Rules of the Game

Sandy James

Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: Apr 3, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Netgalley

Kathryn West has it all – she’s a confident, bestselling author living it up in New York City. Too bad she doesn’t actually exist, and is only timid Maddie Sawyer’s pseudonym. Determined to attend her high school reunion with a man right out of one of her racy romance novels, she plots to find a sexy bad boy who’s up to Kathryn’s standards.

She finds Mr. Perfect shooting pool in a biker bar. He’s a blue-collar hunk who just happens to look great in leather. But the mysterious Scott Brady has some rules of his own: he won’t agree to her deal unless she poses as his girlfriend in front of his family and friends first.

As the reunion nears, Maddie tries to maintain her carefree façade, knowing she’ll soon face some old ghosts. She’s torn between her growing attraction to Scott and the nagging feeling that he’s hiding something important. Will she still want him when she finds out his secret? What about when he discovers hers?

Goodreads Summary


This is my second favorite style of romance books, where the characters come together for some sort of arrangement where they have to pretend to be in a relationship, and end up falling in love for real in the end. I loved it in The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst, and when I saw this on Netgalley I knew I had to jump on it.

Maddie is a successful romance author living in New York City, and she’s decided to attend her high school reunion even though the thought of doing so makes her want to hide in her closet for a week. The high school years were not good for Maddie, but she wants to go back and show everyone that the girl she was back then no longer exists. So, she decides that she needs to bring the perfect date. A sexy, hunk of a guy with tattoos and a beastly motorcycle she can ride behind and prove that frumpy Maddie is now desirable Maddie. With little time before the reunion, she trolls New York City bars and pool halls looking for the perfect guy. It’s not until her fifth try that she strikes gold and finally meets Scott Brady, the perfect guy. She presents her plan to him, but instead of payment he wants her to go to dinner with him and pretend she’s his girlfriend to get his well meaning family off his back.

As the two get to know each other, Maddie realizes that Scott may be perfect all around, not just for one date. Some things are not adding up though, but she can’t quite put her finger on what. The time comes for the reunion, and Maddie is forced to face the ghosts of her past. Scott turns out to be strong and supportive, but once Maddie finds out what he’s hiding it might be a deal breaker.

Rules of the Game actually surprised me. The synopsis doesn’t really do the book justice, since there is so much more going on in the book than just the bargain and pretend relatioinship. Really the book is about Maddie and her resolving her issues with events that happened in high school, as well as getting over outrageous prejudices she’s carried with her since childhood. Maddie is a very stron character, with a forceful personality and is one of the more stubborn characters I think I’ve ever read. Her character, thoughts and actions overpower everyone else in the story. For the most part, I loved this about her. It just made it hard for me to feel any chemistry with any of the other characters. The book is also told from Maddie’s POV, which is always difficult because I wanted to know what other characters were thinking, not just her.

I thought that Scott came on board with the idea a little too easily. Maddie went right up to him at the bar and started telling him about her plan and why she needs him, and he never once looked at her like she was a crazy person. In real life, the guy would have been running for the hills. There needed to be a little bit more tension there, I thought. Obviously he had to get on board with it eventually, but with as quick as he did it just wasn’t as believable. I really liked Scott a lot. Besides his big secret, he really was the perfect guy. Sweet, caring, attractive and madly in love with Maddie even though she is slightly crazy. I couldn’t believe that it took Maddie so long to realize something was off about Scott, and that he might not be who she thinks he is. I guess people only see what they want to, right?

My Summary: I liked Rules of the Game. I didn’t always like Maddie’s character though, and sometimes I thought she was a total witch. Also, some elements of the story were wrapped up too nicely to be real. I did like how the story went deeper than the pretend relationship, and I was really surprised by Maddie’s “ghosts” she had to confront. And boy, were they doozies. If I had to face what she did, I’m not sure I would have gone to the reunion even with the perfect date. I guess this was a case of Maddie having to go through the refiner’s fire. She had her witchy moments, her stubborn moments, her I-can’t-believe-you’re-this-blind moments, but in the end she turned out okay. I’m happy that she had her happily ever after with the perfect guy.

My Rating: B+




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