Midnight Play by Lisa Marie Perry ~ A Review

Love evens the score

As general manager of the Las Vegas Slayers, Danica Blue goes toe-to-toe with players whose size is matched only by their egos. Quarterback Dex Harper is the biggest and toughest of them all, with a hell-raiser reputation that he insists he doesn't deserve. And Danica, the good daughter who's always played by the rules, is suddenly tempted to break every last one. 

Football is the only thing Dex has ever been able to count on. To save his career he needs Danica's PR savvy, and he's happy to help her discover her inner bad girl in return. But glimpsing the real woman behind that sexy, flawless facade is making him realize how much is at stake. Because getting back on the team could mean losing Danica, unless he's willing to risk it all—and play for keeps….

Let me just say I love the idea of this book. I'm glad I was able to hop in on the 'good daughter's' book because I find the good girl/bad boy trope rather fascinating in romance and I like to see how different authors handle the clashing of two different personalities.

Midnight Play also made good use of some of the other tropes I like to read in romance like enemies to lovers in addition to opposites attract. Then it throws them together in a sports themed world. I've been meaning to read more sports romances and Midnight Play fits the bill. It was a mixed bag for me with a couple of things I really enjoyed and some things that were a bit surprising that I could leave behind.

First of all, what I loved. I loved how Danica was put together. She's a no-nonsense woman with a whip smart career mind that showcases her talent to be the Slayer's team GM. I loved seeing her handle herself and her family during the press conference scenes. Ms. Perry has a talent for witty banter and I have to say this was one of my favorites:

“Question for the general manager.”
Danica sent the reporter a coy grin. He faltered for a moment, backlit by the flashes of cameras, but that fleeting hesitation was all she needed to know she could handle whatever he dished out.
“How satisfied are you with TreShawn Dibbs?” the reporter asked, referring to the kicker Danica had hired in spite of his checkered past and the firestorm of talk about his prior experiences with performance-enhancement substances.

“Since the season opener he’s abided by the terms of his contract with our team and he’s maintained one hundred percent accuracy on all field goals. Who wouldn’t be satisfied with stats like that?”
That didn’t stop him from persisting, though. “Even you have to admit it was a risky move to acquire a player suspected of so many transgressions.”

“Dibbs is healthy and giving our franchise the results we want. What would football be without risky moves? You never know what action I’m going to take next. Don’t ruin all the excitement by trying to predict me.”

This earned a wave of laughter, and the reporter blushed as though embarrassed to have even broached the subject.

Loved that. Danica kicks butt verbally and can go toe to toe with anyone (outside of her family) if need be. Inside of her family is another story. She is jelly in front of her parents, her mother a hotsy totsy socialite who always seems put together is quick to turn her into the dutiful daughter who never quite seems to be at the top of her form. She is the straight and arrow one among her more wilder sisters (who each have their own separate books) and naturally she comes unglued when the hero makes his appearance. She also has an ex-husband who still has eyes for her. Speaking of said ex-husband, I didn't mind that we got a glimpse of him still jonesing for Danica. It added an edge of suspense that I had hoped would go somewhere but sadly didn't. One thing it did give was this nice exchange between him and Danica.

Marion shook his head. “I will love you for the rest of my life, Danni. Don’t go thinking that’ll change because we signed some papers last year.”

“But you’re not in love with me. That changed before we signed the papers.” She forced her expression into one that was casual—impassive. “Dredging this all up again is rooting us in a place we shouldn’t be. We’re different now, Marion. You’re music and BET and MTV. I’m sports and ESPN. We’ve got separate lives. Let’s live them.”

Snort. Considering how all over the place music is with both BET and MTV and how sports and ESPN go together like peanut butter and jelly, I like how Ms. Perry uses this to show how all over the place Marion is and how put together Danica is. I kind of wish we could see a bit more of Marion to confirm that analogy which was brilliant.

I like that Danica was a divorced woman who still caved around her parents. No matter how old their children get, some parents have such a strong influence and hold on their children that doesn't stop once a magical number appears when they age. Considering the Blues work together so closely in their professional and mostly social lives, the bond and hold is stronger, so I understand why Danica couldn't quite stand up to her parents (and namely her mother).

I liked this aspect of the book and felt it was stronger when Danica was on her own weathering a balance between both aspects of her lives while fending off a stalkerish husband. If the book continued with this strength while balancing a burgeoning romance with Dex the football player, this would have been a seriously captivating read for me.

Unfortunately, when Dex and Danica got in the vicinity of each other, I felt the book tended to suffer a bit. It's weird I find this happening in a lot of current romance books. Although I don't read much women's fiction, I find that some romance books tend to be stronger when the female character is on her own. Consequently, I felt like I didn't know as much about Dex as I did about Danica. It's understandable because the book revolves around her family's business, but he felt more like a supporting role in her life rather than the hero in the romance book. I did love the glimpses we got into his family connection, but I wanted to know more about him than just knowing he ran between hot and cold with Danica.

Also in this instance, the main characters' attraction felt more to me like lust than love and I would have loved to have seen more tension built up over the course of the book. They didn't get together until about halfway point which I wouldn't mind if the tension was there pulling them together the whole time. Maybe I've been burned by too many IR books focusing on the physical relationship between the main characters but I wanted more substance in their attraction that really focused on a romance-y type of romance rather than how their bodies reacted to each other. A few instances made me side eye the characters. I would have loved to have seen more romantic reaction, such as their scene when Dex made his appearance at the wedding.

Her plate slipped from her grasp, but her panicked “Oh, crap!” hung in the air as a man caught the dish in one hand and wound a muscled arm around her waist. She was aware of being crushed against a hard male body, of cologne with hints of rum and spice, yet her eyes were on her plate.

“You rescued my cake! I could kiss you.”

Love this! It was very cute and very romantic and swoony for the setup.

Midnight Play has descriptions and words that I don't remember reading in the Kimani line prior to this book. I'm not sure if the line (and only this line) is turning up the heat or if because it features POC and IR couples but it's something I will keep a close eye on in future books from Kimani. I wish Harlequin would offer more bwwm IR couples in their other lines (preferably Special Edition, Superromance and their romantic suspense lines) and not just in one section. It's a complaint I have with IR books in genre which have come it's own genre in a way with erotic books on one side and sweet books on the other. It's tough to navigate which one is which at times and with Harlequin having their own distinct branded lines, it makes the kind of book I want to read much easier to find. As a Harlequin reader panelist, I'll continue to make note of this to HQN themselves.

I'm glad MP didn't veer into fetish fiction where the different races of the couple was highlighted and a source of confusion and conflict from the heroine's POV. They were played as GM and player with that and the differences in their family backgrounds molding their interest and hesitation toward each other. The one instance race was mentioned was in a wonderfully written description in passing (His tanned skin contrasted with her own sun-kissed brown complexion as he tried to press something into her hand.)

There were a lot more lines and dialogue I highlighted in my Nook book that the author really played well but to include them would make this a book length review in itself. I love love love her talent for dialogue and description and pretty much almost highlighted most of my ebook copy with great lines. I will say that I hope Ms. Perry revisits the IR genre once more in the future.