passionate sex she knows her father would expressly forbid since his players are never allowed to be with her? She knows exactly what she’s doing.
She assumes it’ll be a one and done, and when she sees Kyle around the stadium, it’ll be no big deal. Rugby superstars have a rotating dance card, so to speak, so what would be the big deal? Val didn’t quite think the whole thing through however, and so when Kyle accidentally announces to the entire team that they’ve slept together, the plot takes off from there.
There are three storylines in this work – the main romance between Kyle and Val (which is just a whole lot of hot, sexy fun), the evolution of Kyle’s career with the team, and Val’s relationship with Griff. In some ways, the romance was the least of my concerns; an HEA is guaranteed in Ms. Andrews’ work, so I was never worried. The other two stories were the ones which carried the tension. Would Kyle understand that being a team player means sacrificing individual stats? How will Griff and Kyle work together? What about Griff and Val? What does a relationship look like after so many years of frostiness?
Luckily for us readers, the answers to all of those questions and more are dealt with expertly. Playing Dirty earns a strong recommendation for any sports romance fans, anyone who loves one-night-stands to HEA, and anyone looking for a satisfyingly rich read to while away these summer heat waves.