Why I read it: I enjoyed the first one in this series and bought the second as soon as it was released. Warning *mild spoilers for Play With Me*
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) The greater the risk…
Older. Wiser. Hotter. Months after reuniting with the man who loved her – and left her – a decade ago, Tatiana Belikov is determined not to let their wicked games blind her to the danger of repeating history. If that means biting her tongue, so be it. After all, she does get to bite him.
Wyatt Caine never thought Tatiana would be back in his cards, but he’s not ready to question his luck. Between the sheets he knows exactly how to make her naughty fantasies come true: rough and tumble, with an extra serving of dirty. Communicating outside of the bedroom? Not always so easy.
The city’s bright lights can’t compare to their passion, burning hot enough to singe them both. But when the harsh glare of reality exposes long-inflicted wounds, Wyatt and Tatiana have to decide if they want to play it safe…or risk it all.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): At the end of Play With Me, we left Tatiana and Wyatt reunited and trying a long distance relationship. Risk & Reward picks up some six months later. They have been seeing each other regularly and are having lots of fun together but each is a bit careful around the other, preferring to avoid potential problems out of fear they will return to their old patterns of arguing, leading to a breakup neither wants.
The story starts when Tatiana arrives in Las Vegas for a weekend with Wyatt, anxious because there’s something she has to tell him which she knows will upset him. As a consequence, she’s put it off but there’s not a lot of time left before she absolutely has to. I thought the weakest point in the novel was the build up to what this thing Tatiana had to tell Wyatt actually was. As the novella progressed, I could see better why Tatiana was anxious but I didn’t really understand why it had to be hidden from the reader – for me, it built the issue into a bigger deal than it was – I was expecting that she had to move to Europe for three months for work or something, not that *mild spoiler* her parents were in town and wanted to have dinner with both of them.
Tatiana and Wyatt dated for seven years initially. While they loved each other dearly, her parents (particularly her father) never approved of Wyatt and it was one of the things which contributed to the relationship’s demise. More importantly however, they didn’t know how to resolve problems well. Tatiana yelled and screamed and Wyatt closed down. Both are worried they will repeat the problems of the past.
A now-divorced couple in my family had a similar type of issue. He would get angry when she “sprang things on him” and she, uncomfortable talking to him (not without reason) would leave things to the last minute and give him no opportunity to think things over before a decision was required. It became a self fulfilling prophecy. But unlike my relatives, Tatiana and Wyatt decide to talk to each other and work out a way to fight in a healthy/constructive way.
I enjoy relationship in trouble stories and I like to know what happens after the HEA (while the first book in the series didn’t end with a complete HEA, it was an extremely optimistic ending). I did like the way issues were unpacked here. This book was consistent with the characterisations in Play With Me but went into territory I don’t see explored often in romance. I especially love it when main characters act in smart, adult, ways to resolve conflict and negotiate, and I thought it was very clever they way the D/s aspects of their sex play gave them cues they could use and trust in their broader relationship.
It is an erotic story and there are plenty of hot sex scenes but, I didn’t feel they were gratuitous – each one served to further the story. Wyatt and Tatiana had been been and still are wildly sexually compatible and they have used sex in the past as a way to vent but it doesn’t fix things. So the sex in this story serves to show both what they are fighting for but also that they have allowed some bad habits to linger. (NOTE: There is a role play scene involving sexual coercion that may be problematic for some readers. I had no difficulty with it, particularly because before anything happened, Wyatt reiterated their safeword and their personal rules etc, so it was very much consensual and clearly a role play. Nevertheless, some people have triggers involving force and sex so it is worth mentioning.)
There were also humorous moments in the story which served to lighten things up – it was something I enjoyed in the first book and it was continued here.
Both Tatiana and Wyatt make adjustments to their behaviour in the course of the story but it is perhaps Wyatt’s which is the more overt – he makes a bigger effort to fit in with her family. This includes Tatiana’s half-brother, the same one who embezzled a lot of money from Wyatt’s casino. When Wyatt offers to let bygones be bygones, he gets this reaction:
“Can I…can I hug you?”
“What? No.” He stared at the other man. “No.”
At the end, not everything is hearts and flowers, but the couple have mapped a way forward and I was confident they would continue to assert the primacy of their relationship and work to resolve issues which would no doubt arose. Tatiana’s dad is never going to be Wyatt’s BFF and that is something that will have to be negotiated on an ongoing basis.
She rested her hand on his leg. “My family loves you.”
“I feel like I’ve been asking you this a lot lately, so don’t take it the wrong way, but are you drunk?”
As Tatiana thinks later on, there will definitely be obstacles they come up against but both were confident they could be themselves and find acceptance and common ground. And I was too.
What would happen when the bubble finally burst? When life threw a roadblock in their path?
They’d survive, bitches. That’s what.
What else? I love the way that Tatiana’s sexual appetite is celebrated here. There is no slut shaming in the book – Wyatt delights in how sexually compatible they are and I think they are unlikely to ever be sexually bored with one another. But more than the hot sex and the funny one-liners, this was a book showcasing the importance of communication to a successful relationship and it showed two grown-ups being smart and I have to love that.
“Are we done talking?”
“We’re never done talking…”