Tempting the Player, by Kat Latham

>> Saturday, April 25, 2015

TITLE: Tempting the Player
AUTHOR: Kat Latham

PAGES: 228
PUBLISHER: Carina Press

SETTING: Contemporary UK
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: 3rd in the London Legends series

Libby Hart and Matt Ogden are perfect for each other—as friends. They've known each other for ages. They act as each other's plus-ones. They even share custody of a dog. And if there's always been a little spark between them, so what? It's never been worth jeopardizing their friendship.

Professional rugby player Matt is fighting for a starter position with the London Legends—and that's not the only thing he's fighting. A crippling fear of flying means he's struggling to get his career off the ground. He has no time for a relationship, even if Libby does make him ache. As an airline pilot, Libby's looking for a stay-at-home husband so she can have a family without sacrificing her high-flying career. Matt's certainly not that man.

But just because they don't have a future together doesn't mean they can't have a right now. When Matt asks Libby for help overcoming his fear, they agree to take a vacation from their platonic relationship—whenever they fly together, they can have sex. It's the perfect way to resolve all that built-up tension. As long as they can avoid getting a little too comfortable...

I've accumulated a fair few sports romances in the last few years, especially those with less common sports. I'm not into the celebrity fantasy and do not care to read about superstar athletes, so the less blockbuster sports tend to work better for me. Latham's books feature heroes who play Rugby Union, which is a sport I like (much as I love Rugby League, good adopted Northerner that I am). It fits the bill for me quite well, because while the top players are superstars and get the press attention and celebrity treatment, your average Premiership player gets a good but definitely not obscene salary and attention only if he does something outrageous.

The hero of this book is definitely in the latter category. Matt Ogden is actually struggling to get into his team, even fearing his contract might not be renewed at the end of the season. And his fear of flying isn't helping his cause. The team has to do a fair bit of travelling to away games, and every time it's a big drama.

Matt's neighbour, Libby, is the perfect person to help. Libby is a pilot, and she's got some ideas about how to get Matt over his fears.

Matt and Libby have been attracted to each other for quite a while, but both know they are not well-suited. Libby's pilot father, whom she adores, was a terrible husband. For reasons that made very little sense to me, this has led Libby to the conclusion that the only way she can be happy is by getting married to a man who's happy to stay home with their children. And Matt, younger than her and only just building a career of his own, is definitely not that man.

But the time they spend together while dealing with Matt's fears of flying feels like time outside of their usual lives, and they give in to temptation.

This was disappointing. Oh, there was a lot here I liked. I liked that Libby is confident and self-assured and good at her job. I liked that Matt is in a bit of a vulnerable position in his work, having moved to a bigger team from one in which he was the big star, and having found it hard to break into the starting line-up. His confidence is way down, and when he finally gets a break (in circumstances that are really sad), he's terrified of having his fear of flying mess everything up. Most athlete heroes are incredibly amazing and top of their fields, so this element was refreshing. I also liked that Matt and Libby are friends at the outset, and feel comfortable with each other. They co-parent a dog called Princess, which added some really nice moments.

All the other stuff, however, was not so great. I basically found the conflict unbelievable. The motivations, especially on Libby's end, didn't quite work. As I suggested when describing her big plan of demanding that any man she marries is a stay-at-home dad, I didn't get why her father's infidelities and him being a pilot would lead to her being so convinced that this is the only way forward for her. Also, while on one hand, I liked that Libby values her career and absolutely will not give it up, it felt like such an obviously bad idea. It’s so rigid, putting the fatherhood role above the relationship between her and her future husband. I’d have huge issues if it was the hero who did it, and it bothered me here as well.

I also hated the characterisation of Matt's horrible, evil first wife, whose fault it's intimated it is that Matt is a bit of a commitment-phobe. She's such a stereotype. She ‘trapped’ Matt into marriage, cheated on him with lots of men, told him about it in the most hurtful way possible, ensuring he destroyed his career at his club, threatened to go to the papers if he didn’t give her more money... need I go on? This was cartoonish and annoying. I’m getting quite sensitive to this sort of thing, to the point that if a review mentions a book has an evil other woman, I’m much less likely to buy the book.

This is the third in a series of connected books, and we see quite a bit of the previous couples and there are some suggestions that other characters will get their own stories. Nothing I saw here tempts me to read any of these.



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