Playing to Win by Stephanie Street

Playing to Win Cover

Delightful, G-rated, YA, sports romance!

Playing to Win (The Trouble with Tomboys #2) by Stephanie Street

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Pages: 199 pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Jordan Parks is a talented hockey player who lives in Lakeview, a real-life suburb on the North Side of Chicago. Hockey is very big deal in that part of the country, and Jordan’s immediate and extended family are all hockey mad. Her father coaches a local boys’ hockey team for older teens, and Jordan and all three of her brothers have played hockey since they were five years old. Her 21-year-old brother Bobby currently plays minor league hockey, and her 19-year-old brother Joe is captain of their dad’s team. Her uncles and cousins all play hockey as well, and Jordan has an aunt who plays for the US National team. For the past 12 years Jordan has played on a girls’ hockey team but, for her senior year, she has won a place on her dad and brother Joe’s team. Her top priorities for this final year of high school are getting good grades and excelling at hockey in order to earn a scholarship to a university with a women’s hockey team. In order to catch the attention of college scouts, she needs to earn a position as a starter on the team. Jordan has never dated, doesn’t have time to date, and even if she wished to date—which she does not—she would never date a teammate. Not only would it be a massive distraction, it could potentially bring disrupting drama to her hockey team.

Asher Sloane’s father recently purchased a car dealership in Lakeview, causing Asher to have to move away from Minnesota for his senior year in high school. His father is a former college hockey star, whose NHL hopes were destroyed when he sustained a catastrophic knee injury during a car accident while still in college. He has always pushed Asher to shine at hockey, and over the years has signed up Asher for every kind of training imaginable for agility, strength and speed. All that training combined with a huge amount of natural talent, has turned Asher into every bit as much of a star hockey player as his dad used to be. But, unfortunately for his dad’s ambitions for his son, Asher’s passion is not hockey. It is music. More than anything he wants to be a singer/songwriter. He plays the guitar, sings, and writes both the lyrics and music for his own original songs.

To Jordan’s dismay, on her very first day of hockey practice, she learns that she and the new guy, Asher, will be competing for the same spot on the team. Worse, he is an extremely talented player who is much better than she is. Which means with him around, she may be riding the bench all season, with few opportunities to be spotted by scouts. Naturally enough, she greatly begrudges the fact that he stands between her and achieving her goals, but at the same time, she can’t help feeling strongly attracted to him. Asher is an extremely good-looking guy, and he doesn’t seem at all discouraged by the frosty reception she is giving to his consistently friendly overtures. In addition, she soon discovers that his family has moved into the house directly behind hers, and he is impossible to ignore. Every night he hangs out for hours in his back yard, easily seen and heard from her bedroom window, while he plays the guitar and sings lovely lyrics in a beautiful voice. Keeping a safely resentful distance from her hockey rival is proving to be a very tall order.

I am a major fan of young-adult sports romances in which the heroine is a talented athlete. It’s even more fun when she and the romantic hero are both skilled at her sport and play on the same team, as is the case with this book. Both Jordan and Asher are dynamic and sympathetic protagonists individually, and as a couple they are very well matched. Their verbal exchanges are lively and fun and, in spite of this being a G-rated romance, there is tons of sizzling chemistry between them.

I greatly appreciated the fact that Jordan has a wonderful family, rather than the cliché, YA, dysfunctional, ineffectual, or invisible parents and/or mean siblings. She is very close to her parents and brothers. Her dad is a great father, and her mother is affectionate and supportive as well. Her oldest brother Bobby lives in the same town as his family and rooms with her brother Joe, and Jordon frequently connects with them. Her younger brother Payton is twelve and is the source of a terrific subplot that involves Jordon, her whole family, and Asher.

I adore Asher. He is a wonderful guy with a good heart. In addition to the exciting interactions between him and Jordan, I loved the scenes with his infant half-brother and his mentor relationship with Payton.

I also enjoyed Jordan’s female friends. She has a long-distance relationship with two girls she met a few years before at a sports camp, who are the heroines of the two other books in this trilogy. Locally, Jordan has two other athletic girls as her closest friends. Kelly is on the swim team, and Natalie plays volleyball. Either of those two girls would, in their own right, make an excellent heroine of another YA sports romance.

Finally, I especially liked that fact that this author follows the classic, adult-romance structure for a romance novel, including: dual point-of-view of both Jordan and Asher, no cheating or romantic triangle, and a guaranteed HEA played out in a satisfying epilogue.

All in all, I enjoyed every part of this story, and this book is definitely a keeper for me. I highly recommend it for YA sports-romance fans of all ages.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 5

Hero: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Hockey Subplot: 5

Coming of Age Plot: 5

Little Brother Subplot: 5

Hero’s Family Drama Subplot: 5

Writing: 5

Overall: 5

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