Playing the Enemy by Maggie Dallen

Playing the Enemy Cover

Delightful, G-rated, YA, sports romance

Playing the Enemy (The Trouble with Tomboys #1) by Maggie Dallen

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: October 16, 2019
Pages: 195 pages
Source: ARC From Author
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Hannah Crowley has lived in a small town in Upstate New York her whole life. For all of her school years, she has attended Lakeview Prep, a ritzy, private, K-12 school, with her next-door neighbor, and boyfriend of the past five years, Caleb Everette. She’d assumed that she and Caleb would be together forever, though their relationship was anything but romantically passionate. But that was just the way Hannah liked it. They were good friends who kissed occasionally and could count on each other as a reliable date for school dances. Then, out of the blue, the summer before their junior year, Caleb falls for another girl and callously dumps Hannah via text. And to add insult on top of injury, as captain of the Lakeview Prep intramural soccer team that they’ve both been part of since grade school, Caleb makes it humiliatingly clear to Hannah that because her presence on the team with him would upset his new girlfriend, he wants Hannah off the team.

Hannah feels almost as wounded by Caleb’s second betrayal as his first one. Her passion is basketball, and she is outstanding at it. But she is also very good at soccer, and even though she plays it mainly as a way of staying in shape and competitive during the basketball off-season, it is an exhilarating pastime for her. She is devastated to think she won’t be able to play soccer, until her best friend, Rose, reminds her that there is another possibility in town for her to play the game.

River Owens is a star soccer player who attends Fairmont, the local public high school, and is captain both of the school’s soccer team and Fairmont’s off-season, intramural soccer team. He and Caleb Everette are the same age and have been bitter rivals since elementary school, during both the regular soccer season and the off-season intramural league. River believes that if there is anyone standing in the way of his winning a full-ride, soccer scholarship to college, it’s Caleb. So it’s a big shock when Caleb’s lovely, long-time girlfriend, Hannah Crowley, asks to play on the Fairmont intramural soccer team. When they were little kids, and Caleb and River were still friends, Hannah had been River’s friend as well. But once she became Caleb’s girlfriend, around the same time that Caleb and River became enemies, Hannah has never talked to River since then. Until today.

It is obvious to Hannah when she shows up at the bedraggled Fairmont soccer field that River Owens is deeply suspicious of her. So she assures him, when he grills her as to her intentions, that she is not a spy for the Lakeview team, and she is no longer the girlfriend of his biggest enemy.

River’s team is desperate for a solid, female soccer player. Hannah is one of the best in town, and her offering to play for them is like the answer to a prayer. But more than that, she is the girl River has had a crush on for the past six years. And she is finally single.

I am a big fan of YA sports romances where the heroine is a talented athlete, and it is even more fun when the romantic hero is outstanding in the same sport as the heroine. Hannah and River are both highly sympathetic protagonists, and they are terrific together. Another big plus for me is that this book is written in the classic romance format: dual point of view of the hero and heroine, no cheating or romantic triangles, and a guaranteed, and believable, HEA.

The soccer scenes are very well done in this book. They are detailed enough to add excitement, but concise enough to avoid boring non-soccer fans. In addition, there are many fun and colorfully drawn subcharacters. In particular, Hannah’s nine-year-old brother, Bentley, is adorable and contributes a lot to the story. As do her friend Rose and her two long-distance girlfriends, who are fellow, skilled athletes, and who are the protagonists of the other two books in this trilogy.

Like all Ms. Dallen’s books, this one is G-rated. There is no cussing, drinking, smoking, drugs or sex. But even though there is no more than kissing between Hannah and River, these two vibrant, attractive protagonists have plenty of chemistry, and it was a great pleasure for me to experience their courtship.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 5

Hero: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Romance Plot: 5

Soccer Plot: 5

Writing: 5

Overall: 5

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