Playing for Keeps
Having lived in a small town and large metropolis, I enjoy books set in either locale. While I don’t believe that small towns are quite the panacea that many books make them out to be, I can for the most part suspend belief and just go with the flow. Playing for Keeps, while an easy book to read, is a little too heavy handed on the advantages of small town living and truisms.
Cricket Creek, Kentucky has fallen on hard times with the economic downturn. The town folks are banking all their hopes and dreams on the new play written by one of their own. They just know that this production will bring the tourist trade back to town. Noah Falcon left Cricket Creek over twenty years ago, but now that his baseball and acting careers have stalled, he is returning to audition for a role in their community theatre. After stopping at his favorite bakery, he meets Olivia Lawson. She intrigues him, because she doesn’t fawn all over him, like most woman do and then he realizes that she tutored him in high school. Within minutes, he meets her again at the city’s community center, when he stops to introduce himself to the young playwright Madison Robinson. The sparks between Noah and Olivia are easily apparent to Madison, and she immediately casts Olivia and Noah as the leads in her play.
Olivia Lawson had a crush on Noah Falcon in high school, like all the girls did. Meeting him again throws off her equilibrium, but she doesn’t think he is right for the new play. His looks were got him the part on a soap opera and if this new play is going to help save the town, then the leading man needs to be able to act. However, once she spends time with him, she is impressed at his dedication and sincerity. Rehearsing for the play means that they spend a lot of time together. Soon the townspeople consider them a couple.
While this book has a lot of potential, the pacing just felt off to me. Olivia and Noah have an immediate attraction to each other, and with very little conflict, enter into a relationship. The same thing happens with a secondary couple. Then for about two thirds of the book, we have the two couples cooing back and forth with each other. They eat at the diner; they go get an soft serve ice cream cone at the Dairy Hut, they attend baseball games. Life is tranquil and calm.
The characters are extraordinarily perfect. Olivia teaches high school drama classes and has appeared in many regional summer stock programs. She has had acting offers, but didn’t want to leave her hometown or her father. She says curse words like “fudge”, “poppycock”, and “don’t give a fig” and says thing s like, “This is our town, let’s save it” with a straight face. Although Noah has more rough edges, he still lives to help out with the high school baseball team, by giving them tips on the game and paying for new dugouts.
The idyllic town, the incredible characters, and the lack of a real conflict, ultimately made this an insipid read for me. If you enjoy nostalgic, kinder, and gentler types of stories, then this book might appeal more to you.