Scoring the Player's Baby
The first romance I read by Naima Simone was Beauty and the Bachelor, the start of her Bachelor Auction series in August of 2015. I loved it, and I immediately put the author on my ‘watch’ list, to make sure I wouldn’t miss any of her future releases. Since then she’s written a bodyguard romantic suspense series, a scorchingly hot sex club series, and her most recent endeavor, the WAGS (which stands for Wives and Girlfriends) football romance series. Scoring the Player’s Baby is the third in that latter series and the title gives away the trope (Whoops! Surprise pregnancy!). Normally I stay away from that particular plotline but with this author, I trusted that she would overcome my hesitation with something worth reading – and she does, in a sexy, fun and emotionally pleasing romance.
Ronin Palamo takes his brotherly duties to his four sisters seriously, though he’s already regretting escorting Hana to the Seattle wedding show. As the wide receiver for the Washington Warriors football team, he’s used to being recognized in public though he’s managing to keep a low profile so far with his ‘man bun’ tucked under a thrift store Fedora. In fact, it gives him the chance to scope out the hall, and the sophisticated woman manning the Grand Hotel booth. When a stalkerish ex tries to catch his attention he does the only thing he can think of – fling himself at the mercy of the booth beauty in hopes she’ll play along and pretend to be his new girlfriend.
Kim Matlock prides herself on the reputation she’s built as the Vice President of public relations for Bishop Enterprises, her half-brother’s financial and holding company. With the company sponsoring the wedding show, and the Grand as their hotel to promote for the day, she’s taken a hands-on approach by appearing at the wedding show herself. Her own feelings about weddings are… not quite as upbeat as the throngs around her; she’s recently gone through a trying divorce from an NFL player for whom infidelity was a hobby. The Polynesian God look-a-like catches her off guard when he pulls her into an embrace and explains his dilemma, but she’s willing to help – and then indulge in a steamy night together, on a first name only basis.
Too late, Kim discovers the next morning that Ronin is a football player, the type of man she’s vowed never to get involved with again. But their one night stand has a consequence, in the form of a baby on the way. When she tells Ronin, he’s prepared to go all in as a co-parent. Both of them have had past relationships that have left their mark and made them wary of commitment. Will they be willing to take a second chance leap together?
I’m not always that fast at catching connections but it dawned on me partway through reading this that Kim is the sister of Alex Bishop of A Millionaire at Midnight (Bachelor Auction #4) which was a delightful surprise for me as I loved that story (and enjoyed Morgan and Alex’s cameos here). Kim – who is half black – is Alex’s half-sister, but is shunned by her father who paid money to her mother on learning of Kim’s birth but wanted no part in her life. Alex wants to right this wrong, and has connected with Kim and given her a valued place in his life and the family business. Their father resents this and is constantly a thorn in Kim’s side, doubting her business skills and decisions.
As a result of her poor relationship with her father and her failed marriage, Kim has always relied on herself for her strength and has kept her emotions tightly checked. When Ronin offers to be her safe place, someone she can confide in and trust, she has a hard time accepting it. Indulging in some steamy sex – sure! But long term commitment scares her. Kim is also worried about her pregnancy, having suffered a previous miscarriage. Plus she’s experienced the lows of paparazzi gossip as a result of her divorce. The last thing she wants is to be seen as a gold digger looking for another NFL player with whom to hook up.
Ronin is not without his own baggage. His high school sweetheart died young of cystic fibrosis, and she had wanted a baby; he struggles with guilt about being excited to have a baby with Kim. The grief over the loss of his first love led to his player reputation, easy sex with willing women wanting to sleep with a famous football player but none with whom he wanted a commitment. He and Kim must deal with the past in order to contemplate having a future together that’s more than just about being co-parents. I really enjoyed the way in which the author has the characters open up to each other slowly but surely as they start to get more emotionally involved and consider something for themselves and not just for the baby.
Though this is a football romance, the time on the field is limited to practices and the occasional game mention. More important is the bonding between teammates, particularly Ronin’s friends Zeph and Dom who feature in the first two books in the series. Family is important too, with Ronin’s relationship with his sisters and Mom a steadfast and supportive one. For Kim, learning to let go of her need for her father’s approval goes a long way to helping heal the hurt he’s caused her. Scoring the Player’s Baby puts a fresh, sexy spin on a familiar trope.