The main reason I keep reading Harlequin Blazes, despite the often contrived setups and odd attitudes toward sex, is that it’s the one of the few series lines not completely overrun with cops, cowboys and children. Playmates, with its dueling Hollywood publicists and feuding soap stars, is the type of story only Blaze could do. It’s a fluffy sort of read that’s light on substance, appropriate enough for the material. And it improves as it goes along.
It opens with the usual silly sexual premise. Sean McIntyre is used to being the top dog at Stellar Public Relations. Then Fiona Cruz joins the firm and soon proves to be as fierce a competitor as he is. Mac is the publicist for Lakota Lang, star of the daytime drama Flamingo Beach. Fiona represents Lincoln Castle, Lakota’s former lover who just joined the cast of the show. Linc and Lakota are at each other like cats and dogs, and it’s Mac and Fiona’s jobs to make sure none of their squabbles make it into the media.
The attraction between them is strong from the start. They both want each other, but Mac doesn’t believe a woman can enter into a sexual relationship without getting attached. Fiona doesn’t believe in relationships and has no intention of letting any man get too close. So she makes a wager with him that they can have an affair for thirty days without her falling in love with him. Of course, what Mac and Fiona both want but are afraid to admit to themselves is someone they can be with forever. But as their thirty days proceed, their competitive streaks keep them both from admitting the growing feelings between them.
This is very much a guilty pleasure read: over-the-top, a little cheesy, but still engaging and fun. Readers looking for any depth in their romances should move right along, because they won’t find it here. The instantaneous attraction between Mac and Fiona (literally from page one) is typically forced and overblown. And yet, I enjoyed their story for the most part. Mac and Fiona are a well-matched pair of equals. Their wagering and attempts to get the better of each other work so well because there isn’t a sense that one of them is clearly more dominant than the other. That’s always a good thing. The author provides just enough of their pasts and insecurities to make them relatable. They aren’t the deepest characters ever (not even close), but they generate enough sympathy in their mutual fear to give their hearts to another person that it gives their love story some urgency. In the end, I was surprised to find I did care what happened to them.
The secondary romance between Sean and Fiona’s clients is more interesting than the main one. Initially they seem like Hollywood stereotypes: she’s a scheming manipulator, he’s a destructive has-been who just got out of rehab. The author gradually reveals them as more complicated people and their story turns out to be unexpectedly sweet. There’s a tenderness to their interactions once they begin to reconnect, and it was a nice counterpoint to the main romance to see two people brought together with a little more emotion instead of raging hormones.
Playmates is an entertaining piece of fluff built on an outrageous premise. Anyone looking for a little glitz and glamour, the kind of subject matter that rarely touches the other series lines, should find it a light, fast read.