Desert Isle Keeper
The Dating Playbook
The Dating Playbook is the delightfully funny second tale in Farrah Rochon’s The Boyfriend Project series. You can read this without reading the first book.
Taylor Powell experienced her proverbial fifteen minutes plus of fame when her acerbic tweets about a date from hell turned into a viral video takedown of a catfisher in a restaurant. She’s been besties with the other two women involved in the very public incident (London and Samiah) ever since. But friendship wasn’t really what Taylor was hoping for from being buzzworthy. She loves her new peeps, but her business Taylor’d Fitness desperately needs a boost if it is going to survive. Some unfortunate decisions have left her with bills that are piling up, and her lack of a college degree means that she’s not even considered for positions she could easily perform. She’d thought internet fame might result in more clients but alas, that is not what happened. Taylor doesn’t see a way out of her current dilemma.
Then Jamar Dixon shows up at her popup fitness bootcamp. A former footballer who wants back into the NFL, Jamar is looking for a personal trainer who can help him achieve his personal best but keep the information that he’s attempting a comeback on the downlow. Jamar doesn’t want Twitter and the sports bloggers getting into his head with their negative opinions on his odds of recovering from his career ending injury. He’s had enough of that already. He likes Taylor’s style, strength and dedication and figures she can definitely get him where he needs to be.
Taylor would love to use the fact Jamar is one of her clients to hype her business but he’s paying her enough – with promises to promote her company once they are finished – that it is worth it for her to stay mum till Jamar returns to being one of the best running backs in the league. So, when a sports reporter catches them together, Taylor is quick to tell the man they’re a couple. She has a lot riding on Jamar’s success, and she isn’t going to let a little thing like having to fake date a client keep her from getting it.
The only problem is, Jamar and Taylor had a hard enough time keeping their crazy attraction to each other in check before they were a faux couple. Now that they’re spending all this extra time together, will they really be able to keep things strictly professional?
When Taylor’s good friend London learns of their plans she says, “You do realize this sounds a lot like a romance novel, don’t you?” and I appreciated that meta moment. The plot and action that serve as the impetus for our story is a familiar device in the genre. That isn’t a bad thing – the author uses her trope to good effect, creating a genuine and heartfelt romance in her only-in-a-romcom narrative – but I was grateful to see the ridiculousness of the situation openly acknowledged and dealt with.
From the first moment they meet, it is clear Jamar and Taylor are perfect together. They get each other’s jokes, feel really comfortable together, share confidences and support each other through the highs and lows in their lives and have terrific chemistry. This is one of those stories where the heroine and hero don’t have to work hard to be a couple because they feel meant to be. Their love story is joyous and captures perfectly the magic of finding The One.
I always think of Farrah Rochon’s books as being romances about grownups because of how mature her leads are. Jamar and Taylor have some struggles in their lives, but they know how to deal with adversity and pressure without being snarky maniacs toward everyone around them. In Taylor’s case, she is broke. I loved how Ms. Rochon depicted this situation – she captured perfectly that feeling of balancing needs and wants, of watching your friend’s spend money you can’t even dream of having, the dangers of credit card debt and the damage it causes and how living even a really simple, low frills life can be bankrupting in this day and age. I like how Taylor stayed positive through all this but was also very practical about the need for money.
She was a touch less reasonable when it came to her family. She felt they judged her by their own standards of success rather than her own and as a result viewed her as the familial black sheep. Jamar helps her hold some sensible conversations about that and really address those feelings.
From early in the story, we can tell Taylor has an undiagnosed learning disability and Jamar is able to help her with that as well. I liked that he never took control of any of Taylor’s situations, that he never just plowed over her own wants and wishes as he solved her problems but worked with her and cheered her on as she came to her own solutions.
Jamar is in many ways the opposite of Taylor. He’s financially secure, has a good relationship with his family, and excels at academics, financial situations, controlling social media – he seems to have it all together. However, beneath it all he carries a weight of guilt and some unneeded responsibilities based upon events in his youth. I really loved how he was able to work through his issues by talking to the right people throughout the story. I can’t emphasize enough how fabulous it is to read about characters who handle the challenges in their lives in mature, responsible, reasonable ways. This is a happy, amusing, humorous tale but the comedy doesn’t come from crazy characters doing stupid things but from people being able to joke, play and laugh their way through this sometimes-difficult thing we call life.
This series places a lot of emphasis on great gal pals, and nobody could ask for better friends than London and Samiah. I loved how these ladies continued to be a big part of each other’s lives, offering a helping hand or sympathetic ear when needed and spurring each other to greater success. We catch only a glimpse of Daniel and Samiah as a couple, but I was happy to see them still going strong and I loved watching London as she dealt with her two friends being in love while she remained stoically single. I can’t wait to see who she winds up with (her book comes out next summer).
Great characters, solid writing and a charming love story make The Dating Playbook one of the best novels I’ve read this year and I strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary romance novels.