I feel like I ought to start out by saying that you guys have no idea how much fun I had reading these books. I love dual POVs so much in general, and it's even more fun for me when I just get to hear a story that I already love being told by another character that I'm really excited to hear from. So my point is that you guys should really read these books if you ever get the chance.
Oh, and if you do end up reading them, I do suggest reading Play With Me first. I know that they technically take place at the same time, it's just that Ryan (the narrator from Ryan Hunter, go figure) has a little more information on everything that goes down than the other narrator (Liza) does. It just makes more sense to read them in order.
Play With My by Piper Shelly
Ryan Hunter's parties are legend. And tonight she's going to be there.
Liza Matthews anticipates the return of her best friend and only love since kindergarten from soccer camp. But when Tony finally shows up, his mind is more focused on another girl. And worse, she's a soccer player. Fighting for the attention Liza craves, she's just a hairbreadth away from making a very stupid decision. But when extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, she's prepared to play ball to get her man.
The tryouts are hell, the first match ends bloody, and the morning after the selection party she wakes up in the worst place possible—in the arms of the captain of the soccer team. The hottest guy in school. Ryan Hunter.
Ryan Hunter by Piper Shelly
Ryan Hunter kissed more girls than he cares to remember. But the only one he ever wanted is in love with his best friend.
Watching Liza Matthews’ obsession with Tony Mitchell is a torture Ryan conceals from everyone. Until after a five-week soccer camp, where Tony gets involved with someone else, things suddenly take a different turn. Ryan knows if he doesn’t make a move now and grab his chance, he might never get another.
Asked by Tony to distract Liza, Ryan is only too happy. He subtly seduces her first into his soccer team and later on to his party. He does all in his power to make her see that he’s not just an insufferable playboy but a guy who really cares about her.
Some one-on-one soccer training, a passionate kiss — things seem to be going the way he wants. Except Ryan didn’t reckon on his best friend showing up at the worst possible moment and destroying everything...
I was born and raised in Austria. Half my life I spent in Vienna, but I didn’t like the city. I much prefer the beautiful countryside, with its many meadows and the breathtaking Alps. That’s why I moved to Upper Austria right after graduation. There are trees now in front of my window instead of just another ugly gray building, and I love to be woken by the cacophony of birds every morning.
At seventeen, I met the love of my life, but it took another four years until we finally got together. It was the best decision I could have made. I’m now married to this man, and I count myself lucky for someone like him. Even I will admit it can be hard at times to live with me. I’m moody and tend to lapse into my fantasy world at any given minute—well in my defense, I’m a writer. :-)
We have a ten-year-old son, and together we travel a lot…although I sometimes wish the trips were shorter because I can’t wait to get back to my laptop and WIP. Yeah, that’s just me. I built my world around my passion, and I like it that way.
So, you see, I’m leading a pretty normal life.
Of course it will all change the day my book follows the act of Harry Potter, and I’ll become richer than the Queen. I swear I’ll never again clean my windows myself then. Yeah, one day, LOL…
I really debated on whether or not I should write two reviews, one for each of these books. It kind of made sense for a little bit because they really are separate entities, but I eventually decided that because they were essentially the same general story, it would be more helpful if I just compared them together instead of separately.
And in the interest of full disclosure, I want to tell you all that these are both novellas. I mean, they're still pretty long for novellas (around a hundred pages each), but I wouldn't exactly consider them full length novels either. I probably should have been able to figure that out, but apparently I missed that fact before I started reading. Not that I think that there's anything wrong with that; these books were the perfect length for this type of story. It's just that I wasn't expecting it.
In general I felt that both of these books were very light, and I really liked that. Yeah, sometimes you may want to read something a little deeper, but not every book needs to make you question the universe with some sort of philosophical mumbo jumbo. Sometimes you just want those short and sweet novels that make you smile and laugh, and you can just leave it at that.
Normally, I'm not a huge fan of summery, contemporary romance novels, but this one really worked for me. I thought that it was really funny, and it actually stayed true to how normal teenagers think and act without being cheesy or annoying. Sometimes I'm wary of reading anything from your typical "young adult's" perspective because as a young adult myself, I can personally vouch for the fact that we are capable of thinking past our hormones. As hard as it may be to believe, there is a brain in there somewhere.
Gratefully, I actually saw those brains in each (or at least most) of these characters. Yeah, their judgement may have gotten a little clouded at times due to other influences, but that's normal for everybody! And even allowing that, they wouldn't just excuse betrayal or anything along those lines with the excuse, "Oh, but he/she really loves me!" They were actually rational, but believably so.
