Wednesday, June 26, 2013


From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Emma Hart, comes the second book in The Game series, and the story everyone wanted after The Love Game…

She's in love with him.
He's trying not to love her.
One night changes everything.

Aston Banks never meant to get close to Megan Harper – not even for that one night. Haunted by a childhood he refuses to face, he knew she could break through every wall he’d ever built and tear them down without even realising she was doing it.

Betraying Braden by starting a relationship with Aston wasn’t on Megan’s to-do list, but the second she sees a glimpse of someone other than the arrogant ass she’s come to know, she can’t walk away.

Aston’s childhood is worse than Megan ever guessed, but as he tries and fails to push her away, it’s clear her love is stronger than the demons that cling to him every day. And now, because of it, he finally has to deal with what he’s buried deep down.

What he doesn’t want to face. What he’s fought against for so long.
And they have to do it all without Braden finding out.
Keeping a relationship secret has never been harder.

**This book can be read as a standalone novel, but reading The Love Game (The Game, #1) beforehand is advised.** 

Published 6/24/13 by Emma Hart
eArc received from Author in exchange for honest review
Find Our review for Book I The Love Game HERE!

Where to Find Playing For Keeps:

Excerpt: ASTON

“You okay?”
I shake my head. “No. Every time. Every fucking time he brings her up. I thought he wouldn’t in front of you, but he did.”
“He has his own pain,” she says softly. “It doesn’t excuse it, but he does. He feels guilty for what happened to you – that he couldn’t stop it.”
My mind reels for a second and I look down at her. “He told you that?”
She nods, letting her hand drop from my back and standing in front of me. I stop.
“You’ve never let him tell you.” She reaches up and cups my face. “He hurts, too, Aston. You both hurt. It’s not something that will go away, but you can’t let it rule your lives. If you let pain rule you you’ll get lost in it.”
“What if I’m already lost?”
“You’re not lost. You’re hiding, but you’re not lost. I won’t let you get lost.”
I let my hands come up and rest on her back, pulling her into me. “What if there’s no map?”
“Then I’ll get lost with you,” she whispers. “I won’t let you let them win, Aston. I won’t let you get sucked in by those demons. I won’t let that happen. I care too much.”
And she does. I can hear it in her voice.
She wraps her arms around my neck, and I hold her to me tighter, our foreheads resting against each other.
“I’ll try, Megs,” I promise. “I can’t say I won’t, but as long as you’re here, I think I’ll be okay.”
“And you’ll talk to your Gramps? Just once?”
“I’ll think about it. How about we just focus on stopping me from getting lost for a bit?”
“You just need a place to aim for, that’s all. You need a place to go to.”
“Go on then.” I smile. “Give me a place.”
“Okay.” She pauses for a second, closing her eyes and chewing her lip.
“I’m waiting…” I tease her.
Her blue eyes open, shocking me with their vitality. “Aim for the moon, because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
“I don’t need to aim for the sky. The only star I’ll ever need is standing right in front of me.” I brush my lips over hers. “Maybe the place I need to aim for is nowhere other than where I am right now.”
“Maybe I’d go with you wherever you ended up.”
“Maybe I’d never ask that of you.”
“Maybe you wouldn’t need to ask. Maybe you’ll never need to ask me for anything, because I’ll always be here.”

Our Review:

You know, Courtney, I really enjoyed Playing for Keeps. It had many elements that I think readers will like, especially for those who read The Love Game. 

I did too. I didn't feel like you necessarily HAD to read The Love Game to enjoy this book, but it definitely gives you an amazingly clear picture of what the before Megan Aston was like, but without dragging down this book with him being a complete tool for the first 25% of it. I think that is why it is so refreshing..he has a past, they know it, acknowledge it and move on. No dredging it up every five seconds, or making him pay for it forever, or having that big moment be marred by an old girlfriend or insecurities ruining everything. 

I love how this novel jumps right into the story. While there is enough background given for those who haven't read The Love Game, for those of us who have the story of Megan and Aston quickly picks up where it left off.  We learn that both of them are wildly attracted to each other and fighting to reign that in. Needless to say, within pages they lose that fight. There is no reigning in...just a lot of repressing that they feel what they feel.

