Friday, March 22, 2019

Book Spotlight on Risky Play by Rachel Van Dyken (Review & GIVEAWAY)

Fans of sports-fueled romances will find themselves drawn to this tale of two bruised souls whose one-night stand ends up becoming something much more meaningful as a star soccer player and a wine heiress end up on a rocky road to HEA.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of Risky Play by Rachel Van Dyken, along with my impressions of this series starter, then learn even more about this book courtesy of Ms. Dyken’s discussion of why sports heroes make the best book boyfriends.  In honor of this first installment in the Red Card series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a $25 Amazon GC along with a digital copy of this book too!

Why Sports Heroes Make the Best Book Boyfriends...Hey everyone! I’m Rachel Van Dyken, author of over eighty (holy crap) books in multiple genres, one of my favorites being, sports romance! My latest book, Risky Play, is about two broken main characters who find themselves on a last minute holiday to Puerto Vallarta.
Pro Soccer player Slade Rodriguez is trying to lay low after finding out his girlfriend and his ex teammate hooked up behind his back, for over a year. Licking his wounds he changes teams and moves to Seattle, but isn’t ready to settle down yet. Needing time to himself, he gets on the first jet out. He sits next to Mackenzie Dupont on a plane and is immediately intrigued, especially since a few hours into the plane ride, they have single engine failure. She asks him what one thing he would do different. And they kiss. Once the plane safely lands, to protect his own identity, he gives her a fake name, Hugo. What he doesn’t realize is she’s famous in her own right, so she does the same thing. After all, she’s running away from a broken engagement. What follows is a whole lot of steaminess and taking chances with a complete stranger assuming that it’s just that, a one night stand, a two night stand. Whatever it is, Mackenzie's obsessed with "Hugo's" intense golden gaze, the eight pack helps, and the fact that he seems genuinely interested in everything she says. He promises the universe he’s going to keep her, but sometimes the universe is against us. Tragedy strikes and they go their separate ways only to meet again in Seattle, this time, sparks fly and not the good kind The "I want to kiss you, then strangle you, then kiss you again" kind.
I love writing sports romances because I think it adds this extra layer of pressure from the press to act a certain way. Not only does Slade have to deal with paparazzi but he has pressure to perform, to lead his team to the championships after training with another team. I think it brings in so many details from behind the scenes that we never think about when watching sports on TV. I’m fully dedicated to interviewing real athletes (and my last sports romance I interviewed NFL players). This time I wanted to focus on a sport that isn’t as huge here as it is internationally and really do it justice. These athletes eat, sleep, and breathe their sport, there isn’t a lot of time for a personal life and if you do have one, the balance is always going to be a struggle (not to mention the fact that Slade is still mourning). In this book, I wanted to introduce a really strong female character that wouldn’t let Slade project all those feelings and basically Mackenzie is the type of girl that doesn’t put up with his crap. I think it's important to have strong female characters that women can look up to. I love that during the entire journey my heroine doesn’t give up. She knows her worth and demands that Slade recognize it too.
All in all it was such a fun book to write, I can’t wait for everyone to read it!

What else can a virgin do when she’s ditched at the altar? Seattle heiress Mackenzie Dupont is treating herself to a single-girl honeymoon in Mexico and a desire to relinquish her innocence to a gorgeous one-night stand. Fake names. True pleasure. But when she wakes up alone, Mackenzie realizes just how much anger is left in her broken heart.
Suffering a tragic personal loss, pro soccer player Slade Rodriguez has his reasons for vanishing without a goodbye. Right or wrong, he’s blaming the beautiful and infuriating stranger he never wants to see again. They’re both in for a shock when Mackenzie shows up as his new personal assistant. And they both have a lot to learn about each other. Because they share more than they could possibly know, including a common enemy who’s playing his own games. And he’s not afraid to get dirty.
Now there’s only one way Mackenzie and Slade can win: to trust in each other and to stop hiding from the lies they’ve told, the secrets they’ve kept, the mistakes they’ve made, and the attraction that still burns between them.


