A copy of this book was provided by the authors for an honest review at SeductiveMusings.blogspot.com.
Hedging His Bet - Cassandra Carr
This first story is the key to setting up our understanding and expectations for the world of the New York Empires, a professional hockey team full of popular athletes and the oversized personalities each of them brings to the rink. The hero in this story is Marcus Mitchell, a player for the Empires who is known for his success on the ice and the series of gorgeous models on his arm in public. The Vegas Night fundraiser isn't really his thing, but his appearance is required as an obligation to the team. His night takes a more dramatic turn when Annalise Alonso accidentally douses him with champagne glasses from her overturned tray. He might have asked for her number just to make sure she didn't get stuck with his cleaning bill, but he also wants to get to know her better, and that includes doing everything he can to make her difficult life easier.
Annalise already has more than she can handle when Marcus becomes such a big part of her life so quickly, but she soon sees that he truly cares about her and her ongoing trust in his motives and concern grows into a love they both share. It was great to see their relationship progress and how Marcus was able to show his love for her in ways that nobody had ever done for her before. I only wish that their story had been longer.
Casting the Die by Isabo Kelly
The second story is about how Nathalie Mendez, a physical therapist who works with the Empires, tries to save their star goalie from being killed by an unknown assailant and in the process, finds her own true love. Alexander Seminov didn't get the nickname “The Wall” just because of his tremendous skills as a goalie. When Nathalie finally works up the nerve to let him know his life is in danger, he is determined to use this new connection as a way to get Nathalie to let him into her life in spite of her concerns about how such a relationship could affect both her job and her privacy. What he doesn't know is Nathalie is more than just a physical therapist with hands just warm enough to relax the tensest muscles. What she doesn't know is that Alexander’s resolve will not be denied and that their love is more than a match for any threat.
I loved how Isabo Kelly made me believe in everything that Nathalie was keeping a secret, and how it would all come together in an ending that was not only completely plausible but perfectly symmetrical in the context of the earlier story. Normally I’m a skeptic of paranormal elements in a contemporary story, but this one worked for me very well.
Playing Her Game by Stacey Agdern
The final story fills in the missing pieces from the other two with regard to the event at the Vegas Night fundraiser which indirectly caused Annalise’s tray to be upturned, and while it ultimately fit in well with the overall story arc, I did not like it as much as I had hoped I would
Chris Emerson is the star forward of the Empires but he’s got real issues with anger management and behaving appropriately in public. This makes him the guy all the tabloids want to follow around but it doesn't make him all that popular with anyone else. When Chris finds himself called upon to defend Melanie Gould, another notorious loudmouth and controversial romance author, from the rude threats of his teammate, he steps up to the challenge, including convincing her to spend some quiet time alone where nobody can interfere with the buzz of attraction they both feel. Playing Her Game is the story of how two strong personalities find that love doesn't have to be noisy and public to be real.
There are many reasons why Playing Her Game didn't work for me as well as the other two stories, not the least of which was the abrupt and frequent switches between the characters’ points of view, often referred to as “head-hopping”. I got mixed up more than a few times wondering who was doing what and when and had to go back and read some pages a few times to get back my bearings. There’s a lot going on in this story, and it might have benefited from some scaling back, but the overall arc gave it sufficient grounding to ensure that it was better for it to be included than not.
The pivotal event of “Going All In” is the New York Empires’ big Vegas Night fundraiser where three of their biggest stars each find their special woman to love, even if it’s not obvious to them at that moment. Each of the three stories take place in roughly the same period of time, and overlap during this and other events taking place during that timeframe. If it had been handled poorly, it could have ruined anticipation for each story in turn, but instead it provided context where it was needed, especially in the third one. I’m looking forward to seeing new titles from all three authors in the future.
Ratings for Going All In:
Sensuality level: 3.5