Contemporary Romance

ARC Review: The Player Next Door – KA Tucker

Rating 4.5 Stars

What’s the book about?
Scarlet Reed has returned to Polson Falls, convinced that twelve years away is long enough to shed her humiliating childhood identity as the town harlot’s daughter. With a teaching job secured and an adorable fixer-upper to call home, things in her life are finally looking up.

That is, until she finds out that Shane Beckett lives next door.

Shane Beckett, the handsome and charismatic high school star quarterback who smashed her heart. The lying, cheating player who was supposed to be long gone, living the pro football dream and fooling women into thinking he’s Prince Charming. Shane Beckett, who is as attractive as ever and flashing his dimples at her as if he has done no wrong.

Scarlet makes it abundantly clear that old wounds have not been forgotten. Neighbors they may be, but friends they most certainly are not. She won’t allow herself to fall for the single father and firefighter again, no matter how many apologies he offers, how many times he rushes to her aid, or how hard he makes her heart pound.

But as she spends more time with him, she begins to fear that maybe she’s wrong. Maybe Shane has changed.

And maybe this time she’s the one playing herself—out of a chance at true happiness.

My Review
I was so excited to hear that KA Tucker was releasing a new book and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. I am so glad that I did because this story was fantastic and had me feeling so many mixed emotions.

This story centers around handsome, charming high school quarterback Shane Beckett and the daughter of the town’s “harlot”, Scarlet Reed. Shane broke Scarlet’s heart back in high school and she swore she’d never let it happen again. Now twelve years later, they’re about to reconnect and she has to decide whether it’s worth the risk to put her heart back on the line.

As previously mentioned (and like every other KA Tucker novel), this book had me feeling everything from happiness and swoony, to disappointed (in certain character’s actions) and heartbroken. Tucker is a master of providing a rollercoaster of emotions for the reader but will always leave you with positive feelings by the end.

I don’t want to give too much away but will say that there were several actions by the hero, Shane, that made me want to reach into the book and shake the man. While I did end up loving the hero at the end (and will wax poetic about him very soon), I definitely struggled to like him at the beginning. I felt he came across quite flippant and almost entitled in his expectation of being automatically forgiven for past actions. However, he did eventually show LOTS of character development and prove himself to Scarlet. I enjoyed learning all the little details about his life as a single father, firefighter and the occasional home renovator. Shane showed that he was willing to listen and learn what Scarlet needs and I really appreciated that given his past behaviour.

Scarlet was a genuine joy to get to know. The story is told in Scarlet’s POV and she may have had her flaws but she always remained true to herself to. She was strong, independent, stubborn, relatable and, well, a little complicated but it all the ways you’d expect based on her upbringing in a small town. Scarlet also shows tremendous growth and despite everything – her feelings, the opinions of others, etc – she always made sure that her actions were in the best interest of Shane’s child which I think it incredibly important in any single parent story.

The relationship was full of ups and downs but I loved watching these two characters fall in love and the get the chance of a do-over. It was wonderful and only enhanced by the range of eclectic secondary characters in this story – namely Scarlet’s best friend who I loved. While she probably doesn’t need her own story, I would definitely like one. Not so subtle hint.

Overall, this was such a great story with lots of lovable tropes, well-developed characters and a fantastic execution. I’m so grateful to to have received an arc by one of my favourite authors and I cannot wait to see to see what Tucker writes next.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Valentine PR and KA Tucker for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

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