Still, this is a story where the main characters are pretty young. They don't know everything about the world yet (even though they may like to think that they do), and they're going to make mistakes. I feel like above all else, Piper Shelly's greatest accomplishment here was capturing that. While she did allow her characters to actually seem intelligent, they were still as vulnerable and relatively inexperienced as they should be.
Now for my comparison of the two. If I had to choose, I would say that I liked Ryan Hunter just a little bit more for a few reasons. First of all, this is the longer one (by about thirty pages) and it made me laugh more often. Secondly, it was sooooooo sweet to read about how much Ryan really cared about Liza. I couldn't care less about his so called "player" reputation; he really did love her, and he wasn't afraid to show it. And honestly, I have to admit that his scheming to get her to like him was pretty fantastic.
From Play With Me
Ryan rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt, then took my hand, and pulled me toward the bumping mass. “C’mon, let’s dance.”
Heck, I wasn’t a dancer. Protest was useless, because he wouldn’t hear me shout in this club unless I plastered myself against him and yelled in his ear. I followed. He didn’t stop until we stood in the middle of the dancing crowd.
My hand was captured in his, maybe because he knew I would have fled otherwise. Ryan moved closer, his free hand planted in the small of my back. “Loosen up, Matthews. You’re supposed to have fun.” He pressed his lips to my ear to speak. “Or at least look like you do.”
He gave me a soft push and made me twirl under his arm. Ryan did things so nonchalantly. The lightness of his demeanor, his unconcern, rubbed off on me at this moment. I laughed as he caught me again in an easy hug and swayed with me to the music. The dry smoke troubled my breathing a little, but this close to Ryan, all I smelled was him. And he smelled fantastic. Just like the other morning when I woke up next to him.
I didn’t know what brought him to my house tonight. Could be he just felt pity for me for what had happened with Tony, and as the captain of our team he made it his duty to cheer me up. Or he simply liked me. Whichever, I was thankful he didn’t give up when I told him no in the text message. Because he was a wonderful lift for my mood. He made me forget. He made me smile.
And right now he made me a little nervous.
I felt this tingle in my stomach every time I was close to him. Especially as he twirled me around and caught my back against his chest. His hand splayed on my belly, he pushed me against him, performing a body wave with me.
I laughed out loud, maybe to cover my shyness. “What are you doing?” I shouted over my shoulder and found his face very close to mine.
“Distracting you.” He rolled again, and I felt each of his hard muscles grinding against my back. “Does it work?”
Unbelievably so. I didn’t reply but let Ryan move me. With all the dancing, my tee got a mess, and the hem traveled a few inches up. Half of Ryan’s hand lay on my naked stomach. It sent a shiver down my spine. One of the good ones.
As the song ended, he released me and shouted next to my ear, “Phil has just come in. Let’s say hello.”
I smoothed my clothes out on the way to the oblong bar. The music wasn’t as loud back there. Leaning over the metal top, Ryan introduced me to a man with shoulder length hair and black muscle shirt. He looked mid-thirty, maybe a bit younger. Phil set two cans of Coke in front of us.
After the hot dance with Ryan, this was more than welcome.
Perched on a bar stool, I listened while the two talked about Ryan’s last year in High School and the new soccer team. Phil asked me if I liked it.
I lied. “Yeah, it’s great. Love the training.”
The slanted look from Ryan promised he didn’t buy one word of it.
“What?” I mouthed at him with a half smile.
He leaned in closer and brushed my hair behind my ear. “I still have the text where you say you’re done with soccer, Liza.”
The taunt in his voice as he said my name prickled my skin. I leaned back an inch so I could gaze at his face. “Did you really not know my name before I sent you that message?”
He laughed and shrugged one shoulder. “Why, Matthews? You were devoted to Mitchell. What would I care?”
From the way he averted his eyes for a second, and the sly grin that remained on his lips, I wasn’t sure if I should believe him.
“You’re such an ass, you know.” I shoved his shoulder, grinning at him.
The roguish gleam in his eyes captured me. “I’ve been told girls go for that.” He winked then drank from his Coke, but his gaze held mine all that time.
Heat rushed to my cheeks, because, hands down, he was right. It was all too easy to fall for him. Not only because he looked illegally good in a white shirt, or because of his amazing smell. It was the attention he gave me that made me feel good around him. Special. Desired, even.
And for the weirdest moment, I wanted him to desire me.
