Doing it at: 33%
Catnip: Hot Scot, A Foreign Affair, Puppy Love, Tattoos, Beards, Strong Female Lead, Big Brooding Hero, Brogue, Hot Scot, Rugby Players, Epic, Deep Dark Secrets, Shower Sex, Dual Narrative, #DISP, #TeamAnal
Shame Scale: Not a drop, The Play is a big, sweeping romance that will break your heart and you will feel fine recommending to anyone (no machetes in this one!)
Fantasy Cast: Tom Hardy, Kristin Kreuk
A troubled Scottish rugby player who doesn’t play by the rules.
A vivacious man-eater who’s given up on love.
When it comes to Lachlan and Kayla, opposites don’t just attract – they explode.
From the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact and The Offer, comes The Play, a standalone spinoff and contemporary romance about taking chances and rescuing hearts.
Kayla Moore has always been comfortable with her feisty, maneating reputation. At least it was fine until she hit her thirties and saw her best friends Stephanie and Nicola settle down with Linden and Bram McGregor, leaving Kayla to be the odd one out. Tired of being the third wheel with nothing but one-night stands and dead-end dates in San Francisco, Kayla decides to take a vow of celibacy and put men on the backburner.
That is until she lays her eyes on Linden and Bram’s cousin, hot Scot Lachlan McGregor. Lachlan is her sexual fantasy come to life – tall, tatted, and built like a Mack truck. With a steely gaze and successful rugby career back in Edinburgh, he’s the kind of man that makes her want to throw her vow right out the window. But Lachlan’s quiet and intense demeanor makes him a hard man to get to know, let alone get close to.
It isn’t until the two of them are thrown together one long, unforgettable night that Kayla realizes there is so much more to this brooding macho man than what meets the eye. But even with sparks flying between the two, Lachlan can’t stay in America forever. Now, Kayla has to decide whether to uproot her whole life and chance it all on someone she barely knows or risk getting burned once again.
Sometimes love is a game that just needs to be played.
Mary: By now you all probably realize that we’re a little evangelical about Karina Halle new releases. We’re fan girls and it’s hard for us to have any chill. But this book, you guys. This was the best thing I’ve read all year. Ridiculously sexy, achingly evocative, this one dragged us all over the emotional map.
PLUS: $1 from every preorder/release day sale is going to save-the-puppy charities, which is so fucking generous you guys – it’s a $3 book. And I’m not saying that a month of rescue dogs flooding my news feed sparked the start of a long-con on my husband so that we can get a puppy, but I will say that I will probably have a doggie by Christmastime.
Cleone: Rescue pups play a big part in the book, and this one had me hugging my pup extra tight (for support while I cried). AND looking at local dogs for adoption, for Mary ostensibly.
M: The Play is huge; it’s really two novels in one. Karina Halle generously sent us ARC’s for early review, but we got it in two chunks, roughly two weeks apart. So we read the first half and then tried to live normal lives even though we were basically dead inside, waiting for the second half. We could really do this whole review via text screenshots.
C: The wait in between Part One and Part Two arriving on our Kindles was rough, but I told myself it was like reading Victorian serials of yore. And really anytime Halle wants to send us any piece of a work in progress we will be psyched to read it.
M: This is the third book in Halle’s series about Hot Scots in San Francisco. It’s a standalone, so you can enjoy it plenty without having read the first two books in the series, but we’d recommend reading them because: 1. They’re both really really good, 2. I really enjoyed seeing the relationships and friendships in this series evolve throughout the span of the series, and 3. They’re on sale for 99 cents each right now which is like, basically free.
C: The McGregor boys just keep getting better too, I didn’t know if Wham-Bam- Thank-You-Bram could be topped, but Lachlan has taken over my heart like I’m Winterfell and he’s the Bastard of Bolton.
M: Maybe a good starting point would be to tell you that the whole book felt like it was inspired by this picture:
Yes. The hero was modeled after Tom Hardy, which was just perfect for us because we usually have to try to NOT picture Tom Hardy when we’re reading a scorching hot romance. So if Tom Hardy is your problem, you’ll have no problem with this book.
