I live in the American Southwest, and we've been gripped by a heat wave this weekend. Temperatures pushed 120 degrees, making airports threaten to ground planes lest they fall from the sky at takeoff. Being the reasonable person that I am, I decided to stay indoors and kick back with a yummy new read. But man oh man, I found the pages on my Kindle to be just as hot, if not hotter, than the burning outdoors as I finished Ms. Barber's debut novel in a single afternoon. It's that good. The kind of read that keeps you clicking through until the end.
Reading Playing the Game was an education of sorts for me. I've always been an avid romance reader, and have embraced the various sub-genres from romantic suspense to paranormal. But I suppose it's possible to argue the majority of the books I've read have been of the vanilla variety. One man (or vampire, werewolf, etc.). One woman. A committed monogamous relationship. Usually a declaration of love by the end, blah, blah, blah. Call me old fashioned ... or boring, whatever works. ;o) Though I am happy to report my horizons expanding these last months, and now I can add Playing the Game to my list of eye-openers. Ms. Barber delves into the culture of Dominance and submission with compelling grace, introducing us to Alice, Henry, and Jay and all of their delightful emotional and sexual complexities. The psychology at work in this book is utterly captivating. Need an example?
"All right now, Alice? Feeling more yourself?"
She nodded. He was too polite to hint, but she was probably getting heavy. Monopolizing his chest. And his attention. How long had she been lying on him, cuddling up to him like he was her personal sleep aid? "Yes, Henry. My brain's working again. It wasn't for a while there."
"Did you enjoy that feeling? The silence in your mind?"
"I ... yeah." She wouldn't lie to Henry, but saying the words made her uncomfortable. There was something not right about wanting that. Wanting to not be herself. Her thoughts made her who she was. Made her a unique person, one in charge of her own life. Gave her control. A way to organize and categorize her life.
Why would she want to get away from that? And why would pain give her that? Why would it make her feel good?
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and look forward to the sequel. I recommend Playing the Game to anyone with a sense of adventure who believes the brain is the number one erogenous zone. An intelligent, sexy, thought-provoking read! Five mugs.