Letting my gaze slide to a few kids who’d started singing karaoke on a small stage across the room, I hoped I could flush that idea with a long drink from my soda, deeming it a side effect of the pain Tony caused me today. I wanted to stay faithful to my love for him, even if he made it clear that he’d rather kiss the Barbie Clone than me. But with Hunter standing between my legs, his hand placed casually just above my right knee, it was no use denying the attraction. His charm had worked on me for days now, and it was different to anything I had experienced so far. Fresh, exciting, dangerous. Nothing compared to good old safe Tony.
I wouldn’t want them to switch places right now. And that was the scariest thought of all.
A tall, dark-haired beauty came up behind Ryan and dragged me out of my musing. She wrapped one arm around his neck and kissed him on the cheek. “Hi, little brother.”
“Hey, Rach.” He let her come around and introduced us.
As he called me Matthews and the friend of a friend, my heart sank. I reached out to shake Rachel’s hand. “My name is Liza.”
“Don’t mind him. The oaf was never comfortable with first names.” The tall girl laughed and shoved her brother playfully. “I’m lucky—I’m his sister.”
“That doesn’t mean a thing, Carter,” he teased her and popped another soda then clinked cans with Philip.
“So, the friend of a friend, huh?” Rachel’s tone was light but curious. “Where is that friend?”
“Not here.” Ryan grinned at her. It was hard to miss the certain glint of mischief in his eyes. The glint that didn’t fail to make me nervous again as his gaze met mine.
Rachel sighed with a roll of her eyes. “Just when will you grow up and settle for one?”
“He’s young, baby.” Phil leaned over the counter to kiss his wife. “He has time.”
“I know.” She pulled away and snorted as she cast her brother a grin. “I’m just waiting for the day that a girl sees through you…and decides to like you anyway.”
Ryan laughed. “Yep, me too.”
After hiding from his mom in his parents’ beach house yesterday, it was odd to see him banter with his family like that. Free, uncomplicated. Funny.
“That calls for a drink.” Philip fetched two small glasses from behind the bar, placed one in front of himself and the other in front of Ryan, and started filling them with Tequila.
“You can have your drink with Rach. I’ll skip tonight.” Ryan shoved the glass toward his sister, his lips suddenly getting a little too tight.
“You pass? With that beautiful drinking partner?” Philip’s beam my way confused me. I didn’t intend to drink a teeny tiny drop of that shit, but he hadn’t given me a glass anyway, so what did he mean?
“I’m not having this drink with her.”
Okay, now Ryan’s implications hurt. He would drink with other girls, but not with me?
“Why? Is she shy?” Phil demanded.
“She’s too nice.”
“Ah, she’s a prude then.”
What bullcrap was that? “I’m not a prude! And I’m standing right beside you, so I would appreciate it if you told me what the hell you’re talking about.”
Ryan turned a sheepish grin on me. He brushed his knuckle across my cheek. “She’s decent,” he told Phil.
“Yeah, and decent is a shit word for prude,” I muttered. “So why don’t you want to do with me whatever you are used to doing with others when you come here?” Somehow I felt that my hurt pride would land me in trouble. Still, I couldn’t let them get away with calling me a prude. After all I slipped out of my room twice for this guy while being grounded. And currently I sat on a barstool in a club that opened its doors only for people age twenty-one and over.
“You don’t know what you’re asking for, Matthews.”
“Well, it won’t kill me to find out, right?” God, I should bite off my tongue.
“Okay,” Ryan drawled. “Remember, I gave you fair warning.”
Lips pressed together, I gave Hunter a determined stare, but with his last words he had me practically wetting my pants.
Philip seemed pleased with the situation as he filled the two glasses; Ryan’s only half full on his sister’s demand. He placed one half of a lime-slice on either glass.
Ryan grinned at me. “You still game?”
“I don’t have to drink this, do I?” Shit. My voice almost cracked with my rising unease.
“No, you don’t. That’s for me. You only assist with the lime.”
Assist with the lime…meant to do what? Feed it to him? Okay. I could do that. “Game on.”
Ryan cast me a smirk that made me wonder if I was in the right place at the right time. But it was too late to cop out. He took the lime off the Tequila and clinked his glass to Philip’s. At the same time he held the slice out to me. “Bite.”
“Bite,” he repeated.
He dragged the brim of his cap around to the back of his head then knocked the shot down. I leaned forward and bit into the fruit he held out, my eyes trained on his face. Yuck, the sour taste made me grimace. I pulled back. Ryan tossed the slice away and cupped my neck, yanking me toward him. Everything happened so fast, I couldn’t even lick the lime juice from my lips.
But he did. And my heart stopped beating.