Winning The Player
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
As a teenager, Aubree Taylor was a gifted basketball player with her whole future mapped out: a couple years at the Australian Institute of Sport followed by playing college basketball in America. A catastrophic knee injury that meant she’d never be able to play competitively again ruined all of her dreams and instead Aubree fled overseas. After a long time, she’s back in Adelaide, Australia and one of the first people she runs into is her best friend’s cousin, Hunter Stone, the one person she really does not want to see. Aubree ran out on Hunter one night, hopping on the plane to take her overseas.
Hunter Stone is an AFL player at the top of his game and he thinks that he and Aubree need to talk but Aubree doesn’t agree. She doesn’t want to talk about why she ran away from him two years ago, she doesn’t even really want to see him – or so she keeps telling herself. Aubree doesn’t do casual hook-ups though – for her it has to mean something. She’s seen enough of the AFL culture and heard enough about Hunter Stone’s prowess with women to know that that’s not a mistake she wants to make. She had a lucky escape two years ago and she needs to make sure she doesn’t slip up again.
But Hunter shows Aubree another side of him, a side she really likes and both of them are unable to resist the powerful attraction between them. However Hunter’s arrogance and distrust of women stemming from an incident in his past make it hard for Aubree to believe that he’ll always be there for her. Her instinct is to run again, before he really breaks her heart. It seems that every time Hunter shows something that convinces her to stay, there’s something else that tells her that this is never going to work.
This title was showcased at the #PTALive event I went to in Melbourne on Monday night and I love my AFL so I thought I’d give it a go. I have read a heap of books about American college football and whatever. I don’t understand the NFL – I don’t even know what a quarterback is/does but I do know Aussie Rules! My beloved Sydney Swans might be playing woefully enough to make me want to cry but there’s plenty of other things to watch.
Like Joel Selwood, captain of the Geelong Cats. He’s a very *cough* fine player.
Aubree has had the life she wanted, trained for, lived for for years, taken away from her by an incredibly serious knee injury. She’s spent the last few years avoiding her future really, by travelling from one place to the next and putting off thinking about what she’s going to do next. However the time has finally come to return home and of course on her first night back out in Adelaide, she runs into Hunter stone, her best friend Maddy’s cousin and her almost one night stand of a couple years ago. Aubree is deeply attracted to Hunter but she has big reservations about him – there’s the lifestyle and ‘player’ mentality and his arrogant attitude as well.
This book takes a good look at what it’s like for the “ordinary” girl to catch the eye of a sports superstar. Hunter is at the top of his game. I can’t remember if it says what position he plays but he’s the star of his team, the Adelaide Blackbirds (that kind of made me LOL because obviously they can’t use real teams however anyone can see where the inspiration for this made up name has come from!). Aubree quite often feels inferior to the sorts of girls that hang off the arms of the players out at clubs and all of the rumours often swirling around speak of sexual conquests, not steady girlfriend. Aubree doesn’t want to be anyone’s conquest – she wants a proper, steady relationship with mutual love (or something that can evolve into it) and respect.
I can see how the prospect of dating a footy player would be intimidating. Many of them are famous for model/actress/whatever girlfriends and much is made of the fact that Aubree is a tall and muscular size 12. Not large by any means, but also not skinny either and she feels uncomfortable in short clubbing dresses – but this doesn’t really stop her from wearing them when they go out. Aubree does a lot of drinking in this story and part of me wondered if she did shots a lot when she was out to help up her confidence when she was in a place that most of the time, she really wasn’t interested in being. Maddy almost always had to twist her arm to get her to go anywhere.
Despite being footy’s current golden boy, Hunter is a bit of a mess at times and I think there are a couple of things that aren’t really addressed properly here that should’ve been. The first is his sexual history – he brushes Aubree off when she tries to ask him about things that she needs to know in order to trust him. The whole thing where he takes pick ups to his spare room is sort of weird and his treatment of a girl that’s part of the hangers-on really isn’t great. She might be an epic bitch to Aubree and I suppose the reader is supposed to dislike her but I ended up feeling sorry for her. Also Hunter’s behaviour to Aubree after he catches her with Connor is not satisfactorily dealt with at all. He’s really quite rude towards her and that temper would be a significant red flag unless he acknowledged and it and showed that he was dealing with it and working on it. It’s explained why he’s mad but it’s not really a good enough reason and it’s also something he doesn’t want to talk about as well, along with his father. It seems like there’s a whole bunch of stuff that Hunter doesn’t want to discuss that gets stuck in a box and Aubree, who wants trust and disclosure, just has to deal with it. I definitely feel she gives Hunter too many chances here to redeem himself and he keeps royally stuffing them up in the same ways! When he lies to her about the reason he’s in Melbourne, I wanted to smack him. Hunter, learn from your mistakes buddy! Perhaps the professional football playing lifestyle both enhances and stunts maturity. After all players can be drafted when they’re barely adults, often moving away from home to train and play, travelling interstate, etc. It would make you grow up in some ways but in others….well you’re used to everything going your way. Being able to do whatever you want. Hunter does need to learn that he won’t always get his own way here and I think that Aubree does a good job of teaching him that she’s her own person and can think and act for herself and the only thing that will change her mind is her.
I actually really enjoyed Aubree as a character. I think it would be incredibly difficult for her to go through having her whole life thrown up into the air like that and she struggles with what she should do with her life. However she gets some really good ideas from people around her who support her and want to see her back involved in the sport that meant so much to her. She was occasionally a bit negative but she was dealing with quite a lot of things and she seemed to come out the other side a lot stronger. I liked how she stood her ground a lot of the time to Hunter, about issues like Connor and how she also stood up for a girl who was so drunk it was unlikely she would remember what was happening in the morning. That sort of behaviour, footy players taking advantage of that, isn’t a good look and Hunter’s casual dismissal of her fears I felt really put them on different sides. Aubree is the girl who knows what it will be like the next day, Hunter is the guy who would probably barely give that girl another moment’s thought. He does come around to her way of thinking in the end and admits he was a dick, which was good. If you’re wrong, you should admit it. I even liked them together, especially when Hunter was being playful and not moody but I think as a couple, they had issues that could’ve been explored a bit more thoroughly. I did really like the football details – Aubree isn’t really an AFL fan so mostly it comes from other people telling her what’s going on but it was good to read an Australian story focused on an Australian game.
Book #87 of 2014
Winning The Player is book #36 read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014