Play On- Samantha Young
My Review - 4 Stars
Second chance romances aren't really my thing but Young has made a believer out of me with Play On. Mostly because this is a second chance romance unlike any other I've tried.
It's a second chance not only for the couple but for Nora, who struggles to forgive herself for actions she took when the story first begins.
In a nod to Nora's love of acting and plays, Play On is divided into three acts. At the end of the first and second acts, my jaw dropped over what happened because it pushed the novel in completely different directions from what I expected.
Ah, Nora. My heart went out to her. She had such a big heart and even bigger dreams but she's limited by her circumstances. This was interesting to explore. What do you do when your chance at escape doesn't take you to a better place? I could understand her attempts to make the best of things and then the guilt she felt over something that wasn't her fault but kept her trapped nonetheless. Life can have a way of knocking us down but Nora was still able to find some small ways to let her light shine, like volunteering at the Children's Hospital.
I liked how Nora was able to indulge in her love of acting as a volunteer reading to the children. It's a safe place for her but it also leads her to Sylvie and Aidan, which in turn puts her on another path entirely. Nora's love of plays, especially while she's unable to act, brought a unique angle to the story and I really enjoyed the way Shakespeare featured in.
We don't meet Aidan until almost the end of the first act and this confused me when the book started off but trust me, he's worth the wait and it serves the plot well. Aidan is exactly the sexy Scotsman I've come to know and love from Samantha Young. He was a phenomenal uncle and I loved how he vetted Nora thoroughly before he ever considered pursuing her. But once he's decided he wants Nora, nothing will stop him and I was here. for. it. (I didn't like the age difference but that's a personal preference since I'm a more age-appropriate match for Aidan and it's hard for me to see guys go for much younger women. It worked in this case only because Nora is wise beyond her years.)
Since this is a second chance romance, you know something is going to tear these two apart and it was a gut punch when it happened. But it does propel Nora into action. For much of the first two acts, she's either merely existing in her life or punishing herself. The end of her relationship forces Nora to take stock of what she wants in her life and then go after it. One positive choice leads to another and Nora is in a better place when Aidan reappears.
Those scenes were brutal and there were times when Aidan went too far. Yet Nora and Aidan were still clearly drawn to one another and I hoped that if they could just talk about what happened, we'd make some headway. It takes some doing but what a payoff! Nora showed remarkable growth and I was happy to see Aidan take ownership of what he could and then play hardball for the rest. There is no stopping Aidan once he's made up his mind and I sure wouldn't mind being the recipient of that passion and determination. But I digress.
The secondary characters were a definite highlight. I loved Roddy and Seonaid in particular, which lent itself to a nice subplot beyond the ways they're there for Nora. I do wish one of the secondary characters hadn't been painted as such a villain because I did not find their actions to be entirely believable but maybe it's more that their character wasn't fleshed out enough.
While grief and loss features prominently, it had the right amount of angst. Nora is really trying to figure out who she is and what she deserves from life and I could relate to that. Her character growth was one of my favorite parts of this novel because of how she was able to evolve and because of how her friends challenge her.
I really enjoyed reading this one from start to finish. The character, the structure, the arc...it all worked for me. Another winner from Samantha Young!
Nora O’Brien chased a dream from Indiana to Scotland, so sure it was the right thing to do. Three years later she was left in her adopted country with nothing to her name but guilt and regret.
Until Aidan Lennox entered her life.
Older, worldlier, a music producer and composer, the sexy Scot should never have made sense for Nora. But somehow, in each other, they found the light they were looking for, the laughter and the passion—the strength to play on despite their past losses.
But when life dealt Aidan another unlucky hand, instead of reaching for her he disappeared. The agonizing loss of him inspired something within Nora. It fired her spirit— the anger and hurt pushing her forward to take control and reach for her dreams.
Finally pursuing a career on stage while she put herself through college, everything is how Nora wants it. She’s avoiding heartbreak and concentrating on her goals.
Sounds easy but it’s not. Because Aidan is back. And for some reason he hates Nora.
He’s determined to be at war with her. And she has absolutely no idea why.
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About Samantha Young:
Samantha Young is the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of adult contemporary romances, including the On Dublin Street series and Hero, as well as the New Adult duology Into the Deep and Out of the Shallows. Every Little Thing, the second book in her new Hart’s Boardwalk series, will be published by Berkley in March 2017. Before turning to contemporary fiction, she wrote several young adult paranormal and fantasy series, including the amazon bestselling Tale of Lunarmorte trilogy. Samantha’s debut YA contemporary novel The Impossible Vastness of Us was published by Harlequin TEEN in ebook & hardback June 2017. Play On is an adult contemporary romance and the first in a brand new series set in Scotland.
Samantha has been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award 2012 for Best Author and Best Romance for On Dublin Street, Best Romance 2014 for Before Jamaica Lane, and Best Romance 2015 for Hero. On Dublin Street, a #1 bestseller in Germany, was the Bronze Award Winner in the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2013, Before Jamaica Lane the Gold Medal Winner for the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2014 and Echoes of Scotland Street the Bronze Medal Winner for the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2015.
Samantha is currently published in 30 countries and is a #1 international bestselling author.
Disclosure: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.