25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
They have a lot of history between them and the majority of it has played out in a highly contentious way. Cade found himself in elementary school being drawn to Ava's infectious laughter and joy in life, so he reacted in the way that most little boys do...by tormenting her. In turn, she called him "Buttface Gallari." This type of interaction continued through high school until they found themselves as biology partners for 6 weeks. There was a mutual attraction, but unfortunately in the midst of it all, Cade found out some devastating news and, acting as an immature teen, he acted out in a way that shattered Ava's fragile heart and humiliated her. Now it's 13 years later and they are having to figure out how to get past it all to work together.
What a wonderful book. There is so much emotion between Cade and Ava even if a lot of it is truly bad. Heartbreak and humiliation make up a lot of it, but underlying it all for both of them is an undeniable attraction. Cade is still incredibly drawn to Ava. He has tried to apologize to her many times over the years, but she doesn't even want to discuss it. She would rather ignore the subject, even though there are also huge lingering trust issues for her because of the "incident." They both were left scarred from the events that happened in high school. The question is can either of them work past it all...
I loved both of these characters. They are working so hard to be mature and not to lash out at each other, although that is the automatic reaction for both of them. They can deal with anyone else in the world just fine and pleasantly, but they get together and they react to each other like oil and water.
I liked the overall story line for this book. Cade is making a film in the old mansion that Ava inherited with her childhood friends Poppy & Jane. It creates a wonderfully elegant ambience for the book. Unfortunately, there is also a mild suspense story line about a missing fortune in diamonds. It is such a minor part of the book, that it could have been left out and personally, I wish that it had been. That small part of the story line did nothing but detract away from Cade and Ava's story. It was really the only part of the book that I didn't like.
This book did have a great cast of characters. I have read a ton of Susan Anderson's books over the year and with this being #3 in the series, I am guessing that I have read at least one of the other books in the series before. Regardless, I think that I need to find the first 2 in the series and read them. And personally, I think that we need to put a little bug in Ms. Anderson's ear that we need Beks (Cade's asst) story as soon as possible!!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2011
High school. Those two words either bring up fond memories, or terror for most people. Most likely both emotions were experienced to extreme degrees by everyone. Ava Spencer, the overweight young girl was crushed when she found out, along with everyone else in school, that Cade Gallari slept with her on a bet. Someone who she thought was more than a friend betraying her and the truth coming out in the most public of settings, the school lunchroom. You can't not feel for Ava and hate Cade instantly. Even years later I'd still be holding a grudge, but Ava's a lot nicer than I am and when the opportunity to work for Cade and his production company comes up, she's hesitant at first but the paycheck would bring her some financial security and she can't say no.
Cade's back in Seattle after 13 years and as a successful documentary film director, his next movie is featuring Miss Wolcott. The three women let him film in the mansion and while they all still remember the Cade from high school and what he did to Ava, they agree that seeing Miss Wolcott's story brought to life on film can be done right by him. In the middle of filming and Cade and Ava dancing around each other, we have security guard, Tony, trying to find the missing jewels that he knows are hidden in the mansion and he makes finding them his next con.
The storyline between Cade and Ava was simply nice. It took quite a while for Ava to realize that Cade is not the same idiot 18 year old he once was and she learns that he was going through some tough stuff at home when the "bet" with his friends came to be. Not that that at all excuses him for such a cruel thing he pulled, but Ava's nice and ultimately forgiving and they grow closer together as she lets down her guard again with him. Their scenes together, once they start dating again, are fun and bring out the playful side in Ava:
He had a really great butt, all round and firm, with those sucked-in hips that only men ever seem to achieve and it called to her. So she shifted around a bit.
And took a little bite.
It was great reading about Ava and seeing her in action in her job. She's a concierge and an incredibly hard worker. She shoulders much of the day to day work herself on the film's set while still juggling all her other clients. She's a people pleaser, but didn't come across as a door mat. Just one of those people who are always, 100% prepared and goes the extra mile to make people comfortable. Which was why it was so fun to see her feathers ruffled a bit by Cade, and her doing the same to him.
