Playing for Keeps by Jax Calder

Playing for Keeps is a second chance, best friends to lovers story set in the world of rugby

From the blurb:

Falling for your former best friend? Never a good idea.

Ethan Lewis is the joker of his rugby team, the guy who’s always up for a good time. The only thing that can wipe the smile from his face is any mention of his former best friend. Luke was the one bright spot in Ethan's messed up childhood and losing his friendship was the most difficult thing he's ever had to cope with. Ethan knows he broke the bro-code by hooking up with Luke’s sister, but the result was his son—and he wouldn’t change that for the world. When he hears Luke’s signed a contract to play for his team, Ethan decides he’s going to do everything he can to get his best friend back.

Luke’s returned to New Zealand from playing rugby overseas, determined to achieve his lifelong dream and make the national team. And he’s not about to let Ethan’s presence distract him. So what if one of his new teammates is the person who shredded his heart? Luke’s moved past that, and he’s happy now with his new boyfriend. There’s no way he’s falling back under Ethan’s spell.

But it turns out no matter how good you are at evading the opposition, there’s one thing you can never escape—and that’s the love of your life.

Sheena's Review:

Playing for Keeps is the third in a series, but it could be read as a standalone, it's a new couple but there are appearances from the other couples from the previous books as they are teammates.

This is a a second chance, best friends to lovers set in the world of professional rugby in New Zealand where it's almost a religion.  I loved the first two books and was more than happy to step back into the world the author created with those.  I liked the two protagonists, Ethan and Luke and I loved their banter with each other.  I loved how they stepped almost straight back into it once they broke the ice again.

There's a lot going on with these two, as they say it could be a Jerry Springer type show, but if ever there was a couple meant to be, it is Luke and Ethan.  The chemistry between them was palpable and I felt so sorry for Luke's partner.  I liked that there was no cheating or apparent hard feelings though, but I did feel for Jonathan as he did nothing wrong.  He just wasn't Luke's person.

I loved Luke and Ethan's connection, I felt sorry for Luke's sister though once the whole story was revealed, it's not easy living in the shadow of a more popular sibling.  Families.

This was, fun, hot, sweet and ultimately satisfying for a lot of reasons.  I said in my review for the first book that all I wanted was Aiden to get his record.  Thank you, Jax Calder for that happy ending too and for letting me get that along with Tyler and Aiden's wedding.

I'm looking forward to Jonathan's story now as I have a hope his significant other is a sassy Aussie we met in this book.

Rating: 4 Stars

Heather's Review:

At the heart of it, Playing for Keeps is a Best Friends to Lovers, second chance romance set against the rugby pitch in New Zealand, but there is so much more... and that means that the story starts with a lot of baggage... and sheds it slowly, which is right for the characters, but sometimes tough on the reader.   I can't even call it a slow burn because the characters actively avoid so much about their own feelings and just put their heads in the sand...  they're not even the catalyst for their own story...

But I digress, I really like Luke and Ethan as characters despite the slog through the plot and I appreciate the author's note at the end of the book about continuing the series for one more story, which I think is perfect...

Be warned, there are some triggers - mostly featuring Luke's sister and Ethan's' baby mama... substance abuse and mental health issues, and a very Jerry Springer-like family dynamic, but all in all it's a very sweet friends to lovers story with a steamy HEA.

Rating: 4 Stars

Tatted_book_freak's Review:

ax swoops in with another emotionally wrecking adventure in the Sporting Series, upping the level of gut-wrenching scenes of two best friends who find their way back to where they belong. I’m not sure whether to classify this as a best friends to enemies to lovers romance or a second chance romance, but either way their connection was off the charts and I was ecstatic when they finally drag their heads out of their asses and realized the intensity of emotions permeating through their skin.

ᴡʜᴇɴ  ɪ ᴛʜᴏᴜɢʜᴛ ᴀʙᴏᴜᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ɴɪɢʜᴛ ᴄʜᴀʀ ᴀɴᴅ ɪ ꜱʟᴇᴘᴛ ᴛᴏɢᴇᴛʜᴇʀ, ᴍᴏꜱᴛ ᴏꜰ ᴍʏ ᴍᴇᴍᴏʀɪᴇꜱ ᴡᴇʀᴇ ᴏꜰ ʟᴜᴋᴇ.

Besides the fierce chemistry felt between these two men, this story was about so much more than just their connection.  Their friendship was so raw and pure, carrying over into their adult lives and interfering in personal matters. The depths at which they knew one another was deep, explosive when they intermixed sexual intimacy into the equation. I absolutely loved how Jax was able to take an extremely difficult situation and turn it into a lovingly, overcoming novel. 

𝙏𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙬𝙝𝙤 𝙄 𝙬𝙖𝙨. 𝙄 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙛𝙖𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙜𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙨𝙤𝙣. 𝙄 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙞𝙣 𝙡𝙤𝙫𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙨𝙤𝙣.

Can we please take a moment a recognize Luke’s mother was down right hateful and resentful towards a man who didn’t have control over how he was raised?? And, how slimy his sister was for interfering in her brother’s love life because of jealousy?? At least these men had their HEA. 

“𝐈 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐞…𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰, 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥.”

I’m excited to see what she does for Mitch and Jonathan?  Especially Jonathan’s history with rugby players 🏉

Rating: 5 Stars

Playing for Keeps is currently available in e-book and paperback and can be read as part of your Kindle Unlimited Subscription