I was kissing her again.
Maybe it was because it had been months since I’d had a decent kiss, since I’d jumped into the arms of anyone who didn’t know me by name.
I could be Hugo for a few days.
Hugo seemed spontaneous.
Hugo seemed relaxed.
Hugo seemed fun.
I sure as hell needed some fun.
I broke away from her kiss and trailed my fingertips down her chin. “So, now that we’ve established the plane didn’t crash and we’re here side by side, what did you have in mind?”
Ashley grinned up at me, her eyes a bit hesitant as she looked from me to the ocean. “Well, I’ve never gone cliff diving, I heard there’s a great place close by.”
My eyebrows shot up. “No offense, but you don’t seem like a thrill seeker.”
She laughed. I decided I liked the way her laugh relaxed me, made me respond with a smile and a need to kiss her again. “I’m not, trust me.” She sobered a bit. Her lips turned down.
I wanted nothing more than to press a soft kiss to the corner of her mouth just to see if it would it make it decide to smile in my direction again.
“But it would be fun, I need fun.”
I sighed heavily and looked at my feet. When the hell had I ever looked away like that? “That makes both of us.”
“Great!” She walked ahead of me into her penthouse suite, which matched mine even in color. I suddenly wondered what she did for a living. I mean I could afford it because I had been the highest paid soccer star in Europe for the last ten years.
The place was around three grand a day.
I eyed the large master suite as she ran around and then held up her hand. “One sec, I’m going to change into a suit, alright?”
“Great.” I smiled reassuringly. It would give me time to look around, not that I was stalking her, but I could never be too careful. I was still surprised she didn’t recognize me. And I knew when she did, this little facade, this freedom I felt in my chest, the easy way she let me breathe around her? It would go to hell, and I’d need another escape.
I thumbed through a few of the magazines on the table, and dropped the last one down just in time to hear the sliding bathroom door open and see a goddess emerge.
A one-piece swimsuit covered her body. It had a plunging neckline that showed off two generously sized breasts, and I immediately regretted not telling her who I was.
Because clothing tended to get pulled off, not put on, when I was in the room.
I eyed the scrap of material she called a swimsuit, my eyes raking over her muscular legs, her curvy body.
“Unless you’re jumping naked, you should change too,” she pointed out, then cleared her throat and looked away like she was insecure. Damn, the woman could make a man cut his own heart out for a taste of her special brand of sin.
I peeled my shirt off over my body and shrugged. “Ready.”
Her eyes went so wide I had to fight not to laugh.
I knew what she saw.
I had Instagram pages dedicated to my eyes alone, don’t even get me started on my abs.
Tight, packed abs, all tanned and golden like I was the sun god himself.
“Uh, right.” Her cheeks brightened as she clasped her hands together. “Let’s go!”
I checked her out the entire time she walked ahead of me, and when she caught me staring I just shrugged and said, “Next time wear more clothes if you don’t want me to look.”
“You should talk,” she fired back.
“Misunderstanding.” I grinned. “I wanted you to look.”
She slapped a hand against my bare chest.
I laughed, and then grabbed her hand and kissed her fingertips. “You ready to jump off a cliff with a stranger you’ve kissed twice?”
“Once,” she corrected with a whisper. “I kissed you, you kissed me, we’re even.”
The doors to the elevator opened as I whispered under my breath. “Not for long.”




Two people who seem to have everything find themselves at their lowest points when a near-death experience has them clinging to each other in a moment that changes their lives irrevocably.  The road to HEA doesn’t go smoothly for these two though as his grief has him pushing her away at every turn while her vulnerabilities and battered self-esteem has her doubting every feeling he arouses in her.  Oodles of sexual tension, witty banter, and lots of push and pull moments eventually has their one-night stand taking them from friends to lovers in a hard-fought journey to HEA that had me rooting for them every step of the way.

Mackenzie DuPont’s life seemed all mapped-out with her and family friend Alton destined to marry one day and take her family’s winery to the top.  Being with Alton was like being with a friend, every part of her life entwined with his, so she felt lost when he left her at the altar.  It was a moment of shame (in front of their social circle and the media) that had her wanting to hide as she felt lacking in some way.  Months of sadness and constant introspection led her to Puerto Vallarta where she meets a sexy man who helps her start living again before breaking her heart too.  With her ex still employed at the family winery, along with his new girlfriend, what was once a haven now feels like a betrayal that she isn’t ready to deal with.  Taking a job that’s dramatically different from what those in her circle usually takes has her coming face to face with the mystery man who’s now angry and bitter and sets both of them on a path of healing that’s raw and painful but empowering nonetheless.  Mack’s a likable heroine who was betrayed by not only a man she saw as a lover, but also as a friend.  Alton made sure that he was the center of her world and then pulled the rug out from under her.  It was a blow to not only her heart but to her soul, making her feel that she’s not good enough and not worthy of love.  Her one-night stand with Slade made her feel wanted and powerful which is why his walking away hurt so bad.  Their reunion was just as hurtful as his words and deeds cut deep, making her again feel unworthy.  I hated him for it too but applauded her reaction to it as she gave as good as she got.  She finally stood up for herself in a defining moment that set her and Slade on equal footing and gave them a chance at HEA.  Mack was clearly broken down at the start of the story and with each turn of the page she slowly picked herself up and dusted herself off.  No matter how hurtful Slade was to Mack she was still able to forgive him, and help him through his own pain, and this too spoke of her strong inner-strength and made me like her all the more.

