Title: Rules of the Game
Author: Sandy James
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: April 2, 2012
Rating: 3 out of 5
I requested this book off NetGalley, because the blurb made it sound like a fun, lighthearted contemporary romance, and it certainly began with a lot of promise. Unfortunately about a third of the way into the book the tone of the novel changed abruptly, leaving me a bit confused. Rules of the Game feels like 2 different books, and while I enjoyed the novel, I think the blurb is a little misleading, and the book needed to be a bit longer to develop fully some of the issues the heroine faces.
The book begins with romance author Maddie Sawyer living in New York City and having to return to Pottsville, Indiana, for her high school reunion. While her author persona, Kathryn West, is sexy and outlandish, Maddie is anything but that, so she decides to find a sexy biker and pay him to pose as her boyfriend for the reunion. She has almost immediate success when she meets hunky Scott Brady at a biker bar, and the two start dating. Both Scott and Maddie have their secrets, but they really hit it off. She agrees to pose as his girlfriend to get his friends and family off his back about dating, and he agrees to accompany her to Indiana for the reunion.
This lighthearted contemporary romance goes off the rails when Maddie and Scott arrive at the reunion, and suddenly Maddie’s orderly life is a disaster. An unexpected visitor to the reunion makes an announcement to the crowd that forces Maddie to face her unpleasant past, and the remainder of the book focuses on how Maddie deals with the changes this brings. Throughout Scott is very supportive and helpful with the changes in Maddie’s life, but when Maddie learns Scott’s real profession (which isn’t down-and-out biker, as she originally believed), it’s the last straw for Maddie. Can she salvage her relationship with Scott while dealing with the astonishing changes in her life?
Despite the abrupt change in tone of the novel, this was an enjoyable read. A LOT happens in only 76,000 words, and at times I felt overwhelmed with what was going on with poor Maddie. You definitely won’t be able to put the book down, because you’ll be frantically turning the pages to see what could possibly go wrong next. I also liked Scott and Maddie’s romance in the beginning of the novel. It definitely was a meet-cute, and both hero and heroine come across as, likeable characters with great chemistry.
While I enjoyed the book, there were some issues that bothered me. First, the unexpected visitor to the high school reunion completely changed the tenor of the book and created a new source of conflict. I thought the change was too abrupt, but I was intrigued by where the novel would go from there. I wish that the blurb were less misleading in how it described the book, but I also think that the first third of the book needed a bit of foreshadowing of future events. One plus is that the reader experiences how out of control Maddie feels at the changes in her life, and the pace of the novel helps with this. However, the conflict is resolved rather quickly at the end, and I felt that this section of the novel could have been developed a bit more. Maddie and Scott’s relationship problems are resolved too quickly.
My other issue has to do with Maddie’s reaction to Scott’s profession. She immediately rejects him for it, which just struck me as bizarre, given her reasonable and mature reactions to other events in the book. Events in her past are supposed to explain Maddie’s knee-jerk reaction and subsequent rejection of Scott, but it was too over the top for me.
Despite feeling like two different books, Rules of the Game was a lot of fun to read. I liked the hero and heroine, and the drama in the book raised some interesting questions. I’ll definitely check out future books by Ms. James and recommend it with a few reservations for lovers of contemporary romance.