Bitchin' Blog Posts
Title: Play With Me
Author: Leslie Kelly
Publication Info: Harlequin 2010
Genre: Contemporary Romance
I mentioned this book during a giveaway last week: it’s a light and fun contemporary that’s sexy and poignant at some moments. Amanda Bauer is a pilot for her uncle’s small private aviation firm, and when a client cancels at the last minute, she has a flight of one instead of five from Pittsburgh to Chicago. It’s Halloween, and the client who cancels is one of her favorite people - an older lady who told her she had to dress in costume. So Amanda’s standing on the tarmac in a vintage flight attendant’s costume from the early 70s, complete with boots and hot pants. And her flight of one? A very good looking man named Reese Campbell. When she decides to accept his invitation to a Halloween party he’s attending for a prospective client of his company’s, and decides to try to instigate a one night stand, he’s all for it. The trouble is, there’s more than just hot pants between them. They actually like each other.
The problems were mostly questions of accuracy and infodumpage. I’ve joked that a duke can drive a Porsche to Almack’s and it won’t bother me a bit, but on contemporary romances I’m much more picky. But really, my irritation has mostly to do with dialogue. If characters speak in a way that is utterly unrealistic, I lose patience almost immediately. Dialogue is one of my favorite parts of fiction to read. It’s like eavesdropping for 300 pages. So when a character’s internal monologue is an infodump, I want to leave her head and go visit someone else’s.
First, the story opens with a whole lot of Amanda’s inner thoughts, and it can get supremely irritating, the amount of info dumpery that lives in this girl’s cranium. For example:
There was only one member of the Bauer clan who was at all like her: Uncle Frank. His motto was Live til your fuel tank is in the red and then keep on going. You can rest during your long dirt nap when you finally slide off the runway of life.
Live to the extreme, take chances, go places, don’t wait for anything you want, go out and find it or make it happen. And never let anyone tie you down.
You think she has that stitched on a sampler somewhere? On the side of a barn maybe? Because damn. That’s a lot of motto.
(Also, and I could be wrong here, but is it possible that she can fly a private plane but not always have to file a flight plan. She decides spur of the moment to head off in the small jet she flies - and isn’t that a problem without alerting the FAA or something? Isn’t there some required paperwork? It’s not like you can just jump in the jet and go, is it?)
ETA: I stand corrected! Yes, you can hop in the plane and go. This makes me exceedingly antsy to get a pilot’s license, let me tell you.
Amanda’s problem, emotionally speaking, is one I don’t see too often in a romance heroine: she is very unwilling to get close to people or to become emotionally vulnerable to them. She’ll get horny pants but that’s all. Once her pants are back on, she’s outta there. It’s something of a role reversal against the typical emotional hesitance of the hero. But in Amanda’s case, not only has she left a few broken hearts in her past, but she’s had a few too-intense relationships, too, that have ended badly. A few of her exes even started Facebook groups about her and her leave-‘em (sans love-em) ways (ouch). So immediately after getting all this info dumping, the reader has to adjust to a not-flattering portrait of the heroine, and then decide whether Amanda can earn her happy ending from the somewhat-heartless introduction she’s given.
I hope readers keep going with the story. Amanda is a lot of fun. She’s adventurous, funny, silly and sharp, even when she’s trying to resist her attraction to Reese. Their banter is sometimes charming, and sometimes hot - or both. Their relationship takes place over holiday weekends, from minor holidays to major events like New Year’s. Each interlude is a bit of travel - which is no sweat for Amanda since she’s a pilot - and involves role playing, whether she pulls him over dressed as a police officer or ties him up in their hotel room. She’s got massive hornypants for Reese, and he’s got equally tense trousers for her - but he’s also totally charmed by her and wants more than just sex. Bit by bit Reese gets to know Amanda, and he’s aware that he’s treading a delicate route to a real relationship:
“No pressure, no hidden meanings, just food,” he said, coaxing her as carefully as he would a wild bird with a piece of bread. “You can choose where we go. As long as it’s someplace that serves red meat, I’ll take it.”
She nibbled her bottom lip, than finally said, “Do you consider pepperoni red meat? Because I could really go for some pizza.”
He almost breathed a sigh of relief. Both that she’d said yes, and that she wasn’t a woman who liked to play bunny and nibble on a few carrots and pieces of lettuce and call it a meal.
“Perfect.” She managed a weak smile. “You say that a lot.”
“You are that a lot.”
He met her stare in the mirror. Amanda didn’t exactly pull away at the gentle push into more personal, intimate territory that fell out of the boundaries of their sexy games. But the muscles beneath the silky skin tensed ever-so-slightly. Enough to warn him to back off.
His ability to be so gentle in his approach, even when their sexual escapades aren’t gentle in the least, wears down Amanda’s defenses. Plus, the two of them have some crazy sex. Role playing, costumes, different locations - these two are seriously hot for each other, and her attempts to deny her feelings and his attempts to camouflage his own make it even hotter between them.
They’re also very similar to one another. Both Reese and Amanda are shaped by their families - Reese because he’s responsible for his and Amanda because she was stifled and rejected by hers - and both have past baggage to overcome, including loss, mourning, and responsibility. His loyalty to his family extends to include her, and she’s not used to having someone take care of her, or even take an interest in her.
The emotional challenges between them are more than enough to battle in the course of the book, which is why I’m not sure why there’s a strange suspense-y element thrown in there because it doesn’t fit much, except to create problems for them and for his family. But the funny moments outweigh the WTF? moments, and by the end of the book, I was rooting for Amanda and for Reese. I enjoyed their scenes together, and the fun and adventure they had in their relationship before they were ready to call it a relationship. Even with the uneven moments, this was a fun, light, and funny book.