PLAYING WITH HER HEART (Caught Up In Us #3) By Lauren Blakely
*ARC Provided by the Author – Very special thanks to Lauren Blakely
When you’re acting the role of a lifetime, how can you know if love is real—or all just a part of the show?
Twenty-three year old rising theatre star Jill McCormick has built a life out of pretending. Pretending she’s happy, pretending her long-distance crushes add up to something real, pretending she’s not haunted by the dark secret that shattered her world six years ago. Cast in her first Broadway show, she desperately needs to keep her façade intact, but that’s before she comes face to face with her devastating new boss…
Hot-shot director Davis Milo knows the first rule of directing: never fall for your leading lady. Captivated by Jill’s raw talent, he fights his feelings, but watching Jill on-stage with another man is more than his jealous streak can take. Keeping things professional isn’t an option. He wants all of her.
Soon the ingénue and her director are staying late in the empty theatre, their private rehearsals spiraling into new, forbidden territory. Caught up between fiction and reality, Jill struggles to find the truth in all their staged kisses. But how can she be sure that what she feels is real, and not a part of the play? And when two people spend their lives pretending, what happens after the final curtain falls?
Playing With Her Heart tells the story of Jill McCormick, a young woman who lives through the characters she plays. Jill has spent the last six years pretending to be whole, living in a world filled with lament where she refuses to allow herself to love and be loved. Her continual self punishment drives her in her performances, as she strives to achieve her dream of being a leading actress. When she meets the gorgeous and enigmatic director, Davis Milo, Jill instantly feels a spark of connection that seems all too real to deny. Suddenly a life of pretend emotions and love from a distance no longer seems like it is enough.
Davis Milo is a man who has achieved so much success in his career, an award winning director who fears nothing and whose fierce determination drives him to create his latest masterpiece Crash the Moon. Davis, like Jill, also harbors his own demons and deep insecurities.
Davis spends just as much time punishing himself by steering clear of women he knows have the potential to break him. He is a man who is still reeling from a previous heartbreak. Despite this, he knows the moment that he locks eyes on the beautiful young woman auditioning for his leading role, that steering clear Jill might just be impossible. But when these two characters realize the connection between them runs so deep, and the raw passion they bring out in one another is hard to continually deny, will it all be worth it? Or will heartbreak ruin any chance these two lost souls have of true happiness?
I crave reading books that completely drag you into the narrative world, where the beautifully weaved writing draws you in and transports you from your surroundings and completely consumes you. I knew before I even picked up Playing With Her Heart that I was going to love it. After reading all of those amazingly tantalizing teasers the author released, I was anticipating that Davis Milo would be a character I would love. I had no idea just how much I would fall in love with this book, how deeply the story would draw me in and how much I would drool over the gorgeous Davis Milo! But I also did not anticipate the beautiful melancholy element the story would have. This is so much more than a steamy romance, but a tale of two characters who are taken on a tumultuous journey that leads them to one another, forgiveness and love.
The story is set against a backdrop of a Broadway production about passion, and I absolutely loved the way Lauren Blakely immerses the reader into the story and intercepts scenes from the production narrative within the book’s narrative. This blurring between reality and fiction within Playing With Her Heart is so fitting and creates a beautiful metaphor for these characters, who slowly lose themselves in the Broadway production and surrender to each other.
What I loved about these characters was that they both harboured fears and insecurities, this was a commonality that both drew them together and also made them such a beautiful and perfect couple to explore. The story is told from the dual POV of both Jill and Davis and I found the alternation to be incredibly well written. It also emphasized the way these characters develop throughout the story nicely.
Jill is such an endearing heroine, she is so damaged and at times so fragile that you cannot help but feel such a deep sense of empathy for the pain and deep scars she carries. Her character was well written and explored as a young woman living through her roles as an actress, not allowing herself to truly feel any emotion outside of her stage persona.
Moving on to the amount of chemistry within this book – The raw attraction Jill and Davis share was intense. It was exemplified in the scenes when they were alone, surrounded by nothing more than each other with the backdrop of the theatre. The amount of steam in this book was enough to freeze your e-reader!
Lauren Blakely has created one of the most delectable, captivating and gorgeous alpha male characters I have ever read. Davis Milo is a man who exudes such confidence and raw sex appeal that truly can’t compare to other leading men. He is enigmatic and a man who is not afraid to stake claim on what he wants. He is also such a beautiful passionate man who displays such sweet, compassionate qualities as he protects this fragile young woman who is afraid of love. Yeah, I think it is safe to say that Davis has ruined me for all other male characters.
Never have I read a male character who knows his way with words (both downright dirty and endearingly cute), who exudes such raw passion and lust , that one sentence from him is enough to place my kindle into nothing more than a perpetually frozen screen. Example –
“I want to send a car for you, and I want you to wear a dress, and I want you to know I’ll be imagining how you look sliding into the car, and being driven over. And I want you to be thinking about me on the way, and counting down the seconds ‘til you walk into the restaurant. Because I’ll be there already. I’ll be at the bar, waiting to watch you walk in. And I’ll know when you’re there because all the heads will turn around to look at you. Then I’ll do the same. And I’ll be the one you’re coming to be with.”
I found myself so engrossed within this story and using the highlight function on my kindle more than I ever have before!
The writing is so fluent and transports you into this beautiful narrative world Lauren Blakely has created. I love the vivid detail in this book immensely, the tiny actions, sweet nuances that give these characters life – they are described and written so eloquently, proving that Lauren Blakely is one brilliant writer. This type of escapism is what I look for while reading, and PWHH solidly delivers it. This is one of the most fantastically written books I have ever read and is a story that feels as though it comes to life and captures you within the moment. I simply adored it.
I rarely say this, but this book was perfect in my eyes. There is not a single negative element that I could possibly pin point. This is one book that has climbed its way up to the top of my favourites list and one that I will gladly read again and again. I highly recommend you read it. NOW.
5 Stars that simply do not feel like enough for this book!
“ As another tear rolls down her cheek, I correct myself quietly. A lot of gratitude. Then I do something entirely out of character. I swipe away a tear. Her skin is soft to the touch. I could get used to this.”
”…It’s as if the room goes silent and she’s the only one I see. I want to walk over to her, kneel at her feet, cup her face in my hands. Feel her melt into me again. Kiss her neck, taste her skin, trace the hollow of her throat with my tongue. Hear her gasp again.”
“Except, there’s something about her – her humor, her toughness, her vulnerability, her beauty – that has already latched onto the fortress around my heart, threatening to undo me.”
“Is this what you wanted me to do?” I whisper. “Yes,” she pants. “Is that why you touched me?”
“Yes.” “Have you been thinking about me since that day in my office?” “No.”“Don’t lie to me.”
“And I think you’d want me to tell you what to do. To direct you.”
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