Book Corner

Book Review: Play Dirty

Love this cover, too.

After five long years in federal prison, Griff Burkett is a free man. But the disgraced Cowboys quarterback can never return to life as he knew it before he was caught cheating. In a place where football is practically a religion, Griff committed a cardinal sin, and no one is forgiving.

Foster Speakman, owner and CEO of SunSouth Airlines, and his wife, Laura, are a golden couple. Successful and wealthy, they lived a charmed life before fate cruelly intervened and denied them the one thing they wanted most — a child. It’s said that money can’t buy everything. But it can buy a disgraced football player fresh out of prison and out of prospects.

The job Griff agrees to do for the Speakmans demands secrecy. But he soon finds himself once again in the spotlight of suspicion. An unsolved murder comes back to haunt him in the form of his nemesis, Stanley Rodarte, who has made Griff’s destruction his life’s mission. While safeguarding his new enterprise, Griff must also protect those around him, especially Laura Speakman, from Rodarte’s ruthlessness. Griff stands to gain the highest payoff he could ever imagine, but cashing in on it will require him to forfeit his only chance for redemption…and love.

Griff is now playing a high-stakes game, and at the final whistle, one player will be dead.

Play Dirty┬áis Sandra Brown’s wildest ride yet, with hairpin turns of plot all along the way. The clock is ticking down on a fallen football star, who lost everything because of the way he played the game. Now his future — his life — hinges on one last play.

Disclaimer: Sandra Brown is one of my all-time favorite authors. If I ever get off my lazy butt and actually write something, her style of writing appeals to me and I would want to emulate that to the best of my ability.

So I’m coming at this review a bit biased. But I will try my best to be objective and fair.

I haven’t read a Sandra Brown book in quite some time. Mainly because I’m on a Kindle Unlimited kick and I refuse to pay money for books when I have so many options at my fingertips for $10 bucks a month through Kindle Unlimited.

I was so surprised when I saw a Sandra Brown book pop up in Kindle Unlimited that I snatched it up.

The reviews on this story surprised me a bit, at least on GoodReads – it has 4.3 out of five on Amazon.

I usually go by the reviews on GoodReads as opposed to the reviews on Amazon as I have found my peeps on GoodReads seem to align with my personal tastes better.

But Play Dirty on GoodReads only has 3.92 stars out of five.

And I think I know why.

The premise of the story is unusual and ethically questionable. It’s disturbing but fascinating at the same time and that’s a large reason why I liked it; it was different and interesting. Most stories follow a certain format and I appreciated the fact that this story did not.

At first, I was a bit repulsed by the premise. A wealthy couple pay for a stud. Our star quarterback basically prostitutes himself out to get back on easy street and at first, you don’t like Griff but you can understand his desperation and reasons why he might decide to do this deed, though you may not like it very much.

And though the reasons why the wealthy couple go this route as opposed to other more conventional routes makes sense … in a bizarre, okay it’s your money and if you’re willing to do this way then go for it.

Still weird. But interesting enough to keep me reading.

What I thoroughly enjoyed from this story was the unpredictability. Nearly every scenario took me somewhere I wasn’t expecting. It’s like Ms. Brown got to a comfortable spot in her story, stopped and thought, “what new hell can I put these characters through?” And I LOVED it. I get so tired of reading stories that follow a formula. True, writers can vary how they get to the answer of the problem but ultimately, we all get there eventually.

And though this story ultimately reaches a satisfactory ending, it’s more of a REALISTIC ending.

I like unusual, real stories. Life is messy and weird and confusing at times and though the premise of this story is unusual and likely not probable, it’s possible. Which for me, is the only thing required. I can buy pretty much anything if leading up to the situation is possible.

Truth really IS stranger than fiction.

I liked how Griff wasn’t a wealthy, asshole alpha male. Wait, let me rephrase that, he was until he cheated and landed himself in jail. I love how Brown started the story AFTER all of that occurred though it would be interesting to read a story about Griff’s life BEFORE he went to jail, too.

Griff is majorly flawed. He allowed his greed and big ego to overshadow common sense and it landed him in big trouble. So when he was released from jail, he wasn’t broken but he was certainly different.

When you’re first introduced to Griff, he’s a douche. He cheated. He went to jail. He is looking for a fast buck to get his life back on track. Everyone hates him because of what he did. He’s pretty much at the bottom of the barrel and at first, your sympathies lie with Foster, a wheelchair-bound man just trying to achieve his greatest desire, to have a child. I didn’t really feel much for Laura at first. She’s just the vehicle stuck between the two men doing what she is being told. If anything, I felt impatient with her and couldn’t understand why she would go along with her husband’s unusual request.

But then, Brown starts to throw me bits and pieces of character backstory and motivations and suddenly my interest piques and my sympathies shift.

And instead of giving me these tidbits all at once, Brown does a great job of spoon feeding me more and more as the story progresses so that by the end, it’s not the same story you began with.

I LOVED that aspect of the story.

I also really love how Brown writes. She provides just enough detail to place you in the scene but leaves out enough for your imagination to kick in and fill in the blanks. Her dialogue was snappy and realistic and the story just kept moving forward. I didn’t really feel like there were any stagnant parts, every part had something interesting.

Though the parts where Griff and Laura meet for the first few times are incredibly awkward and cringe worthy, it was believable and horrifying at the same time. Brown placed those characters in an impossible situation and yet somehow, they made it work.

Whenever I stop to think about story ideas for my own writing, THIS is the sort of plot I’m looking for. I want to write something that makes my reader squirm, shift loyalties and be surprised. I want to write about messy lives and awkward situations and put my characters through hell. This story does all of that and Brown does an excellent job of balancing different genres,: mystery, thriller, romance, into one cohesive, entertaining read.

I’m inspired.