Rating: 4.5 🌈
Beth Bolden’s new book, Playing for Keeps, is the first in her new Miami Piranhas series about a fake Miami, Florida NFL football team that’s scrambling to come together. New coach and coach teams. And a slew of incoming new players to mesh with the ones already there.
One of those new players is one of the NFL’s legendary players, Sebastian Howard. Howard’s reign as one of the NFL’s outstanding corners is coming to an end as age has caught up with him.
But his agent and the coaches at the Piranhas have gotten him to Miami to talk about playing there.
But there’s a catch. He needs to play safety.
Beau Dawson, assistant coach and son to legendary head Coach Asa Dawson, sees a bright future ahead with the struggling Piranhas. But it includes convincing Howard, a brilliant player, to switch positions.
Playing for Keeps has multiple storylines. All important and all balanced beautifully to maintain our connections to each character, their evolving relationship, and to the team that’s trying to find an identity.
It’s also about family dynamics, juggling how they determine one’s journey in life, and the manner in which each still goes forward.
It’s a lot to pack in but Bolden does so without making this feel dense or heavy.
It was only at the very beginning where Sebastian Howard’s complaining veered towards non-stop whining that it almost lost me. Yes, I got that he was the GOAT at corner. But after a while I wanted his agent to give him a reality smack.
Luckily, it and Sebastian turned a corner and things smoothed out , sort of. Bolden’s run at a struggling NFL team feels believable. Down two, they aren’t functioning as a team. Having several of the people looking at answers feels about right.
The dynamics and talks among players on the queer spectrum? Also real. Putting out the pros and cons, the issues they’ve faced and those to come seems about right. As is the question about coming out while continuing to play. That’s a pertinent question that’s on the mind of many a closeted queer athlete because of toxic environments they play in.
While this is a low angst romance, it’s not without its drama and obstacles that each person raises to the possibility of a relationship. I liked how each man handled it in turn.
The romance between Sebastian and Beau is sexy, believable, and makes for great reading.
Bolden gets the football elements right, from exciting action on the field to tense drama inside the team. Great stuff.
I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment. Until then, I’m highly recommending Playing for Keeps (Piranhas #1) by Beth Bolden.
Miami Piranhas series:
Playing for Keeps #1
Sebastian Howard is the best damn cornerback in the NFL.
Or at least he was.
Age and injuries have taken a toll, and while most people have written him off, Sebastian isn’t ready to acknowledge that at only thirty-two, he’s already in the twilight of his career.
He signs with the Miami Piranhas intending to prove everyone wrong.
Only to realize that the head coach’s son, out-and-proud Beau Dawson, doesn’t believe he can.
Beau is infuriating but brilliant, and when he offers to help him on the field, Sebastian wants to say yes, but there’s one thing stopping him: the unexpected, inconvenient, and all-consuming crush he doesn’t want to have on Beau.
But Beau isn’t interested in playing it safe, with football or with anything else, and soon they’re embroiled in a hot—and secret—affair that would finish Sebastian’s career if Coach Dawson found out.
As Sebastian falls harder for Beau, he begins to realize that actually the worst thing in the world isn’t getting benched, but losing the man he loves.