C: Have we talked about how Tom Hardy belongs to me? Because he does, Mary gave him to me in a legally binding contract on April 22, 2015.
C: But I was more than happy to share him with Karina. If one of our favorite authors wanted to give the world visions of Tom Hardy spanking a girl in a rugby locker room, who was I to be selfish with my best guy? She was writing us the dream book. We’ve been anticipating this for months, as she fed teasers to her Facebook group.
M: This book is about the last girl in the circle of friends, Kayla, who has been feeling a little bit sour grapes-y watching all her friends pair up with their true loves, while she’s having trouble finding a D who can give her the O, and Lachlan, a gorgeous, brooding, taciturn beast – WHO ALSO PLAYS RUGBY AND SPEAKS WITH A SCOTTISH BROGUE. He’s the adopted cousin of the boys in the first two books, in town to help Bram out with a charity project.
C: When our book opens, Kayla has heard tell of Lachlan but has yet to meet him. Which is probably for the best because Kayla has taken a vow of chastity. And she’s doing about as well with wanting to stick to it as Mary or I might. When Lachlan shows up at the bar he looks like all of her darkest fantasies come to life:
His voice is very low and very rough, like he belongs in a 40’s noir film, and his Scottish brogue is a million times thicker than Linden or Bram’s. My name coming from his mouth sounds like some kind of Gaelic dessert. Naturally that thought puts an image of him spreading me open on the table and eating me like a dessert. Jesus. I need a cold shower, stat.
Hell, if I hadn’t made a vow and actually had makeup on and fresh breath and didn’t have a live audience, I would be under the table, trying to put his dick in my mouth. I bet it’s glorious.
Sigh, I bet it’s glorious, too.
M: Kayla’s attitude towards her vow of chastity was so relatable you guys.
M: Bram asks Kayla to write an article about his charity housing project, and she decides to feature Lachlan since he’s a big Scottish rugby star, and would bring in more publicity. So Kayla – who doesn’t actually work in the article writing section of her news paper, she’s in advertising – sets off to interview Lachlan, who doesn’t like to be interviewed, or talking in general really.
They meet up at a field on a rainy afternoon, at the tail end of a rugby pick up match Lachlan likes to play in. Kayla flirts her way into a rugby lesson, which ends up with the two of them rolling around in the mud, and what I’m promising is one of the best boners of 2015.
C: Lachlan has zero interest in getting romantically entangled with anyone, especially the feisty sprite of a girl who is all wrapped up in the lives of his cousins. He doesn’t like complications and his relationship with his cousins has enough dark corners without adding any additional messiness. But something about Kayla is wearing away at his defenses, and not just in the rugby boner tackle way. For Kayla’s part she wants Lachlan bad. She’s pretty sure that just the rasp of his beard against her thighs will be able to give her the elusive O that’s been out of her grasp.
When the McGregor clan, and their ladies, end up at an all day music festival, Elton John and some stray dogs help Kayla and Lachlan move into Something More territory. The pair head into the dark woods — Kayla isn’t afraid because she’s with Lachlan who only a fool would mess with — to try to round up a pair of mangy dogs. And as they sit together in the dark, in the dirt, they share a scorching kiss. You know how in the Princess Bride where they’re all “in the history of the world there have been these amazing kisses and this one blew them all out of the water” (paraphrasing)? This was that kiss. It blew the other book kisses out of our very big body of book kiss water.
M: It was like a big, epic movie kiss.
C: The book sex blew other book sex out of the water, as well. Karina always writes a great sex scene – we are looking at you Javier, you dirty bastard – but Kayla and Lachlan felt next level. This was knee-clenching, think-of-England, wait–am I actually blushing? levels of HOT.
M: On a scale of 1 to Dirty Dancing, it’s on par with the library scene in Atonement, or the ending of Y Tu Mama Tambien. The shower sex in Blue Valentine, except happy. Like Shame, if it wasn’t depressing. (Are we not supposed to find that one hot?) (Even the window sex?) (Spoiler alert, there’s window sex in this book)
“Oh, you gorgeous thing,” I murmur, running the pad of my thumb over her peaked nipple as she arches back, her body begging for more. “I’ll go mad if I can’t get inside you.”
