Tempting the Player by Kat Latham

Tempting the Player LathamWhy I read it:  After reading and enjoying Knowing the Score recently, I bought the rest of the books in the series. I mistakenly thought this was the second book but it’s the third. It works as a stand-alone and does not spoil the second book but my sense of order was nevertheless offended by my error!

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Libby Hart and Matt Ogden are perfect for each other—as friends. They’ve known each other for ages. They act as each other’s plus-ones. They even share custody of a dog. And if there’s always been a little spark between them, so what? It’s never been worth jeopardizing their friendship.

Professional rugby player Matt is fighting for a starter position with the London Legends—and that’s not the only thing he’s fighting. A crippling fear of flying means he’s struggling to get his career off the ground. He has no time for a relationship, even if Libby does make him ache. As an airline pilot, Libby’s looking for a stay-at-home husband so she can have a family without sacrificing her high-flying career. Matt’s certainly not that man.

But just because they don’t have a future together doesn’t mean they can’t have a right now. When Matt asks Libby for help overcoming his fear, they agree to take a vacation from their platonic relationship—whenever they fly together, they can have sex. It’s the perfect way to resolve all that built-up tension. As long as they can avoid getting a little too comfortable…

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I do enjoy a friends to lovers story and, as I mentioned in my review of Knowing the Score, I like the author’s writing style and voice. All of those things worked for me here and I did enjoy the book.  But there were some things which didn’t work for me so the experience wasn’t quite as successful with this one. Not, I might add, in any way that would make me cautious about reading more from this author however.

It is clear from the beginning that Matt Ogden has a secret.  That secret led to him having a fear of flying and a consequent degradation of his playing abilities.  He has been with the London Legends for five years but he’s never lived up to his promise.  Through tragic circumstances (the tragedy involving another character, not (yet) the subject of a book), Matt is given an opportunity.  Determined to grab it with both hands and run, he asks Libby his best friend, who also happens to be a pilot, to help him get over his fear of flying.

But the reasons behind the fear are not revealed until very very late in the book. I’m the type of reader who gets frustrated by secrets.  When I found out what the secret was, I understood Matt better but, for me at least, I don’t think there was a good reason for the reader not to know earlier.  It would have helped me relax into the book a little more and it wasn’t a big shocker a la The Sixth Sense or The Crying Game to make it necessary to only be revealed near the end.  I realise that’s very much about me as a reader and other readers may well have a completely different experience.

Libby is six years older than Matt. He still has an opportunity to have a successful career with the Legends but it will take dedication and effort.  Libby is a pilot who works away four days a week. She dreams of a husband and family. Her biological clock is ticking. She wants a husband who will “put family first”.  Matt (late in the book) quite rightly points out that what she means by this is “put his career on hold to look after the kids while she is away four days a week”.  At 28, Matt isn’t quite ready for children yet. His own father was a gifted rugby player and this meant he was largely absent – Matt doesn’t want to be that kind of dad.  Clearly, something will have to give.  For Matt and Libby to be together, Libby will have to adjust her expectations significantly – or Matt will.  There does not appear to be a middle ground.

In the end, they do reach a kind of compromise and it does work but (mild spoiler) Libby does go through somewhat of a change in what she wants. I wasn’t quite on board with her journey there. I think the narrative wanted me to see that she loved having Matt in her life as lover as well as BFF and the joy of that led to these adjustments. And, I can see that, intellectually. But I didn’t quite feel it from an emotional perspective. Perhaps it is more a reflection on how fraught some of these issues have been in my own life that I needed a little more to be convinced that Libby was happily making this adjustment and wouldn’t be resentful later on.

The conflict was believable and I felt for both of them actually.  I didn’t think it was fair for Matt to have to quit playing rugby to be with Libby and I didn’t think it was fair for Libby to have to give up/redefine her dreams to be with Matt – but it was one of those rock/hard place issues. I don’t believe that anyone can really “have it all”. I think everyone has to make choices and prioritise. I don’t make it about gender (although a lot of the time it is framed that way – because so often it is the woman who is forced to compromise) because I don’t think men are actually “having it all” either, no matter what they say. To have a career that takes 80+ hours a week or intense dedication etc, to have a family and be a hands-on parent and to be a completely engaged, loving partner – well, whatever your gender, something has to give.

I think the way the author gets around this is pretty neat and it works for the story. As a HEA lover, I’m not going to complain about things working out.  It’s just that it was all a bit quick for me – the change from wanting things to be a certain way to adjusting that desire. We’re not talking wanting takeaway for dinner here and switching from Chinese to Indian food. This is a bone-deep, long-held, desire-of-her-heart, kind of desire. In my own life, those kinds of desires have been very stubborn to budge, no matter how good for me I know it would be to change (if only it were that easy!).  Perhaps because of that, I needed a little more to “get it” here.

What else? Once again, I enjoyed the earthy, realistic portrayal of romance novel sex, Ms. Latham provides.  It’s still romance novel sex because it’s always magnificent with the best orgasms ever, but it is also realistic in that Libby gives Matt pointers on how to please her.  (I guess it is open for debate as to whether the part where Matt gratefully accepts those pointers is “realistic” or not :D. Kidding.)

There is definitely unresolved sexual tension from the start – Matt and Libby are both very attracted to one another.  Although, it was more instantaneous for Libby than it was for Matt.

If he stood and turned around, his trousers would hug the tightest arse Libby had ever seen. She could draw his bum from memory—not that she was good at art. She was pretty shit at it, actually. But she was fantastic at checking out Matt’s backside when he wasn’t paying attention.

I actually liked that Matt needed a little time to appreciate Libby’s beauty and it was understandable because when they first met, he was still technically married and reeling from [redacted].

There are also some lovely word pictures painted which illustrate how perfect Libby and Matt are together.

Matt rolled a condom on and slid into her as easily as if they’d been carved of the same flesh and only separated because of a grave mistake.

Babies and biological clocks are something I tend to have a bit of a hot button about because reasons, and the secrecy around Matt’s past was a source of frustration rather than intrigue for me.  I put those things in  the “personal quirks” column rather than objective criticism.  What is a hot button for me might be catnip to someone else.   The story is well written and Matt and Libby are both sympathetic characters with a wonderful connection and great chemistry. I enjoyed their banter and I loved the way they shared their ugly-cute little dog (that should have been a clue Matt and Libby!!).

Grade: B-



2 comments on “Tempting the Player by Kat Latham

  1. Rosario

    I was ok with Matt’s motivation, but struggled with Libby’s. I didn’t see how her dad’s infidelities would make her so convinced that a relationship would only work if the man was a stay-at-home dad. It seemed so clear that the problem was that her dad was a selfish bastard, and *that* was the problem, not his career!

    Also, I hated the demonisation of Matt’s first wife. Evil other women have become a hot button issue for me. It’s one of the few things that will make me go “nope, won’t read this”.

  2. Kaetrin

    @Rosario: She was very one-eyed in her view of “how things had to be” wasn’t she? 🙂

    As for Matt’s ex, I think I was so frustrated by how long it took to get to why they split up I forgot to be annoyed by the evil ex trope. It’s usually something that bothers me (with rare exception) but other things took my focus here.

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