Playing for Keeps (Jill Shalvis)

April 15, 2019 Book Reviews 6

Playing for Keeps (Jill Shalvis)Playing for Keeps by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay #7
Published by Avon on January 22, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible
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Also in this series: One Snowy Night, Chasing Chrismas Eve, Holiday Wishes, About That Kiss, Hot Winter Nights
Also by this author: One Snowy Night, Chasing Chrismas Eve, Holiday Wishes, About That Kiss, Lost and Found Sisters, The Good Luck Sister, Hot Winter Nights, Almost Just Friends, The Backup Plan

If you’re planning on falling in love…

When it comes to the confident, charismatic Caleb Parker, Sadie Lane feels the spark—the kind that comes from rubbing each other the wrong way. She’s a tattoo artist, he’s a straight-laced mogul. But after they accidentally co-rescue an abandoned dog from a storm, Sadie sees a vulnerable side to the seemingly invincible hottie.

you’d better be sure…

Caleb doesn’t do emotions. Growing up the underdog, he’s learned the hard way to build up an impenetrable wall. Perfect for business. Disastrous for relationships. He’s never worried about it before—not until he finally gets behind Sadie’s armor and begins to fall.

… someone is there to catch you.

Both guarded and vulnerable, Sadie and Caleb are complete opposites. Or are they? Shocked at their undeniable connection, can they ever admit to wanting more? That all depends on what they’re each willing to risk.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

This book contains mature content and may not be suitable for younger readers.


If I were someone else, someone emotionally stronger or less prone to anxiety, I think I would have really liked Playing for Keeps, because there’s a lot to like! To begin with, Lollipop the dog is adorable—I’ll bet ten (figurative) bucks that you can’t read this book without falling in love with her.

Caleb makes a wonderful hero: scarily smart, sexy, compassionate, and very loyal to his family, even when they drive him nuts. But he uses charm like armor, keeping people at an emotional distance. Not that he doesn’t have friends, but he doesn’t let anyone get inside his guard, to where he’s vulnerable. He doesn’t share much about his past, for example—except with Sadie. With her, he’s endlessly and surprisingly patient, seeing past her armor—prickliness, pride, fierce independence, and a don’t-mess-with-me attitude—to the vulnerable, hurting, scarred-but-strong woman inside.

What I found hard to read about was the darkness in Sadie’s past. (I’m going to try to talk about this without spoilers, so bear with me if I’m a little vague on the details here.) Perhaps because of my own struggles with anxiety, I sometimes find it unsettling to read about a character’s mental health issues, and the issue in Sadie’s past is one I am always discomfited by. (Not because of personal experience; I just find it disturbing.) I do admire Sadie for her her strength in moving past it, and I feel empathy for her younger self, but the topic itself, and her memories of it, made for uneasy reading. This is totally a personal reaction, and it’s why I’m not going to rate Playing for Keeps: I know I can’t be objective.

Factoring out that aspect of my response, I actually liked the book, and these characters, a lot. I like Sadie, despite her prickliness and tendency to sabotage her relationship with Caleb out of fear. I understand both those reactions (though neither is my style) because Shalvis does such a good job of showing where they come from. I love how Caleb tries to have Sadie’s back even when she won’t let him, and understands her better than she understands herself. His patience and persistence were amazing—maybe a tad unrealistic, but very appealing.

If main characters with troubled pasts aren’t a problem for you, I think you’ll really love this installment in the Heartbreaker Bay series for its compelling main characters, moments of humor, and absolutely adorable dog.


NOTE: If, like me, you have reason to be cautious, I’ve added hidden trigger warnings under the spoiler button below. Just click the plus sign to see the TW.

Trigger warnings: Cutting; Involuntary psychiatric hospitalization

About Jill Shalvis

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website,, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Winter 2018-2019

6 Responses to “Playing for Keeps (Jill Shalvis)”

  1. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    Shalvis has a gift for animals. She always makes the most lovable ones! I’ve heard some mixed reviews on this one and your take on it was really interesting. I’ve had those books that I connect with so strongly that I can’t be objective. I think I’ll have to give this one a try.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I agree with you about her gift for creating great animal characters. And I wish I hadn’t been so strongly affected (negatively) by the heroine’s issues. It’s not that I share them; I’m not even sure why it bothered me so much, but it did.