by Karen Templeton

October 2003
ISBN: 0-373-21834-6
Reviewer Graphic Button Silhouette
Mass Market Paperback

Divorced mom, Joanna Swan has her plate full with trying to deal with three children, a leaking roof, a dog who is a defendant in a paternity suit and an ex-husband who is chronically late with support checks. Romance is the last thing on her agenda, that is something only true in fairy tales. Even Joanna's longtime friend; Karleen, who has been married three times, is a firm believer in finding a "gap guy" rather than a big romance.

When Joanna meets Dale McConnaughy; while trying to sell some custom made Santas, the alarms go off. He is sexy and sweet, but he has all the markings of trouble with a capital T. Dale is a former baseball star who is now running a toy store. He is too much like her ex, who never grew up. Dale is pretty upfront about not wanting any sort of commitment. Since Dale is not one to share much about his personal background, Joanna does not know that a lot of his issues stem from a terrible childhood and being dumped by a wife who only wanted to be "Mrs. Pro Sports Star".

What sets this story above the usual is that not only does the author give us a "wounded" hero and a heroine with a lot of emotional baggage, but there are multi-dimensional secondary characters. Joanna's ex may have his faults, but we are shown what a loving father he is. There is also a fairly detailed plot line involving Tori, a young woman who is pregnant and will be the second wife. The characters are engaging even when they are shown "warts and all". It is refreshing to have a story that shows both sides of a situation and deals with "normal" people that the average reader can relate to,

Ms. Templeton shows a wonderful ear for realistic dialog and showing the beauty in everyday things. And, never fear, there are plenty of steamy scenes.

With Playing For Keeps , Ms. Templeton has a winner. I will be looking for any back list books and future works from this talented writer.

Roberta Austin

Reviewed in November 2003 by Roberta.

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