Playing for Keeps by Liz Matis
November 30, 2011
Reviewed by Mandi
Samantha Jameson has had a crush on Ryan Terell for a long time. Through college, she kept the football star in her sights, but nothing ever came of her attraction to him. Samantha starts her post-college life as a hard-core journalist, traveling to the middle east to cover the war. After a brutal time, where she is kidnapped for three days she is now back in the states, and has decided to take an easier reporting job, now covering the pro-football team, the cougars, where Ryan plays as a tight-end.
Walking into the post-game locker room is quite intimidating, first having to prove she can be one of the guys, and also trying to prove to herself that she doesn’t have to peek down south, when Ryan drops his towel. Samantha wants to excel in this job and knows she has to be professional, which means not accepting the advances of Ryan who is very interested in her.
Playing for Keeps has a nice set-up and I’m always looking for a good sports romance, but this one didn’t quite do it for me. First, Samantha eludes to the fact that she is suffering greatly from being kidnapped in Iraq. When the story starts, she has been home for only about one month, and we see her suffer from a bad nightmare and she says:
Samantha couldn’t tell anybody. Even in her last article, filed while she waited for a flight home, she sugarcoated the ordeal. A reporter shouldn’t become the story. Her job was about other people’s experiences, not her own. Other journalists would’ve sucked the life out of it, maybe vie for a Pulitzer, but not Samantha. Not now, anyway. She learned her lesson. No one would ever know the whole story, nor the guilt or shame she carried away from it.
And the thing is that – we never learn it. I wanted to see the aftermath of her recovering from a horrendous situation. But we never dive into it, yet she uses it as an excuse as to why she can’t get close to Ryan. For most of the book she seems carefree and happy. To me, the PTSD of her kidnap ordeal, didn’t fit with her character in this book. If she was truly suffering from the effects of being kidnapped and abused, I feel like the resulting PTSD would hit her not just during convenient times, like having a nightmare. It might creep up when she was not expecting it. But in this book, it never does.
Along the same lines, I had a hard time connecting with Ryan. He never felt like a pro-football player. Just a guy always trying to woo Samantha and it never works. I wanted him more masculine – actually more anything. He comes across flat and didn’t have a spark of personality I could latch onto.
I also felt the blurb to be a bit misleading. The steroid scandal is barely touched on and the life threatening injury doesn’t come into play until the very end.
I guess I’m also just not a fan of this author’s writing style. Many times in the book, the characters internal monologue would be filled with questions. For example:
Ryan assumed it’d been about the game. Was something going on between them? What was he thinking?
But this happened all the time. Also, section breaks would end with –
“Let’s get some grub. The team held up dinner for you. We’re starving”
“Yeah me, too.” But not for food.
If what happened in the elevator was the appetizer, it wetted her hunger for the buffet.
Those types of things just didn’t allow me to become immersed in the story and along with the other issues I had, this one didn’t work for me.