Jane and Poppy show up many times and it's nice to catch up with them and get a peek into where their lives are at with their men. The Tony/stealing the jewels plot was a bit weak and I didn't really think it added much to the story. The scenes with Jane, Poppy and Ava were still some of my favorites, as they have been throughout the series. The ending was a little fast, all the loose ends wrapping up neatly in one scene prior to an epilogue which jumps a few months into the future. It's a nice story and overall an enjoyable series.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
I've been waiting so long for Ava's story in this Sisterhood trilogy (Jane in CUTTING LOOSE and Poppy in BENDING THE RULES already had theirs) that I forgot that I was waiting for it and it pleasantly surprised me at Target when I was searching for a different July 26 release.
Jane, Poppy and Ava, in their early 30s now, are BFFs since oh, forever and many years prior to this story had become close to an aging rich woman named Agnes Wolcott, who left her old mansion to the 3 of them. There's backstory to this with a slight mystery about missing diamonds but it's not necessary, however, to have read the first two books to enjoy this one.
Heroine Ava and hero Cade have known each other since childhood and have an unhappy history that goes back to high school. Ava was insecure about her weight at that time but had an unfortunate crush on hunky Cade. Cade gets close to her and eventually takes her virginity, at which point Ava learns it was all just a humiliating (for her) bet on the part of Cade and his friends to see if he could nail the "fat girl".
More than a decade later Cade, a documentary producer now, comes back into her life because he wants to do a documentary on Agnes Wolcott, filming it in the Wolcott mansion now owned by the 3 women. He rents the mansion for the duration of the filming and also hires Ava as concierge, to take care mainly of all the feeding and housing of those involved in the production. So they're thrown together again and we all know what's going to happen. Predictable it may be but it is also enjoyable.
Andersen's writing moves the story forward competently, the 3 women's friendship is fun and realistic, Cade's groveling isn't perhaps "grovely" enough for me but it eventually works for Ava. I also love the fact that Ava did not ever become insecure enough to try to become a size 0 woman. She does have her moments of insecurity even in the present but we get the feeling that she'll work it out.
Oh, there's also that bit of a mystery here with the missing diamonds from the Wolcott estate. Andersen often seems to like to throw a little mystery into her romances. It doesn't necessarily detract from the romance, but I was definitely looking forward more to the chapters of interaction of H and h, rather than the ones about the bad guy.
And speaking of this romance, Andersen does it well, getting across the physical attraction and sexual tension very nicely and when they finally act on this attraction the love scenes are pretty hot. All in all, a satisfying love story.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2011
Ava Spencer has spent years trying to overcome her feeling of unworthiness as she built up a wonderful concierge business in her hometown of Seattle. Recently Ava and her two best friends have inherited a large mansion from a dear friend - along with the bills for the upkeep of this home. Now an old nemesis, Cade Gallari, is back in town wishing to use the mansion as a basis for his new documentary about the owner of the Wolcott Mansion. Cade would also like to hire her as his concierge during the rental period as he has investigated and discovered that she is the best, but it doesn't hurt that he also knows Ava's financial status. Ava is reluctant to agree to the deal, but she could use the money to pay off some debts. However, Ava and Cade have a history of humiliation between them. Thirteen years ago Cade entered into a bet to "bag the fat girl" and he had the gall to announce the winning of this bet in front of the entire cafeteria; never dreaming that Ava would pick up the gauntlet and call into question his "quick draw McGraw" actions of the night before. Will Ava be able to set aside her feeling of animosity from that day and rent the property to him or will she hold on to those feelings and her pride?
Cade Gallari has made a name for himself as a director of documentaries and gets in touch with Ava to film one in her mansion. Perhaps he can even touch on the mysterious disappearance of the Wolcott Suite of Diamonds that disappeared years ago.
Cade had always had feelings for Ava, but when opportunity knocked to strike back at someone while maintaining friendships that he felt were the only things he had, he took it! He never dreamed how wrong he could be and over the years he tried to make amends for his wrongs against Ava, but she wouldn't hear of it. Now opportunity is knocking once again! Can he convince Ava that his feelings were always there, but that he was reeling from a hurt that was inflicted upon him and struck out at the one he loved most? Or will their love be doomed to fail before it can ever really start, because of all the lingering hurt feelings?
