Published by Metal Blonde Books on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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A troubled Scottish rugby player who doesn't play by the rules. A vivacious man-eater who's given up on love. When it comes to Lachlan and Kayla, opposites don't just attract - they explode.
From the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact and The Offer, comes The Play, a standalone spinoff and contemporary romance about taking chances and rescuing hearts.
Kayla Moore has always been comfortable with her feisty, maneating reputation. At least it was fine until she hit her thirties and saw her best friends Stephanie and Nicola settle down with Linden and Bram McGregor, leaving Kayla to be the odd one out. Tired of being the third wheel with nothing but one-night stands and dead-end dates in San Francisco, Kayla decides to take a vow of celibacy and put men on the backburner.
That is until she lays her eyes on Linden and Bram’s cousin, hot Scot Lachlan McGregor. Lachlan is her sexual fantasy come to life – tall, tatted, and built like a Mack truck. With a steely gaze and successful rugby career back in Edinburgh, he’s the kind of man that makes her want to throw her vow right out the window. But Lachlan’s quiet and intense demeanor makes him a hard man to get to know, let alone get close to.
It isn’t until the two of them are thrown together one long, unforgettable night that Kayla realizes there is so much more to this brooding macho man than what meets the eye. But even with sparks flying between the two, Lachlan can’t stay in America forever. Now, Kayla has to decide whether to uproot her whole life and chance it all on someone she barely knows or risk getting burned once again.
Sometimes love is a game that just needs to be played.
I really struggled to get into this one. I’d pick it up, read about half a page, put it down and wander away. Repeat. I don’t know what the problem was. But then, about 15% of the way through it, there was a scene involving Lachlan and Kayla and a rugby match, and I was hooked. I can’t explain it. After that, I was obsessed with this book.
I think it was Kayla in the beginning. There was something about her I wasn’t connecting with, but after that rugby scene I just loved her and Lachlan both. This book was longer than an average romance, and it really allowed the relationship between Lachlan and Kayla to really deepen and develop in a way I don’t see very often. And, wow, did it ever. I’ve never read anything by Karina Halle before, and I don’t know how I’ve missed her. If her other books are anything like this, I’ll be a mess.
Kayla was interesting. She was just a pretty regular girl. Early twenties, no traumatic back story, stuck in a job she doesn’t really like and where she doesn’t feel appreciated. She has a few good girlfriends, Steph and Nicola, who are starting to pair off and have kids, and she’s feeling a bit left out. She’s recently declared her vagina a “no men allowed” zone and sworn off sex and dating. No real reason, she’s just doesn’t want to sleep with “another guy who wouldn’t know a woman’s clit if it slapped him in the face. Hell, I’m sure when I jerk my hips it literally is slapping him in the the face, and yet they pretend like it doesn’t exist.”
Lachlan on the other hand, has some deep-seated trauma in his background. He’s content to just casually date, and has no intention of letting anyone get close. His two cousins, Bram and Linden, are the men who have paired up with Steph and Nicola, so when he comes to San Francisco from Edinburgh, hes bound to cross paths with Kayla.
And boy howdy, do they cross paths. The chemistry is there from the begining, but Lachlan’s desire to remain a loner and Kayla’s determination to be celibate mean that they don’t do anything about it. In fact, they don’t do anything about it for a long time. This story is a slow burn, so if you prefer the sexytimes to get going right from the beginning, this book may not be for you. Once they get started, though, their feelings grow quickly, compounded by the fact that they don’t have a lot of time together before he goes back to Edinburgh. He’s a rugby player and has to get back for the start of the season, so staying in San Francisco isn’t an option. Kayla is already pretty unhappy in her job, but her elderly mom lives alone and isn’t well, so moving to Edinburgh isn’t an option for her. Since this is a romance, I knew it would end with an HEA, but I didn’t see how we were going to get there for a while. Lachlan is so deeply unhappy when the book opens, he has a lot of work to do on himself before he can be good for himself, much less for someone else.
Lachlan is a great guy, but so scared of getting hurt again that he refuses to let anyone know that. He did his best to push everyone away. Deep down, he doesn’t think anyone could love him, or that he deserves it. When he starts to feel someone getting too close, he pushes them away before they can walk away from him. He does a great job pushing Kayla away in the beginning, and from what we’ve see of Kayla up to that point that takes some real doing. She doesn’t take no for an answer when she decides she wants something, though, and she wants Lachlan, celibacy vow be damned. She keeps chipping away at Lachlan, and eventually she gets through to him. He sees what they have in common, not the differences in their lives. They grew up in vastly different ways, but right now, they’re both lonely. They both want something they don’t think they’re ever going to get. Lachlan has isolated himself, while Kayla hasn’t and is just starting to realize she wants something more than just the random hook-ups she’s been indulging in.
There wasn’t a lot of outside drama here. Once these two got together, they really just had to deal with their own demons. Lachlan, especially. Lachlan had a really terrible childhood, and he’s never gotten past it. It led to an equally terrible young adulthood, which just compounded the problem. He won’t see anyone about his issues, so they just fester and grow until they burst out, usually in self-destructive ways. Kayla has to decide for herself how much of her life she’s willing to give to Lachlan’s issues, how much she’s willing to not know day to day if she’ll wake up to the Lachlan who loves her or the Lachlan who’s given into his demons again.
There’s a lot to love in this book. Lachlan, Kayla, rugby, family, friendship, dogs. Yes, there are dogs. There are so many dogs. And they’re not just plot moppets. The dogs have almost as much personality and character as everyone else. In the author notes, Karina Halle mentioned that Tom Hardy was the inspiration for Lachlan, so I’m going to end this review by leaving this here for you….
(photo from a fantastic Distractify article about the gloriousness of Tom Hardy & his dog on the red carpet)