PLAY (A Stage Dive Novel) by Kylie Scott

PLAY is the second novel in Kylie Scott’s bestselling Stage Dive series. The first, LICK, told the story of Evelyn and rock and roll guitarist David. In PLAY, we get to know Ev’s friend Anne, who falls into a relationship with the band’s drummer, Mal, and from the start it’s right out of a romantic comedy. Here’s the set-up:

Mal Ericson, drummer for the world famous rock band Stage Dive, needs to clean up his image fast—at least for a little while. Having a good girl on his arm should do the job just fine. Mal doesn’t plan on this temporary fix becoming permanent, but he didn’t count on finding the one right girl. Anne Rollins never thought she’d ever meet the rock god who plastered her teenage bedroom walls—especially not under these circumstances. Anne has money problems. Big ones. But being paid to play the pretend girlfriend to a wild life-of-the-party drummer couldn’t end well. No matter how hot he is. Or could it?

 Anne is in a rut. Her roommate just absconded with the month’s rent – and the furniture. Her boss Reese is also her office (bookstore) crush, but he basically just treats her as his best bud/back-up plan for when his dates fall through:

“I could call Reece, though he’d said he had a date tonight. Of course, he always had a date. Reece was perfect in every way apart from his man whore tendencies. My best guy friend liked to share his love around, to put it mildly. He seemed to be on a conjugal related first name basis with the better part of the straight Portland female population aged eighteen to forty-eight. Everyone except for me, basically.”

Anne’s friend Evelyn recently married David Ferris, the front man for Stage Dive, one of the world’s biggest metal bands. When Ev invites her over to a party, her first impulse is to say no. She’s in a financial free-fall, and the last thing she feels like doing is hanging out with celebrities. But her friends won’t take no for an answer, and so she goes.

At the party, Anne walks outside to talk on the phone with Reece about her financial woes and the probability of losing her apartment. And here’s where it gets really interesting: She finds herself joined by none other than Malcom Ericson, drummer of the band. For Anne, “The pinnacle moment of my life was officially upon me.” She’d grown up with a poster of Stage Dive on her wall, and the one band member she had gazed upon most obsessively was now standing in front of her.  Anne can’t understand why Mal, the usual life of the party, was “Drinking alone, hiding like me.” He shows a lot of interest in her: “He studied me like I was an alien species, a curiosity that had been dumped on his door step. His gaze slid down my body. It wasn’t as if he could possibly see anything what with me wearing a coat, jeans, and boots. But that knowledge didn’t help at all. His lazy appreciate grin made my knees knock. It took about forever for his gaze to return to my face. Damn, he was good. I’d been professionally sullied without a single item of clothing removed.”

They talk, he flirts, and then things get really weird: Back at the party, he announces that he’s dating her. He says, “I’m settling down. I’m a changed man. True love and all that.” It’s a joke…until Anne comes home from work the next night and finds that Mal has moved into her apartment. Apparently, he saw Ev naked “by accident’ and Dave kicked him out of their condo. He says this arrangement works for both of them: She needs money – and he needs something, too. “What I need is a girlfriend…well, a pretend girlfriend. And you, Anne Rollins, are perfect.” He tells her this is a serious business transaction, and has to be kept “on the down low.” He’s paid her rent, he’s replaced her furniture. Now she just has to do is let him live there as her “boyfriend.” But he won’t tell her why.

Anne reasons with herself, “From the outside, it seemed a good deal. I really did need the money. I also liked being around him. He was about a bazillion times more fun than I’d ever known. Whatever happened, this was bound to be a hell of a ride. And if I knew he would leave, up front, there’d be no risk of getting overly attached.”

Famous last words, right? Though in Mal’s defense, he does tell her that “the whole plan will totally collapse if we start having sex.”

Right away, we see that Mal is good for Anne. First, he sees how Reece takes her for granted, and immediately sets out to make him jealous. It works. It’s not long before the attraction between them is as strong as their flirtation banter, and they kiss. From that point on, it’s anyone’s game.

PLAY is rounded out by an interesting cast of supporting characters. The connection between the band members promises to keep this series going strong. Anne is more than just the love interest of a hot guy; We see her true strength of character in the way she supports her younger sister. And while Anne overcame a difficult past, she is not a broken person. All of these elements round out PLAY to make it a heartwarming, sexy, fun and addictive story. If you read it, you’ll be back for the third book in the series, LEAD, coming in July.

PLAY ( A Stage Dive Novel) by Kylie Scott/March 25/St. Martin’s

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