Playing Dirty was a fast paced read that kept me engaged for the most part, wondering what each of these characters would get up to next. I thoroughly enjoyed some of Ava and Cade's antics, but questioned the professionalism of others. Even though Cade was "playing dirty" I felt he crossed the line in other aspects and I thought the strong heroine, Ava, should have called him on it. There were some instances in Playing Dirty that were so funny, and others that were just plain contrived. Some things were way too convenient and came out of left field just to play the plot out to the ultimate conclusion.
The mystery was a bit intriguing in Playing Dirty and I was glad to have it solved as well, but it really did get old that every character seemed to be so completely wrapped up in Ava's "assets". Even the villain was leering at those "assets" in the climatic showdown scene! The constant designer name-dropping got to be a bit tedious as well and made Ava seem shallow. I was left wondering why she didn't just sell some of those things to pay off debt instead of working for Cade.
There was a slight spark of chemistry between Ava and Cade in Playing Dirty, but not enough for me to overlook what he had done to her. Then of course he claims to have changed over the years, but when push came to shove he reverted to form. Cade got hurt and he hurt others in response. So how did he really change? Cade felt like he had worked hard enough as it was, but I never really saw that. The reader is not really privy to any flashbacks of other apologies that may have been written in other books so you can only go by what is in Playing Dirty and these other apologies weren't there. They were discussed, but setting the scene would have given more impact.
Playing Dirty showed that both characters had erroneous beliefs about themselves and they were even parallel to one another, however Ava never once set out to maliciously hurt another just to maintain something she wanted. I was so mad when Cade's reasons were revealed and a bit disappointed in him as well. All he did to Ava was torment her over the years as they grew up and then that senior year cafeteria incident was the icing on the cake! Cade didn't deserve Ava!
Playing Dirty had me stuck on the fact that his pursuing of her came down to a challenge that Ava unknowingly issued to Cade. He has always been game for a challenge as evidence back in the bet. So once again, how did he change? It felt more like Cade and Ava getting together was more a result of a challenge and not true love as Cade later proclaimed. It did not help Cade's case either when it appeared that he was bragging to Ava about his experience since their senior year. It would have been better if he kept his mouth shut and just showed her instead. I would have been content with them coming together for a short time and then moving on, but I needed something more to buy into the HEA.
Reviewed for Joyfully Reviewed
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2011
It's been a while since I read a Susan Andersen book, and Playing Dirty was a great reminder how much I love her books! Ava gave Cade her virginity back in high school only to find out that he'd only participated because of a bet he'd made to look cool to his friends to sleep with the "fat chick." As the years passed, both of them made something of themselves, and Cade never stopped apologizing, but Ava never stopped hating him. But this time they are thrown together in a way that Ava can't avoid. And both of them quickly discover the sparks are still there, despite the past.
I loved Cade and Ava. It's is quickly apparent that Cade is horrified at what he did and will do just about anything to make it up to Ava and prove to her that, despite the stupid bet, he had, in fact, been extremely attracted to her, then and now. Ava has body issues, but she's made a huge success of her life and those issues only pop up once in a while. I liked the way it was handled...the issues are present, but not taking over her entire life. And when Ava finally lets down her guard and gives into her feelings for Cade, the sparks fly.
Playing Dirty has one of the best love scenes I've ever read. It's fun and sexy without being over-the-top explicit. It moved the story forward keeping both characters true to their personalities. Hot!
I didn't realize that Playing Dirty was book three in a trilogy (the other books were Ava's friends Jane and Poppy's stories) until partway through...but it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book at all. It was easy to follow and, though Jane and Poppy and their spouses showed up during the book, I didn't feel like I missed anything at all. Now, though, I'll have to go back and read the others!
I loved this book for its fun and humor and poignancy. Highly recommended!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2011
I was so excited when I saw that I had a new Susan Andersen to read. There's really only one book of her's that I've gone back and re-read but she is definitely one that I'm never disappointed with. Playing Dirty was not an exception. In either sense. I wasn't disappointed, really, but I'm not going to be reading it again.
