Playing for Keeps is a companion novel to Emma Hart’s The Love Game—both are about the same group of friends at UC Berkeley, and both are love stories told through alternating male and female POVs. In The Love Game, the story really belonged to the female lead, Maddie, who is dealing with a troubled family background. In Playing for Keeps, it’s the guy, Aston, who’s wrestling with a broken past—and it’s a doozy. Aston comes from a heartbreaking background of abuse and neglect that’s vividly described through flashbacks, adding a layer of realism and emotional depth to this story. While there were certainly many sexy and fun scenes, it’s really Aston’s struggles that are at the center of this novel.As for Megan, the female lead in Playing for Keeps, I loved that she was a strong, self-confident, self-reliant character. Megan and Aston realize pretty quickly that they’re perfect for each other…the problem is that to everyone else, Aston is no more than the asshole/playboy façade he shows to the world. And “everyone else” includes Megan’s lifelong best friend Braden, who has a serious protective streak. Braden got on my nerves SO MUCH in this book! Of course, Megan and Aston keep their relationship secret for as long as possible, mostly to avoid Braden’s disapproval. But the truth always comes out eventually…In a book like this, we know where the characters are going to end up, but the satisfaction comes from watching them get there. Playing for Keeps might make you cry a few times, but it will leave you feeling happy and hopeful too.