Playing for Keeps Featured
Book Review, Comedy, Contemporary, Entangled Publishing, Fake relationship, Opposites Attract, Romance

Playing for Keeps by Julie Hammerle


Bryce Barrett has disappeared off the face of the earth. Well, technically she’s just temporarily hiding out in a teeny Midwest town, away from her ruined marriage and professional demise…at least until she can figure out her next steps. But when she bumps into her ex—dressed in what could be only described as “dumpster chic”—she does the only reasonable thing a woman can do: panics and pretends the cute security guard on the scene is her new boyfriend.

Free-spirited nomad Jake Warner knew returning to his hometown was a bad idea. It’s bad enough that his family’s pressuring him to step into his dad’s hypercompetitive shoes and settle down, but when a complete stranger (cute, though possibly unbalanced) enlists him as her fake boyfriend, Jake knows he’s making some questionable choices…especially when he inexplicably goes along with it.

Now these two mismatched misfits are temporary allies against a town filled with happy, normal, and annoyingly stable people. Fake dating keeps everyone off their back while they plot their respective escapes. But nothing botches a plan more than unexpected chemistry…

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Playing for Keeps is a standalone read told from dual perspectives. It starts with a confrontational meet-hate between a mouthy ice cream-eating “vagrant” with beaver slippers and an out-of-his-realm, resort security guard making ends meet until he can skip town.

Bryce Barrett is a big-wig corporate lawyer from Chicago holed up in her house in the small town of Wackernagel, Illinois, licking her wounds, and every other kind of junk food known to man, after being skipped over for partner and leaving her firm with literally just the clothes on her back. She’s wallowing in her misery with garbage piling up, the pounds piling on, and her money dwindling down. After meeting the quiet and skittish Jake Warner who helps her get back on her feet and becomes her fake boyfriend to save face in front of her ex, she realizes it’s time to stop the pity party and get on with her life, but unfortunately, Jake is not sticking around.

Jake Warner is only home because of a bad tooth and he plans to pay off his dad by working off his debt. The heartache and pain of being around his family and friends is too hard and the sooner he leaves the better. However, things have changed and he didn’t expect to fall for a quirky, sassy lawyer who listened without judgment. Will he face his demons and open up to his family, or will he do what he does best and cut and run?

Bryce and Jake are a bit immature on their own, but together with new and old friends and loving family, they become the adults we know they can be. Some things are a bit far-fetched such as letting someone coach a college team because of nepotism and they played the game 10 years ago, and giving someone legal advice when the case is just suddenly dropped. Also, I thought the story wrapped up too quickly and neatly with the seriousness of the subject matter needing to be addressed. 

This book is filled with tough situations as well as humor and compassion. Jake’s past is very sad and it revolves around sports and mental health. I don’t want to give anything away, but I found the theme interesting and very important.

If you love romantic stories with noteworthy topics where the characters finally face their fears, repair relationships, and embrace change, give this book a try.

Thank you to Ms. Hammerle for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.


Playing for Keeps

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USA Today best-selling, RITA nominated author, Julie Hammerle (she/her) writes romantic comedies for adults and teens. Before settling down to write “for real,” she studied opera, taught Latin, and held her real estate license for one hot minute. Currently, when not writing, she ropes people into conversations about Game of Thrones and makes excuses to avoid the gym. Her favorite YA-centric TV shows include 90210 (original spice), Felicity, and Freaks and Geeks. Her music playlist reads like a 1997 Lilith Fair set list.

She lives in Chicago with her husband and her two kids and a dog.

Follow Julie on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.

Entangled Publishing

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