It was all very expected. This is the third book in a series and the last one came out in July of 09. I'm glad she released the third because there were things left hanging that I needed a conclusion for. I did not re-read the first two in the series before I read this one and I'm glad I didn't because it felt very much like the first book. There were certain places that I felt like names, descriptions and jobs had been changed but the plot was the same. Of course there are differences and this is often my complaint with a series but 1. I felt like I had "been there, done that" and 2. I want the fantasy of romance but I want it to be believable and I just have a hard time believing that these three friends really go through such similar experiences on the road to love.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2011
I get the fact that there is a bad history between Ava and Cade. But is it necessary to drag on the history and tension through over half the book? So many things in this book is over described and rambles on and on. The readers are not stupid. There is no need to waste time filling page after page with meaningless rambling.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2013
I could find no connection to these characters. In fact, the characters and their actions seemed totally unrealistic. I grew weary of the topic of weight and curves.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Remember how your mom always told you that the boy who pulled your pig tails is mean to you because he likes you? Well, popular Cade Gallari has always been mean to chubby Ava Spencer, but now he's gone too far. He announces to the school during lunch that he slept with Ava to win a bet. Ten years later, Cade is back in town. He's a documentary film producer and needs Ava's help. Determined to finally put that ugly chapter in her life behind her, Ava accepts Cade's business proposal as she's in dire need of cash. She just didn't realize he had more in mind than just completing his latest documentary: Cade has always crushed on Ava and is determined to show her he's sorry and has grown up.
Honestly, I didn't expect to love this story as much as I did. First off, we watch Ava's world come crashing down around her as she's humiliated in front of the entire elite school by Cade's cold actions. She doesn't go down crying, in fact she fights right back and doesn't back down. How do you forgive something like that?
For 10 years, Cade has tried to apologize to Ava for what he did in High School. He was a complete a$$ and now he knows it. Unfortunately, Ava spurns him at every attempt. Cade has grown up, but he still has some explaining to do. I appreciated the fact that the author didn't try to cover things up with a lame "I didn't make that bet" or a "it didn't really happen like that." No. Cade really did do it. And yes. Cade finally has to fess up and face the consequences.
Obviously, Ava and Cade have a lot of trust issues to overcome if they are going to be friends let alone lovers.
Ava was a fun character. She has 2 best friends who keep her grounded and real. She realizes that she's been letting this one horrible moment define her life and is ready to let it go. It's just not that easy to do. Old habits die hard. She was never annoying. Yes, she has her issues--fat issues to be specific. However, it was believable and not overly repetitive. Her character development was nicely done as she learns to truly believe in herself and her abilities.
It was funny to watch Cade and Ava and the antics they would use to get the upper hand. It was never over the top as in "no one would truly do that!" They were just fun to watch.
There is a small side mystery about some stolen jewelry from years ago that is the basis of Cade's documentary. It does add a little to the drama and storyline without taking away from the main story.
I started wondering about Ava's girlfriends. They are both married and were fun ladies that I would love to have spent more time with. Once I finished this story, I did some digging. Apparently, this is the 3rd book in a series. I never felt lost or as if I was missing something--which is my big fear about reading mid-series. It looks like each book is a stand-along book revolving three best friends who inherited a mansion from their mentor.
I enjoyed this story so much that I'm seeking out the other two. That should tell you about how much I enjoyed it.
Cutting Loose (Jane's Story)
Bending the Rules (Poppy's Story)
Playing Dirty (Ava's Story)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2011
Playing Dirty by Susan Andersen is the long awaited story of Ava Spencer. Its well worth the wait.
Ava Spencer has built a well deserved reputation as a top notch concierge. If something needs to get done Ava is your woman. But the down turn in the economy has effected her business. When her former high school crush comes calling with a job for Ava. She is hard pressed to turn the money down. Its going to be harder to get past the public humiliation Cade Gallari caused her back in high school to work with him day in and day out.
Cade Gallari, a documentary film producer, is eager to film the long ago mystery involving the mansion that Ava and her two best friends inherited. He offers Ava the job of being his personal concierge. Cade has apologized to Ava before but he wants to show her that he isn't that misguided boy from high school. He has matured over the years but he has never gotten over his true feelings for Ava.
Ava and Cade relationship changes the more time they spend together. Ava slowly realizes Cade sees the real her not the person she used to be and that is on heady feeling. Plus she understands more about what was going on with him back then as well. But Cade is only in town till the documentary is filmed. Will either of them be willing to take a chance on something wonderful?
Playing Dirty is an all out absolute delight. Its fast paced, witty, charming read. Ava and Cade's relationship sends sparks every time they see each other. Another treat in this book is revisiting with Ava's friends Jane and Poppy. Susan Andersen's books are tops on my list of books to read and re-read.