Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols ( web | tweet )
Part of the Stargazer series.
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Pocket Books
Target audience: Adult/romance
Keywords: country band, secrets, PR company
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss! (Thanks!)
Summary: Sarah is just about divorced from her husband and trying out a gutsier look and personality to go along with her PR job. Her latest assignment is to ensure a finished album from country band, Cheatin’ Hearts, and a (relatively) calm Fourth of July performance. With her own future on the line, Sarah is prepared to do just about anything to make Cheatin’ Hearts (subject to much tabloid foder) stay together and remain successful. In the mean time, band leader Quentin has tangled a web of lies to keep the band’s name on people’s tongues and with Sarah in the picture, it’s getting difficult to keep it all together.
Talk about blurred lines of the mixing work with pleasure variety and you have yourself Playing Dirty.
Sarah, defeated from a demanding PR task in Rio, is in jeopardy of losing her job. Her last hope (God help us all) is Cheatin’ Hearts, a country band known for their fights, swapping bandmates for romance partners, and drug use. All she needs to do is get their album finished, make sure they are on stage for a Fourth of July performance, and she is in the clear.
As she suspected, it’s just not going to be that easy.
She fully adopts her PR-alter ego, pink highlights, stripper heels, and tons of sex appeal to win over the Quentin, the supposed cocaine addict and leader of the band. If she can just make Quentin’s ex-girlfriend/current fiddle player, Erin, jealous, the two will get back together and certainly keep the band from breaking up. Of course, this plan requires many steamy (sometimes stolen) moments with Quentin, who is just too attractive for his own good.
Something is missing from this equation though. Honesty. It’s pretty much taken a back seat.
Sarah is lying about what happened in Rio. She also would choose sweatpants over hot pants any day. While Quentin and his band learned early on that success is about giving people something to talk about so basically nothing seen in the tabloids is real. Like at all. And while there are glimpses of truth in a few of Sarah and Quentin’s encounters, they keep second guessing themselves, each other, and it all erupts into a huge huge dramatic mess.
Even though so many of the conflicts in Playing Dirty could have been avoided, Sarah and Quentin share some sizzling scenes together (the shower!) and for all of the lying, their characters were super well developed. Sarah has some unresolved issues with her mother and a divorce in the works; Quentin gave up a medical career to pursue singing (he comes from a family of musicians) and his mother’s death made him scared of many things. When they both let their guards down, I really liked watching them get to know each other and bond.
Plus I absolutely loved her friendship with Wendy (the main character from Star Crossed) showcased through some hilarious emails and all the country music making and gossip!
I can’t forget to mention “the scary element”. Echols utilized this subplot in Star Crossed as well. I thought it was unnecessary there, and even more so in Playing Dirty. It caused the end to drag, and just seemed too much with all the situations already unfolding.
Still Playing Dirty has so much of Echol’s signature elements: crazy tension, a hot leading man with a heart, an ambitious female lead, and a great dash of comedy to level out all the drama. (Also: a surprising amount of Star Wars references for the nerdy side in all of us!) I’m still enjoying her venture into adult contemporary romance and I always on the edge of my seat waiting for the next one!