This book is a hot mess. That about sums it up.
Recently, I’ve been on a Filipino romance author binge, and I picked up Play With Me when I found out that Marian Tee is a bestselling indie-published author. I had high expectations for this book, and while it delivered all the feels, the ending made my head explode.
Lace Wyndham (19) is mad about basketball, and she’s on track to be one of the youngest college-level coaches in the States. Billionaire Silver March (25) is partnered with Lace at a friend’s wedding and after spending time practising the wedding cotillion with her, he knows he wants her. But she’s so very young, and he reluctantly gives her space to discover who she is and stand on her own two feet. Easier said than done, though, and pretty soon, Silver and Lace are playing their own game, and this time it’s for keeps.
If there’s ever an example of a book where the last two chapters completely ruin and rewrite my opinion of the entire story, this would be it. Forget that most of the plot and characters in the story are typical ingenue vs cynical playboy archetypes, and that Lace is completely unbelievable as a college-level basketball assistant coach, let alone the actual coach, and that her team sounds more like a bunch of has-been thirty-something-year old dads, and that no cynical billionaire playboy would be friends with someone who insists on twenty groomsmen in their wedding — much less agree to be one of them — and that the cover of this book promises, I don’t know, some kind of socialite romance in a small town instead of a sneaker-wearing tomboy and a stalkery Christian Grey-esque hero who calls her ‘little lamb’…
I could have read past all that. In fact, I did read past all that. I even enjoyed all the tropes and cliches and stereotypes. Because I am all about the feels. Give me the feels and I will forgive almost everything. Note: Almost.
Time, he told himself determinedly. For her, he would do his damnedest to give her time to realise that what they had was once in a lifetime, and because it was, nothing else mattered.
Not the fact that she was nineteen and he was twenty-five. Or that she was still in college while his work took him all over the world.
Lace was looking at him like she was doing her best not to cry, like she thought he was just making excuses and that he was in fact abandoning her.
The taking of Lace’s virginity was particularly hot. Although Silver doesn’t use a condom — and Lace doesn’t ask, which is a bit silly considering where that penis has been previously — he does ask if she’s on the pill. (I wonder if this is a cultural bias, though — accidental pregnancy is a huge thing in the Philippines.) I love that Lace is pro-active in losing her virginity, and the bedroom scenes right up until the point where this story breaks me felt super hot — not the most explicit, but there’s just something about the way Tee writes them that made me actually read the sexy times.
I also enjoyed some of the banter between Lace and Silver, as well as Lace and the minor characters. I had to turn off my inner critic, but when I allowed myself to just feel the characters, it was enjoyable and fun and sexy. Readers who liked Fifty Shades of Grey should have no problem enjoying this story.
Until the second last chapter. OMFG did that chapter break me.
(Spoiler alert.) Until the 85% mark I was totally on board with this book, and despite Silver’s low-level alphaholishness he was good to go. And then he and Lace have their big conflict, which, to be honest, is more of a misunderstanding and nothing a 15-minute conversation couldn’t have solved. But okay, it’s a romance, and Silver stalks off, thinking it’s over. When Lace swallows her pride and goes to win him back, she finds out he slept with someone else to get back at her. They were broken up for one week. One fucking week!
I can’t deal with that in a romance.
It’s a real shame, because the scene where he admits to sleeping with the other woman is written so well. The devastation and the desperation — I felt it all. And I was looking forward to seeing how Tee redeems Silver — after all, cashed up billionaires are the best at The Grovel, right?
No. There was no grovel. Lace forgives him because she loves him. At that point, I just felt so sorry for her. What’s worse is that Lace is heartbroken, but within about three pages they’re having sex in the bathroom and he’s making her sit on his lap while she’s coaching her basketball team.
So basically, this book went from 4 stars to wallbanger material in the last 15%. I’m curious to know what this couple has to deal with in part 2 but I’d need severe spoilage first because I’m still shattered. And after reading this justification from the author on why so many of her heroes sleep with other women before the HEA, I don’t think I have it in me to try any more of her work.
Content advisory: Infidelity and not enough grovel to redeem the hero.
You can find an extract of the book here. Self-published.