Ever since his ex-girlfriend broke up with him for being too boring, Scott Farrell has been feeling like he needs to spice up his life. When he accidentally stumbles upon a meeting of the legendary and secretive Player's Club and they invite him to join, Scott can't pass up the opportunity. He has thirty days to complete three insane challenges which will earn him membership in the club. Scott also can't tell a soul about the club's existence, but he hadn't counted on his beautiful and savvy neighbor figuring things out for herself.
Amanda Wheeler is coming off a divorce and selling her business. Until she decides what to do with the rest of her life, she has nothing but time on her hands and finds herself thirsting for an adventure. When she correctly concludes that Scott has joined The Player's Club, she wants him to nominate her for membership too. Amanda offers to help Scott with his challenges in exchange for him getting her into the club. Through one crazy challenge after another, Scott and Amanda's passion burns hotter than anything either one has experienced before, but when things don't go quite as planned, Scott may have to make a decision between Amanda and the club.
Scott is the first book in Cathy Yardley's new trilogy, The Player's Club. Due to the shorter length, Harlequin novels in general and the Blaze line in particular can be rather hit and miss with me, but I'm happy to say that Scott was the best Blaze novel I've read to date. I read Scott for review, and in all honesty it probably isn't a book I would have picked up on my own. Based on the cover blurb, I had the mistaken impression that the members of The Player's Club were just a bunch of crazed adrenaline junkies, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Yes, they do some "crazy" things like skydiving and running with the bulls, but there is much more depth to the main characters than mere thrill-seekers. I actually found them to be quite relatable. The premise ended up being really fun too, and even though I couldn't truly imagine myself throwing caution to the wind like The Players do, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy to think about. Bottom line: I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.
Scott is the truly nice guy next-door. It was really sweet how he was looking out for Amanda's welfare when she found him on her fire escape in the opening chapter. Although he doesn't really act like a true geek, I enjoyed the fact that he has the geeky profession of a data analyst. He views himself as boring, because his ex-girlfriend broke up with him for being "too nice." Of course, in my book there's no such thing as too nice, but Scott is still stinging a little from her reason for the break-up and feels like he needs to do something to make himself more exciting. When he stumbles upon the legendary Player's Club, he can't resist their offer to join even though he initially has a few reservations which I thought just made him more genuine. I like how he defended the rights of a woman (Amanda) to join the club, and how he stood up to obnoxious Player, George. I loved that Scott hates to get drunk and that he's more of a relationship kind of guy, rather then the type to sleep around. If he hadn't made the huge faux pas of essentially choosing The Player's Club over Amanda, he would have been a perfect hero. As is, he at least had the decency to feel badly about it right from the get-go, so in the end, he was still a pretty good hero anyway.
Amanda is the nice girl next-door who only seems to have two speeds, going like the Energizer bunny or crashing out. She's recently divorced and just sold her business, so she's looking for a change of pace and something to spice up her life. Her best friend, Jackie, thinks Amanda needs to have a fling. The only problem is Amanda is more of a relationship kind of girl and not really the fling type. She is really attracted to her neighbor, Scott, so she decides to invite him over, let him know she's available, and see where things go. When she accidentally figures out he's in The Player's Club, Amanda thinks that may be just the thing to cure her boredom. She offers to help him with his challenges if he'll nominate her for membership once he's in.
As a couple, Scott and Amanda have sizzling hot chemistry. Their love scenes are frequent and very steamy, really burning up the pages. What makes them a great couple though, is that underneath it all, they have a lot in common besides great sex (I loved that they both had rather nerdy pastimes). Each time they get together, I could feel the passion and love building between them which made the little glitch in their relationship just a bit disappointing. It separated them rather abruptly, and then they got back together almost equally as quickly. Their communication could have been better too. Even though both of them prefer relationships to flings, each one spends most of the book thinking the other is just wanting a fling and/or might be using them. As a consequence neither wants to talk about it for fear of loosing a good thing, and ultimately, it was a misunderstanding that messed things up between them. Overall though, Scott and Amanda were just two average everyday people who wanted to spice up their lives with a little adventure. I think they both got that, and more, once they came to the realization that the other loved them for who they were and the adventures they shared were just the icing on the cake.
Scott introduced some interesting secondary characters, including the heroes of the next two books. Lincoln, the leader and one of the founders of the club, is a suave and mysterious man. I loved his vision and philosophy for The Player's Club, and how it was almost more like a gentleman's club. They may do wild things, but it's really more about facing their fears and living a life without regrets than about a cheap thrill. I also liked that they were pretty respectful of women. They may have brought in dancers for entertainment, but Lincoln didn't allow the guys to paw them. I was a little disappointed in Lincoln for being so quick to believe that Scott betrayed the club when there was an obvious dissenter right in their ranks, but overall he was a really cool guy and an intriguing character that I look forward to getting to know better in his own book which is the next in the series. The final hero of the series, Finn, is Lincoln's best friend and fellow founding member. I didn't get as much of a feel for him, but he seems like a more laid-back, outgoing kind of guy. Finn's cousin, George, is pretty much the villain of the story. He's an obnoxious jerk who thinks The Player's Club should be a big frat party, and tries to challenge Lincoln's authority.
Overall, Scott was a very enjoyable read populated with likable characters. I really appreciated that through all their big adventures, Scott and Amanda never lost their innate likability. Underneath their thirst for adventure, they were still the same people, just with an added dimension. Most of their exploits were great fun, but sometimes, like with the desert vision quest, they found it wasn't quite all it was cracked up to be. I think moments like this just gave the story a more realistic feel. There were a couple of minor things that threw me off momentarily. I found a few continuity errors, and the virtually non-existent explanation of how the reporter was able to track George down, didn't quite work, but these things weren't a big enough deal to really diminish my overall enjoyment of the novel. Scott was a great start to the series and a surprise winner all the way around that really has me looking forward to reading Lincoln soon.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook