I enjoy watching sports, and used to be a big baseball fan, but I don’t read a lot of sport themed romances; Kat Latham’s London Legends series is the exception. Tempting the Player is the third book in the series. The heroes are all been members of the London Legends, a fictional European league rugby team. Latham does a wonderful job explaining elements of rugby & rugby culture that might be unfamiliar to American readers without bogging down the plot. While Sports-stars and rock-stars are supposed to be the new billionaires, like that her London Legends players are not in fact multi-millionaires, and instead read more like working-class men, who work physically demanding jobs, albeit ones that come with media scrutiny, racy holiday calendars and crazy fans. Her stories are filled with good humor, and just right touches of physical comedy.
Libby and Matt are best friends and neighbors. They share custody of a rescue teacup Chihuahua, and on nights they are both in town they spend cozy nights together watching movies.
Libby is a hard-working airline pilot for no-frills discount airline, working long hours as she tries to climb to the top of the seniority pile and make Captain. She knows her career is murder on families and relationships having seen her parents marriage and that of many colleagues disintegrate. A champion list maker, she has pretty set ideas & criteria describing the kind of partner she thinks she needs to make it possible for her to keep her career and build a family. But she keeps dating men who Matt hates and considers unambitious prats and unsurprisingly those relationships never go anywhere. Her sister thinks the problem is that she is hung up on Matt, despite thinking Matt is all wrong for her. After all he doesn’t fit any of her criteria: He is younger than her, in a demanding career of his own and shown no interest in re-marriage. Yet they spend hours together, share common interests and similar senses of humor. Libby’s sister advises her to get over Matt by shagging him and get over him, so she can move on date more productively.
Matt is deeply aware of how he has constantly disappointed people in his life, His rugby-star father, his first wife, his teammates. Libby has been one of relationship in his life unsullied by disappointment. Spending time with Libby has been safe in every way for Matt, he basks in her admiration and companionship and relaxes at the lack of sexual expectations. Libby has been the one no-pressure thing in his life. And Matt is under a lot of pressure with the Legends. After years of under performing, they need him to step up when their starting defender needs to take some time away from the field. It is clear to Matt that this is his last best chance to save his career. However his on-field play is only part of the equation. They can no longer keep ignoring his paralyzing fear of flying, if they are to count of him to be a starter. Matt treasures his friendship with Libby above all else… even his growing attraction to her but Matt needs Libby to help him get over his fears, and risk disappointing her or he will be finished.
I loved how the conflicts in this novel exposed both of them. Both Libby and Matt were clinging to their friendship in unhealthy ways, using it to fill needs they didn’t want to acknowledge. Libby needed to finally admit that she wanted more from Matt, and Matt needed to lean on Libby and ask for her help, even if that made him vulnerable and recognize that she was worthy of that trust.
I loved how complicated both Libby and Matt’s relationships with their careers were and how she portrayed how messy it can be to start baring yourself to another person, even someone you have known for a longtime, and trust. I liked that even though they have been best friends for so long, they had so much to learn about each other because of how much of their own vulnerabilities they have been hiding out of self-protection. I really liked that in the end they were really choosing each other, not settling.
Latham combined two of my favorite tropes, “friends to lovers” and “we can keep it casual” to great effect in this story. The resolution was super romantic, & funny (almost a bit OTT for me) but lovely and right and consistent with the tone of the story.
A review copy of Tempting the Player was provided by Carina Press. Tempting the Player was published Nov.10, 2014.