Book Review

Play With Me by Leslie Kelly


Title: Play With Me
Author: Leslie Kelly
Publication Info: Harlequin 2010
ISBN: 0373795254
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book CoverI 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.
 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.

Play With Me is available on its own from Amazon, Book Depository and Powell’s.

It is also part of The Blaze Collection, available from Amazon, Book Depository and Powell’s.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Marie says:

    I liked this book, but the same things bugged me—the data dump and clunky dialogue, in particular. I also noticed that Reese’s brother’s name changed from Jack to Jake halfway through the book.

  2. 2
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    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.

    This is a female character type that has been showing up with much frequency in television lately as well as ongoing “series” novels.  It’s ideally suited to the serial format—when well-written it can make for some great character development, but I can see how it might be problematic in a 50,000 word standalone novel when you want to like the protagonists right off the bat and don’t have too much time to spend on backstory.  I’m curious—were the heroine’s trust issues adequately explored so as to become an integral part of her character rather than just a “device” to create tension?

  3. 3
    Laurel says:

    Point of information: I’m pretty sure you can fly smaller aircraft without filing a flight plan. I know you could in the past. Things may have changed in the post 9/11 era.

    For the most part it’s not a good idea because if you run into trouble no one knows where you are or should be.

  4. 4
    Anna says:

    You can just jump in the plane and go under some circumstances. Flights plans aren’t required for some general aviation trips.  If she’s doing something spur of the moment, the weather’s clear, and it’s not a commercial flight, that’s perfectly believable.

  5. 5
    SB Sarah says:

    Re: flight plan: Thank you! That makes me want to get a pilot’s license and a small plane EVEN MORE. Poor Hubby. :)

    I’m curious—were the heroine’s trust issues adequately explored so as to become an integral part of her character rather than just a “device” to create tension?

    I think so. They were drawn from a variety of sources: her family, her uncle and role model who is also flighty emotionally (ha ha), and the biggest ones, her exes, who combine to make her doubt herself, her emotional fortitude and her quality as a person due to their tendency toward online humiliation.

    Her self-doubts and trust issues weren’t merely a device in my opinion because I think they informed everything Amanda did. On one hand she really wanted to be with Reese but on the other hand she’s afraid to commit to anything because he deserves better than her, since she’s been convinced she’s such an awful person to have a relationship with. So her struggle with her own self doubt versus her desire for Reese affects her decisions and is a major motivator in her actions. For me, it was part of what made me root for her.

  6. 6
    SB Sarah says:

    Also: am editing review with correction – thanks y’all.

  7. 7
    Katie says:

    Can I just say how much I hate, haaaate the “eats red meat not lettuce = must be teh awesomest” trope that populates so much literature?  Besides being massively inaccurate, it makes me so self-conscious of my own choices when I go out to eat.  If I want to eat a damn salad then I’ll eat a damn salad, and don’t even try to infer that it means I’m starving myself, or I’m less awesome than someone who wants to eat a steak a day, because dude?  We’re both more awesome than you, Mister Food Judger.

    I have heard the cheeseburger = true love thing in so many incarnations and it kills me because I totally believed it when I was younger.  I thought that guys would be more impressed if I ate hunks of meat on dates, and disgusted if I couldn’t finish my meal. 

    This got a lot rantier than I intended.  I don’t think I could read Play with Me, since I am so put-off by Reese, but I do love reading the reviews!

  8. 8
    Gwynnyd says:

    I will ask my private pilot husband if he knows what the regulations are for commercial pilots and planes.

    We own a teeny, little – but fast – experimental single engine plane.  Most of the time we just take off and go wherever we want. If the airport has a control tower, you just tell them what your take off direction will be (permission to take off on runway 33, heading south west to [wherever]) and you can stop talking to them five miles away.  If no tower you just announce to the local traffic what your direction will be.  Even when we do file flight plans and/or ask for point to point flight following (where each airport hands you off to the next controller’s radio frequency and you have to “squawk” a unique ID number rather than the generic 1200 so every airport knows exactly who you are and where you are going), we can just cancel them in mid-air or ask to be rerouted at the spur of the moment by talking to a controller. 

    What is really nice is that most small airports have cars you can borrow for an hour or two so you are not trapped at the airport when you arrive and can drive out for a meal or something when you get there.

    Yeah, Sarah. Get a plane!  I love ours.

