Playing Dirty - Susan Anderson
Released August 2011
Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth
Ava Spencer suffered the utmost in humiliation when Cade Gallari made it clear he'd only slept with "the fat girl" as part of a bet. Now she's 10 years smarter and she's not about to fall to his charms again. She owns a mansion where he needs to film his latest documentary and she needs the money, but she will handle this as the business transaction it is and nothing more.
Unfortunately, Ava finds herself struggling to resist his charms. Cade wants to show Ava that he's truly sorry for his actions of the past, but he isn't sure what to do to get her to believe he never meant to hurt her. As his passion for Ava grows, he finds himself desperate to get her to forgive him so that they can have the future they deserve.
There is definite sizzle between Ava and Cade. I did, at times, find her rather whiny. She was overweight as a teen and cannot move on with her life. Per the book, she's a size 12 and turns men's heads, yet she still will not move on from the hurt caused by both her mother and Cade. For as strong a heroine as she seemed at times, her insistence on fretting over her weight seemed out of character. At one point, she shows up during filming wearing a tight fitting dress knowing it will drive Cade crazy. She clearly knows men like what they see, yet she still worries about her weight incessantly.
Ava has two best friends who co-own the mansion. As I read Playing Dirty, I found myself wondering if I'd missed previous books in this series. It turns out I had because Bending the Rules 2009) is Poppy's story and Cutting Loose (2008) is Jane's story.
There's also a secondary plot involving stolen jewels hidden within the mansion and a criminal desperate to find them. This minor plot adds conflict that I'm not sure was necessary to the story, but readers who enjoy romantic suspense may enjoy having this slight mystery to break up the interactions between Cade and Ava.
Playing Dirty is a fun romance. I wouldn't say it's a keeper for me, but it definitely did keep me reading from start to finish. I've read many of Susan Andersen's romances and this isn't a favorite, but her fans will certainly enjoy the last book in this Wolcott Mansion trilogy.