Readers first glimpse of Slade Rodriguez is of a man also betrayed by love as his fiancee got pregnant with his best friend’s child which led him to the bold decision to leave everything behind to start over in the US.  As a star soccer player every move he makes is watched by the world which is why the sexy woman not recognizing him while on vacation has him immensely attracted to her.  His ex and far too many other women have only wanted him for what he is instead of who he is behind the athletic mask.  He’s drawn to Mack as she brings light and joy to his sadness and frustration, even though they don’t know each other’s real names.  A moment of heaven leads to tragedy though and has him leaving without a word.  The loss of the one person to support him unconditionally threw him into a very dark place, a place that left him unrecognizable to himself, that had him saying the most hurtful things to Mack the moment she unexpectedly shows up on his doorstep as his new assistant.  Slade was truly awful when Mack first started working for him and it made me doubt that he would ever be worthy of someone so kindhearted.  Each day that she stood up for herself, each moment that he thought only of her instead of his pain, brought him back to the endearing and flirtatious man he was during their time away from the world.  He truly humbled himself to her, exposed his vulnerabilities, and slowly but surly he redeemed himself in my eyes and I could see why he and Mack were so right for each other. Despite those bad behaviors Slade’s one super sexy soccer player, competitive with a bit of alpha that shows up when teammate Jagger shows an interest in Mack.  His interactions with his lovable dog Alfie also warmed my heart and showed him more than capable of loving someone despite how angry he became through the heartbreaking death and betrayal that befell his life.

When it comes to Ms. Van Dyken’s writing I can always count on her for crackling dialogue teeming with sexual tension and this series starter had just that and more as Mack and Slade were a realistic couple whose emotions were on display for all to see. They weren’t afraid to show their vulnerabilities to each other and it made for a strong foundation to build their instant attraction into friendship into a HEA.  It wasn’t an easy journey though as jealousy, and the truly unlikable Alton, caused a few speed bumps along the way before reaching the immensely satisfying final chapter and the charming epilogue. Mack and Slade were fun and flirty, crackling in their banter, while sizzling in the bedroom and out, and I enjoyed their journey even when I wanted to slap Slade for his bad behavior.  Alongside this appealing main couple was an equally likable cast of secondary characters who are mostly in Slade’s inner circle.  Slade’s agent Matt definitely left his mark as the playful yet supportive friend who was a shark when it came to business.  He didn’t hesitate when calling out Slade on his bad behavior and the mocking way he did so showed their deep decades-long friendship.  Slade’s interactions with teammate Jagger were much more antagonistic as years of battles on the soccer field bled out off the field in regards to Jagger’s obvious attraction to Mack.  I enjoyed the fiery side Jagger engendered in Slade and the push it gave him to step up and be the kind of man Mack needed.  Jagger’s feelings for Mack endeared him to me as he cared for her for who she was inside, not for her family name.  He would’ve been happy if their friendship had evolved into something more and it warmed my heart that all he wanted was for her to be happy...even if it was with Slade.  I long to learn more about him as the glimpses we got of him, and his past with Slade, are truly tempting.  On a whole this is a well-crafted series starter with a decadently delightful balance between romance and athleticism.  Fans of HEAs will be thrilled by this book’s near-perfect conclusion and counting down the days until the next installment.

My rating for this is an A-

*I got this book from NetGalley for review in exchange for my honest opinion.


Rachel Van Dyken is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and #1 New York Times bestselling author known for regency romances, contemporary romances, and her love of coffee and Swedish fish. Rachel’s also recently inked a deal for her Wingmen Inc. series—The Matchmaker’s Playbook and The Matchmaker’s Replacement—to be made into movies.
A fan of The Bachelor and the Seattle Seahawks (not necessarily in that order), Rachel lives in Idaho with her husband, a super cute toddler son who keeps her on her toes, and two boxers.


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