Kissing the Player by Maggie Dallen

Kissing the Player Cover

Kissing the Player (The Dangers of Dating a Diva #1) by Maggie Dallen

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: June 16, 2020
Pages: 208 pages
Source: ARC from author
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Beautiful, charismatic Rose Parson’s unremitting goal, for many years now, has been to become a professional actress. A big step in that direction would be to win the Northeast Regional Scholarship for the Dramatic Arts. The competition is fierce among the vastly talented contestants, but if she manages to win, it would prove to her—and many other professionals who matter—the she is a truly talented actress. Rose is finally eligible to take advantage of this major opportunity because she is a senior in high school. She can’t afford to allow any distractions to get in her way, and the worst possible distraction would be to fall in love with a teenage boy. Not only that, succumbing to love would be a fatal first step along the primrose path of turning into her mother, a five-time-loser trophy wife who, in spite of her appalling track record with men, continues to insist to her daughter that the only rational career goal for a beautiful girl like Rose is to land a rich husband.

Unfortunately, there is a big issue making it a challenge for Rose to avoid turning into her dysfunctional mother’s Mini Me—Rose likes boys. She likes to flirt with them, to date them and, especially, to kiss them. To protect herself from the potential romantic fallout of indulging in this risky pastime, she long ago created an impermeable guardrail around her heart—her two-week rule. She never allows any relationship to last more than two weeks. That way, she and her latest temporary boyfriend can enjoy a little mutual fun and then walk away unscathed. No harm, no foul.

Well, okay, sure, there will occasionally be some alphahole who decides to become offended about Rose’s rule. But that type doesn’t bother her conscience at all. She’s perfectly sure that it can only be his ego that is bruised, since it’s impossible for him not to realize, as she does, that the end of their togetherness is inevitable before it even begins.

Jax Hadley despises Rose Parson. What a player! He has immensely resented her ever since she broke his heart in tenth grade. Yes, technically, he was on the verge of breaking up with her before she beat him to it. But she couldn’t have know that! And the totally unexpected shock of her rejection devastated him. He is positive that Rose has broken countless other hearts over the past two years, as well, because he’s witnessed her casually stringing along, and quickly discarding, guy after guy. It’s always the same shtick. She picks out her latest victim, makes him fall for her with her gorgeousness, magnetism, and skill as an actress to create a romantic illusion, then once she has him thoroughly hooked, she tosses him aside and moves on to her next victim. She never dates the same poor loser twice. And yet every meathead in the school continues to entertain the ridiculous conviction that he will somehow prove to be the exception to her two-week rule. But every single time, Rose proves yet again just how shallow, flakey, and heartless she is.

Rose loathes Jax Hadley. What a player! Ever since their intense but very brief relationship in the tenth grade, he has gone through girls like Kleenex. He uses his handsomeness, wit, and the fact that he’s a talented musician to draw girl after girl to him like iron filings to a magnet. It’s always the same routine. He flirts with his latest conquest, makes out with her, then walks away. Naïve girl after naïve girl has fallen for him over the years, in spite of the fact, or so Rose has heard, that he always coolly informs every girl, who is unfortunate enough to tangle with him, that he doesn’t do relationships. As if that gets him off the hook for being a prize jerk! Not! Every girl he has fleetingly hung out with has inevitably assumed that she’ll be the exception to his no-commitment rule. But every single time, Jax proves yet again just how much of a narcissistic, callous user he is.

Jax and Rose would have been satisfied with abhorring each other from afar until their final year in high school ends, but Jax interrupts their entrenched pattern when he allows himself to be goaded into a dubious bet with Rose’s latest dumpee. If he can finagle Rose into violating her entrenched player pattern by not only becoming the first guy she’s ever given a second chance, but also dating him for an entire month, up to and including attending a school dance with him the following month, Rose’s ex will pay him the princely sum of $500. The combined enticements of easy cash, for a much desired amp for his guitar that he otherwise cannot afford, and the chance to deliver a much deserved comeuppance for Rose, are together too much of a temptation for Jax to resist.

Rose is shocked when Jax, who has ghosted her for the past two years, is suddenly hanging around her, flattering her, and flashing the irresistible dimples that have weakened many a girl’s knees—and spine. But Rose doesn’t trust him an inch, and it doesn’t take her long to figure out his game.

Try to take her for a ride will he? Ha! She’ll show him. He doesn’t know the first thing about acting, and he’s a fool if he thinks he can out-perform a diva extraordinaire like her in a dangerous game where the stakes are nothing less than, who will be the first to break the other’s heart?

This G-rated, romantic comedy offers an adorable version of an ever-green theme of the romance genre, the “reunion romance.” It also provides a cute and welcome twist on another popular romance trope, “the rake and the virgin,” whose G-rated version is, “the player and the virgin.” The twist for the latter in this fun novel is, “player vs. player.” In that regard, the cream of the jest is that both Rose and Jax are comically hypocritical. What each hates about the other is that they are mirrors for each other in their behavior toward the opposite sex. And neither is willing to admit, to themselves or anyone else, that ending their brief, intense romance two years before was a huge, heart-rending mistake.

This book is extremely well written. There is an excellent growth arc, individually and as a couple, for Rose and Jax. And I especially liked that there is a lovely epilogue providing a convincing and heartwarming HEA.

This is the first book in what looks to be a terrific, YA romance series of four books, each by different authors. I can’t wait to read them all, because I am a fan of each of these talented authors.

The Dangers of Dating a Diva series includes:

Kissing the Player by Maggie Dallen (Book 1), release date June 16, 2020

Kissing the Hero by Christina Benjamin (Book 2), release date June 30, 2020

Kissing the Debutante by Michelle MacQueen & Ann Marie Craven (Book 3), release date July 14

Kissing the Shy Guy by Stephanie Street (Book 4), release date July 28, 2020

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 4

Hero: 4

Subcharacters: 4

Romance Plot: 4

Acting Career Plot: 4

Family Drama Plots: 4

Writing: 4

Overall: 4

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