Ditto on the pace of the story. It made it very, very enjoyable. Emma took a heart wrenching subject, and didn't lighten it, but didn't necessarily make me feel weighted down by a dark cloud the entire time I was reading it either. There was fun and banter and amazing friendships and steamy scenes...but when it was time to be serious, she hit the mark, without being pretentious, preachy, or on a soap-box.

Megan has such a sharp and sarcastic wit. She's always got a comeback to every snarky thing Aston says and she never holds back. When she decides to give in and allow herself one night with Aston, I love that Megan has enough self-respect that she tries to stay away from Aston after her self-imposed one night stand and yet she's honest enough with herself to realize that after that one night all she wants his him. Megan's main problem isn't Aston's man-whore ways, for she learns early on that is just a front, but her best friend's overly protective tendencies. As she and Aston tentatively pursue their relationship, they are both reduced to lying and sneaking around behind all of their friends' backs. Not the best way to start a relationship, but I suppose understandable given Braden's cave man like tendencies when it comes to Megan. Megan handles the truth and the lies with calm and grace--just like she handles the story of Aston's past. I love how level-headed and non-dramatic she is--she doesn't really create unnecessary drama and doesn't run away when things get difficult. 

As confused as I was by Megan's intentions and friendship with Braden in The Love Game,  I was so glad that none of that showed through in this one. She figured out what she wanted, and sure she was nervous about taking the chance...but the alternative was a greater risk for she went for it with the guy that everybody thought was all wrong based on outside assumptions. While the cover that is Aston is pretty to look at, there was so much more beneath the surface. I was a wee bit appalled by how much the thought of Braden's reaction to them dating caused problems. Hello...he is not your real brother, he is not your boyfriend...and he was as big of a man-whore as Aston before he found Kettle. The things he would say like she wasn't allowed to date because she deserved to find the one...he might as well have been sending her to the convent. Irritating, but I forgive him for being a caveman by the end.

Interestingly, the character in this novel who is broken is Aston. Poor Aston had a scarring first 6 years of life and even though his Gramps saved him from further horror, those first 6 years really did major damage. Aston is consumed with his past and hides behind his slutty ways so he won't have to let anyone close enough to force him to dwell on it or ask questions about it. As he spends more time with Megan, though, she begins asking questions that require him to relive and retell his story. Just as Megan doesn't run from complicated and difficult relationship stuff, neither does Aston. I love that he doesn't convince himself that he's too damaged and he allows Megan a chance to be good to him. I love the major that he's studying and why he's studying it. And, I love that as hard as it is, he's willing to work on conquering some of his demons.

I wanted to grab up his 6 year old self and just snuggle and love on him. Stories that involve flashback scenes of difficult pasts are hard, and especially hard with a young child. It was heartbreaking, and raw, but I thought Emma did a fantastic job with writing this serious topic into the story. It wasn't choppy or annoying to have his thoughts break into a conversation, because that was him, and it made it more like we were there with him in his struggles to be normal (Oh, how we love that word) and not repeat his own history. Aston's vulnerabilities and taking a chance with Megan made him a complete 180 from the guy we got to know during The Love Game. The real Aston with his Gramps were some of my favorite moments! 

You know what? I really liked this book. I liked that it wasn't overly angst-ridden or filled with melodrama. I liked that Emma Hart created characters that communicated with each other and worked on things together rather than hide, run away, or create additional problems. It's nice to not have to shout at my Kindle about all of the poor decisions a character makes. I think you'll like it too.

*Gasp* The characters of a book we liked communicated? What...are we in the Twilight Zone? (And if anyone thinks that has to do with Stephenie Meyer, please come shoot me while you're at it...) The story was full and vibrant and yes, even with them communicating like normal human beings and not creating a lot of unnecessary angst, I enjoyed every single word! 

Shelley: 4 Stars
Courtney: 4 Stars

About the Author:
By day, New York Times and USA Today bestselling New Adult author Emma Hart dons a cape and calls herself Super Mum to a terrible two year old and growing bump, due September 2013. By night, she drops the cape, pours a glass of juice and writes books.

Emma is working on Top Secret projects she will share with her followers and fans at every available opportunity. Naturally, all Top Secret projects involve a dashingly hot guy who likes to forget to wear a shirt, a sprinkling (or several) of hold-onto-your-panties hot scenes, and a whole lotta love.

She likes to be busy - unless busy involves doing the dishes, but that seems to be when all the ideas come to life.

Where to Find Emma Hart: 

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