C: The problem is that Lachlan has to leave. He has a whole life in Scotland; he plays professional rugby, he has a dog rescue, he owns property. Kayla goes into this affair knowing that it has an end point. This isn’t love, this is summer camp. Just hot sex and then he’ll be on his way. They’ll just let go and carry on without each other.
“You’re leaving on Sunday,” I tell him. “That’s less than a week.”
“So?” he says. “What does that have to do with anything?”
I cock my head. “It means…well, what can happen between now and then?”
“I can fuck your brains out,” he says gruffly. “That’s what can happen.”
C: Halle writes about the particular melancholy of leaving someone who could be The One with a grace and skill that can break your heart. My chest was aching and my eyes were tearing up well before it was time for Lachlan to board a plane and fly away from Kayla. We were yearning for him to stay with Kayla or her to go with Lachlan. And obviously we can’t tell you any more, because we think you’ll want to read this one for yourself. Then read it again right away.
M: It’s a book about falling in love – and I know, duh, it’s a romance, right? But I think what I loved most about it is that you really feel the story. It’s so easy to get lost in these characters and get swept up in the emotions, rather than reading about how they are feeling and processing that as a reader, an outsider. Halle manages to capture that wonderful, terrifying feeling of falling in love, and takes you on this roller coaster ride of emotions, without being saccharine or overwrought. By the end of this book, C and I were absolutely wrecked, and we’re ice queens. I can count the number of times a book has made me cry this year on one hand.
“I’m so in love with you,” he whispers, the roughness of his cheek pressed against mine. “So in love. There is no bottom. I just keep falling.”
C: The Play is long, its about the double the size of a standard romance novel, which means the reader gets the chance to really know the characters. A chance to feel so deeply invested that every happy moment feels like you’re falling in love along with Kayla and Lachlan, that heady rush of climbing into someone else’s skin and staying awhile. And every misstep and stumbling block is enough to break your heart. I read the last twenty percent of the book straight through, teary and wrought and grinning until my face hurt.
M: And all the sentiment is balanced out with loads of the dirty parts we adore. Sometimes I feel like Karina Halle is writing these books just for us. It’s like she’s seen my embarrassingly pervy google history, and then she conjures up this accented beefcake in athletic wear, with VPL (Visible Penis Lines) and a sensitive side, and sends him off to us as a present. I feel like that girl in Raiders of the Lost Ark in Indiana Jones’s classroom with Love You written on her eyelids. Lachlan is just the dreamiest hero, making me sigh and question my life choices. (I should have held out for Tom Hardy, or at the very least, a rugby player)
C: I am holding out for Tom Hardy, or his available doppelganger.
M: And the relationships between all the friends feel so genuine and relatable. These are funny girls, just like us!
“So there was Hulk penis,” Steph goes on.
I give her a look. “His dick is ridiculously proportioned to his body and he’s already a huge man. That’s all I’m going to say.”
“Good thing you’ve had a lot of practice to loosen you up,” Nicola says with a smirk.
C: They’re like actual lady friends, not cloying book creations.
The Play might be our book of the year when we give out our golden boner of shame statuettes in a few months. Kayla is a heroine that you don’t encounter too often. She’s independent, she’s unapologetic about her sexuality, and she’s still a devoted daughter and caring friend. Lachlan has dark things in his past, he has demons he’s still trying to conquer. He makes mistakes that would break a couple who were less in love. Reading about Lachlan and Kayla finding each other, and learning how to be together, was intensely satisfying. This book is why we read romance.
I fought and I fought and I fought against it.
But there was nothing I could do.
She’s a riptide.
I’m just a man without oars.
M: Books like this are exactly why we read romance. I will not pretend that I don’t enjoy fun trashy books about stepbrothers and hockey players and priests etc., but it is such a treat when we get our hands on a book that’s so enjoyable, so well written, and so heart wrenchingly evocative. The Play was joy to read, and a front runner for my favorite book of 2015. Grab yourself a copy of this book, we promise you’ll love it.
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