Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“You’re my girl, Addison. You always have been, and you always will be.”
How do you move past losing the love of your life? How do you live when the ending of a relationship isn’t understood? This is one of the underlying tensions of L.M. Carr’s newest book, The Play Maker. Julian and Addison were childhood sweethearts. They were everything to each other at a time when life was difficult for both of them. After graduation, Julian just leaves. He makes a choice to break his promise to Addison that they will be together forever. And this devastates her.
Fast-forward ten years, Julian is now the youngest head coach in NFL history. Having suffered a devastating injury early in his NFL career, he has found a place for himself in the world that he loves. Addison “AJ” is a top female sports reporter, using her love for sports to find her own place among her favorite sport. Over the years, Addison has struggled with her heartbreak. In many ways, she makes careless choices to alleviate it. Instead, it only reinforces it. Addison is given the opportunity to interview Julian since he’s the new head coach of their local pro team. What she doesn’t know is that they are close to reconciling. Julian pursues Addison, trying to remedy the mistake of his past. Will Addison allow Julian back into her heart? That is the question of this romance.
In its base form, Carr’s The Play Maker is a second-chance sports romance. Addison and Julian are soulmates, fated to each other. What I think I loved about this book is they reconcile their relationship quickly. When you hit 30% in, these two are together, thankfully, and they remain so for the rest of the book. Since that’s the case, one of my issues with this book is the level of manufactured tension between them. Julian adores Addison. It’s clear. However, it takes Carr most of the book to finally divulge why Julian made his choice to leave her without explaining himself. Quite frankly, it doesn’t quite correspond with Addison and Julian’s relationship in their youth. Yes, I accept it as Carr’s plot device to split them apart, but I don’t think his decision is consistent with their early relationship. Additionally, Addison makes choices that potentially undermine their new relationship throughout the course of the book, and they don’t seem motivated by the fear she states. There were many times when I found myself frustrated with her fear because, again, it didn’t seem true to their reconciliation. That being said, these were only little concerns in the general telling of this story.
Addison and Julian together are dreamy. Carr has created a palpable chemistry between these two that sometimes seems more $exual than emotional. These two cannot keep their hands off each other. Their emotional chemistry is built over the course of the book, finding its depth at the book’s conclusion. I think I would have liked to see this come sooner, but Carr has a lot that she’s doing with this particular romance.
What the true message of this book is the treatment of women in a male-dominated world. AJ is a sports reporter, yet the men who surround her objectify her in a variety of ways. She makes choices that seem careless (and probably are); however, if men made the same choices, they wouldn’t be deemed careless. Additionally, this story has a bit of suspense when Addison receives illicit pictures from an anonymous sender, and some of the story is spent figuring out the identity of the perpetrator. This leads to discussions about cyberbullying within the story. And the most heinous story arc relates to the sexual assault of Addison by a powerful and wealthy man. Carr incorporates these situations to remind us of the dichotomy of male/female relationships especially in worlds where men tend to dominate. This is the true message of The Play Maker beyond its second chance romance.
I love a good sports romance. It might be my past with sports that drives my interest. In the case of L.M. Carr’s The Play Maker, though, I loved her interrogation of social norms. I think at times it seemed superfluous to Julian and Addison’s reconciliation and journey towards their happy ending. And there were times when I thought Carr could have revised out some of the story (namely the continued obsession that an ex has for Julian), but L.M. Carr is doing something important with this book. She’s pointing to the contradiction of perceived acceptable social behavior between men and women. This is still an issue today in 2019, even after #metoo and the scandals related to the behavior of powerful men. If you want one reason to read this book, it’s Carr’s focus on this social ill, coupled with the beautiful romance between two soulmates.
In love and romance,