Playing it Cool
Hooooo buddy, grab a fan to fan thyself when reading this one because Playing It Cool is intense. Set in Australia, this romance is between Dex, a professional rugby player, and Harper, a mural artist. They meet on the sidelines of one of Dex’s matches, where he cannot take his eyes of the curvy bombshell and decides to make a move. Harper, suspicious of his attentions to her due to her own body image issues, decides to humor him. What follows is a super sexy, fast-paced story about the importance of zippers and the truth of love.
The first thing we know about Harper Nugent is her body. She’s described as curvy and powerful, a lady Dexter Blake physically wants immediately. However, the author is careful to make sure we know his physical attraction to her is only the hook to get him across the field to meet her. Pretty quickly, Harper is far more than a body to Dex. He tries to ask her out, but fails, as she’s not really having it. Picking up on her disdain for her step-brother Chuck – who thinks Harper is a total loser and gets in the way of his career as a sportscaster – Dex convinces Harper to hang out with him just to annoy Chuck. She accepts on those terms and those terms alone, absolutely convinced that Dex is just messing with her – why would someone who looks like him and could date supermodels date someone who looks like her?
Harper has been called the fat girl her entire life and it is a primary identity for her. Her stepmother, in fact, is so skeptical of Dex’s interest in Harper that she sends bullying text messages to her telling Harper to, essentially, remember her place.
While Harper isn’t so sure her stepmother is wrong, she’s also registering the way that Dex reacts to her. He clearly is attracted to her, so she decides to play along, figuring she’ll have some fun before he moves on to supermodels.
You can imagine how long that lasts.
Dex, for what it’s worth, is super attracted to Harper. Not just sexually, although quite a lot of ink is spilled proving their compatibility, but emotionally. She is exactly what he is looking for in a life partner, even though he’s not looking for one right now. His career has to be his only priority, he tells both Harper and himself over and over again. Of course, love doesn’t really work that way and eventually he’s forced to choose.
You can imagine how well that goes.
I sailed through this book, captivated immediately by Harper. While there are more and more “curvy” heroines in the novels I read, it’s still a rare enough occurrence to find it refreshing. As someone who possesses my own set of curves and their coordinating emotional baggage, I really liked that Ms. Andrews explored Harper’s body image and how it informed her life choices. I loved that Harper plays video games, loves Star Wars, and enjoys spending time with her pre-pubescent half-siblings. Her relationship with her best friend is one that feels lived-in and all in all, Harper feels like a complete person that I’d be friends with.
Dex is a little less fully realized. His character arc is a bit choppy and its resolution a bit quick. Yeah, this is a novella versus a full-length book, but it still felt a little rushed. The conclusion felt so as well and a longer time span may have set me a little more at ease about the progression of their relationship than the timeline on the page does.
Overall, Playing it Cool is a sexy and fun read, with some fabulous side characters and a healthy dose of rugby. I’m happy to have this sport in my life in ways other than the television!