  9. 9
    JamiSings says:


    I have heard the cheeseburger = true love thing in so many incarnations and it kills me because I totally believed it when I was younger.  I thought that guys would be more impressed if I ate hunks of meat on dates, and disgusted if I couldn’t finish my meal.

    To play devil’s advocate here – there’s two reasons for this.

    1: Women with eating disorders who are too thin but always think they’re fat and therefore eat one piece of lettuce and maybe half a cracker. Men may not like fat chicks like me, but they don’t seem to like the toothpick ones either. One guy on the internet actually wrote “If I wanted to have sex with someone with the body of a 12 year old Chinese boy, I’d have sex with a 12 year old Chinese boy!” (Yeah, a little bit of the stereotype that all Asians are thin, but his point was that he wanted a woman with breasts and hips, not a plank.)

    2: The author may have met some of the same very judgmental vegetarians and vegans I have met. The ones who are only that way because their favorite actors or actress is one, always preaching to us meat eaters that we’re evil. I’ve even had a few threaten to kill me if I don’t become a vegetarian. (Though those same ones also did drugs. A few got arrested for meth, for instance.) And let’s face it, with doing things like kidnapping people’s pets and killing them, PETA is not improving the vegetarians/vegans reputations. (Most vegetarians/vegans, veterinarians, and animal rescuers I know refuse to have anything to do with PETA.)

    Anyway, that’s just my thoughts. I could be totally wrong. It could be that the authors have friends and family in the beef industry who wanted the plug for beef.

  10. 10
    Leslie Kelly says:

    It could be that the authors have friends and family in the beef industry who wanted the plug for beef.

    Well, actually, it’s an inside joke between my hubby and me, who told me he knew I was the girl for him on our 2nd or 3rd date when I helped him devour an entire large pepperoni pizza.

    No offense intended toward anyone who chooses to eat salad, I swear. It was just one of those things I found cute that made its way into my book.

    PS: Thanks again for the review Sarah! So glad you liked it!

  11. 11
    jarant says:

    You can rest during your long dirt nap when you finally slide off the runway of life.

    Holy butchered cliches, Batman!

    OK, the relationship sounds interesting and I like the female pilot angle, but man, that “family motto” caused me almost physical pain. I’m gonna make like a banana and take an Advil.

  12. 12

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about Kelly’s books. I’ve see good reviews of her stuff and another Blaze author—I think it’s Sarah Mayberry?—several places now. I may have to add the books to my TBR pile …

  13. 13

    @Katie – YES!  I hate the food thing, too.  Especially because it’s at such odds with society’s expectations of women to be thinthinthin.  Don’t eat a salad in public, but stay skinny!

    Just one of the millions of ways women get it from both ends, and not in the fun way.


  14. 14


    It is kinda fitting for a man to think the whole salad/pizza thought, though.  I do not think most of them understand the complex and irrational expectations of women.  Yes, I’m just having a conversations with myself over here in the corner.  Ignore me! :)

  15. 15
    MichelleR says:

    Salad is genuinely one of my favorite things to eat. I used to make it for a main course, which it really could be, but it seemed to really confuse my husband.

    No one seeing me devour a salad would get the impression I’m a delicate flower about it though. Living in a small town, there are no salad bars at the grocery store, which gives me the sads. I used to love to make a salad, and then walk through the store shaking it so the dressing would be evenly distributed.  Restaurant salads are a little iffy though—too much iceberg.

    Anyhow, bought the book. Roleplay? I’m in!

  16. 16
    Bert says:

    The real women don’t eat salads thing always bothers me. It’s along the same lines as being told not to wear make-up. Men have an expectation of how women should appear, but they are disgusted by the effort that has to be made. I’m sorry, but if I eat cheeseburgers and pizza everyday I won’t be the 120 pound bikini babe that you want to see. Only 0.5% of American women are actually anorexic, this desire to see women eat has nothing to do with concern for health and everything to do with the effortless beauty myth. Looking good doesn’t come without a little bit of work, even for those blessed by nature, just look at the photos of stars going for morning coffee the nex time you are waiting in line at the grocery store. In my own life, I made more tips in my days as a barista on the days that I glammed it up.

  17. 17
    Fiamma says:

    As a non-judgmental vegetarian, I realize we are not considered sexy by writers and so I shrug it off. Though it seems sort of silly to say a woman who eats a side a beef is way sexier than one who eats a salad. To each their own I guess. Sounds like a fun book regardless.

  18. 18
    Sarah D says:

    Dear SB Sarah, you are a genius for putting the words ‘exceedingly antsy’ together.  I’m tickled pink.

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