by RL Mathewson, contemporary (2011)
Rerum Publishing House, $0.99, ISBN 978-0983212539
How interesting. I pick this one up with some degree of trepidation because it seems like every other self-published title is... well, let's just say that it's like wading neck-deep into dung and blindly groping to find something nice in the whole mess.
Playing For Keeps, however, isn't a love letter to an asshole, and it isn't a love triangle involving a dumb Mary Sue with two guys who will surely show up on America's Most Wanted one of these days. Brace yourself, it's a romantic comedy.
Haley Blaine is fed up with her neighbor Jason Bradford. At her workplace, he is the colleague who "borrows" all her stuff and charms his way into not doing much - and guess who ends up having to do the extra work he weasels his way out of. As her neighbor, he throws loud and wild parties, pees in his lawn, splatters her laundry with paintball pellets, and angry women on her lawn caterwauling for his attention. When he begins pulling out her tulips despite her protests, it's the last straw. She will show him!
I could like this story. Unfortunately, this one is pretty unpolished, with odd indentations and paragraph structuring that visually distract me from getting fully into the story. There are moments when the author messed up the conversations so that it becomes hard to figure out who is saying what. The author also uses tired tropes such as jealous hateful women in some contrived attempt to shore up Haley as a "true" woman for Jason.
By the last page, I still have no idea what I'm supposed to see in Jason. He's not exactly the smartest bulb in the shed, he is prone to losing his cool with distressing ease, and he seems more like a butt-monkey buffoon than husband material. Sure, he has his charming moments, but that means he's good for maybe a shag or two. Marriage, however, means having to babysit this buffoon for the rest of the happily ever after. It's not really my idea of a grand romance.
On the bright side, the author has a buoyant sense of comedy and she displays good timing when it comes to delivering the zingers and the punchlines. There are some good repartee and interactions with various secondary characters here - not counting the eye-rolling obviousness of the scenes involving sequel baits or those silly scenes featuring jealous women all hankering for a piece of the hunky baboon Jason, of course. All things considered, the potential is there.
Playing For Keeps is a good example of an unpolished work with interesting possibilities. Right now, though, it's not quite there yet. It's probably a good thing that I paid only $0.99 for it, as I'd be less inclined to be merciful if I had paid more.
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