Review – Rules of the Game by Sandy James

Publisher: Carina Press
Publish Date: Out Now!
How I got this book: NetGalley

Kathryn West has it all – she’s a confident, bestselling author living it up in New York City. Too bad she doesn’t actually exist, and is only timid Maddie Sawyer’s pseudonym. Determined to attend her high school reunion with a man right out of one of her racy romance novels, she plots to find a sexy bad boy who’s up to Kathryn’s standards.

She finds Mr. Perfect shooting pool in a biker bar. He’s a blue-collar hunk who just happens to look great in leather. But the mysterious Scott Brady has some rules of his own: he won’t agree to her deal unless she poses as his girlfriend in front of his family and friends first.

As the reunion nears, Maddie tries to maintain her carefree façade, knowing she’ll soon face some old ghosts. She’s torn between her growing attraction to Scott and the nagging feeling that he’s hiding something important. Will she still want him when she finds out his secret? What about when he discovers hers?
*Blurb from Goodreads*

When I first saw this cover I fell in love with it, and then after reading the blurb I was even more excited to read James’ debut. The story was very cute and sweet, but there were a few things that I wasn’t super fond of.

Maddie is looking for the perfect bad boy to take home with her to her reunion. When she walks into a bar and meets Scott, she knows she has met the perfect guy. When Maddie propositions him, he counters with a deal of his own: act as his girlfriend and he will go to the reunion with her. Since Maddie is instantly attracted to him, she readily agrees, but begins falling for him bit by bit.

Scott genuinely falls for Maddie and things quickly turn from a proposition to the real deal. But he is hiding something for Maddie that could potentially break them up for good. When Maddie realizes what it is that Scott is hiding, will their fragile relationship be able to stand the test of time?

This story started off really strong, I liked Maddie and her slightly neurotic ways. She came across as a little insecure, but willing to grow and change. When she meets Scott and starts somewhat dating him, the two come across as such a great pair. It was obvious that Scott was smitten with her and wanted to make a serious go at their relationship, despite Maddie’s crazy ways. It was once they head to the reunion that things started to kinda fall apart for me, especially since there was SO MUCH going on with the plot from that point forward.

There were two somewhat big storylines from that point forward. The first being Scott hiding his profession from Maddie, and the second being a fairly huge event from Maddie’s past. In regards to Scott keeping his job a secret from Maddie, I could totally see why he did it. He honestly liked her, wanted to be with her, and given a fairly huge prejudice that Maddie had from her past, he was worried (and rightly so) that it would cause her to run. When it turns out that Maddie ends up needing Scott and his job to save the day, she freaks even more.  I was a little bummed by all this. I understood where her dislike toward his profession came from, but thought it was a little misplaced, especially since it’s a very respected position.

The second big storyline involving a huge incident from Maddie’s past I liked and didn’t at the same time. There really isn’t a good way to explain it without giving away a ton of spoilers. Only click on the spoiler tag if you are sure you want to continue reading.

[spoiler]Maddie was raped in high school, and ended up getting pregnant. When her now-teenage son shows up at the reunion and asks to come stay with Maddie for a few days, both Maddie and his adoptive mother agree. He ends up getting into some trouble and making things very difficult for Maddie. I thought it was all just a little too much going on in Maddie’s life and while I liked seeing her develop a relationship with her son, it felt forced and the situation extreme at times.[/spoiler]

For romance fans, please note that this book is mostly centered around Maddie and her character growth. While she and Scott do get their happily ever after, to me this read more as chick lit than it did a contemporary romance novel.

All in all I thought that James’ debut was good. The writing is strong and the story, while bogged down at times with a lot going on, was well developed and kept me reading. I would have liked a little more time with Scott and Maddie before their big HEA, but was happy with how the story ends.
I give Rules of the Game a C-


Kindle eBook

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