Review: Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren: Brother's tatted up bass-playing friend teaches nerdy work-obsessed woman to chill. And by chill I mean bang.

Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: contemporary romance
Format/Source: Kindle ebook, purchased
Status: book 3 of the Beautiful series

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A bombshell bookworm. A chronic Casanova. And a lesson in chemistry too scandalous for school.

When Hanna Bergstrom receives a lecture from her overprotective brother about neglecting her social life and burying herself in grad school, she’s determined to tackle his implied assignment: get out, make friends, start dating. And who better to turn her into the sultry siren every man wants than her brother’s gorgeous best friend, Will Sumner, venture capitalist and unapologetic playboy?

Will takes risks for a living, but he’s skeptical about this challenge of Hanna’s…until the wild night his innocently seductive pupil tempts him into bed- and teaches him a thing or two about being with a woman he can’t forget. Now that Hanna’s discovered the power of her own sex appeal, it’s up to Will to prove he’s the only man she’ll ever need.

Without a doubt, Beautiful Player is my favorite of the Beautiful series. I've probably read it over 10 times since it released and maybe 7 or so of those rereads were in the last year (mostly via audio). There's just something really comforting to me about falling in love with Hanna and Will all over again.

Hanna is one of my favorite leading ladies in lit, period. She's smart, she's (mostly) sure of herself (and comfortable with who she is), she's funny, she's straightforward. But she's not perfect. She's a little awkward, sometimes too straightforward, and she's not always great about communicating her thoughts (this is especially obvious in "Beautiful Boss," the novella sequel to Player). I feel a definite kinship with Hanna, who is a workaholic who is letting life pass her by as she holes herself up in her lab. What I really appreciate about Hanna is that when she doesn't know something (for instance: dating, love, sex), she's open about it and asks questions. She never holds back from Will, always asking for guidance, and not in an obnoxious way. It's always, "help me be better, help me understand" with her inquiries, no matter how silly or how intimate. There's something really captivating about Hanna that makes me want to know her in real life and be her friend, and I LOVE that in a character.

Likewise, Will is magnetic and charming. Oh, and he's sexy af. Obviously. Like Hanna, Will is very confident and comfortable with himself, with his life. But then Hanna throws his whole life off track, and I can't tell you how funny it is seeing him be off balance. If you read Beautiful Stranger and then "Beautiful Bombshell", you'll see how chill Will is...most of the time. But in Player he becomes a bit of a bumbler because of adorable bumbling Hanna throwing off the routine. One of the greatest aspects of Player is that Hanna never intends to change Will. She wants to be his friend and to learn how to date by using his extensive experience and knowledge. One of Will's greatest strengths, character-wise, is how honest he is. Everyone gives him a hard time about his life choices, but Will is open with everyone, always letting them know the score. Like Will, I think the term 'player' is a little disingenuous when applied to him because while he does have many lady friends, he never plays any of them. I like seeing Christina Lauren flip that role and take it down a different road than most traditional romance books.

Beautiful Player is also really fun to read. In addition to being on FIRE during the sexy scenes (seriously, they are so good! Original and refreshing and HOT), Will and Hanna also have a sweet, playful chemistry that stems from their knowing each other for so long and having that past connection. These are two characters who have a—to repeat myself a third time but I can't not because it's so fitting for them—very comfortable and easy connection. Whether they're running or hanging at a bar or relaxing at home, Hanna and Will have great, interesting conversations, and they're also really funny together. One of my favorite scenes is when they're running and Hanna tells Will about her breast reduction (like I said, she's very open & comfortable in her skin), and Will gets upset and says, "don't you blaspheme in here" and then, looking upward, says, "she didn't mean it, Lord." It's so ridiculous and silly, and the joke returns later in the book during another hilarious scene in which Will is caught off guard, and I love it.

For readers of the previous books, the whole gang makes an appearance—Bennett, Chloe, Sara, Max, and even George, and the group as a whole really coalesces for the first time. In Bastard, the story was wholly focused on the relationship between Chloe and Bennett, with only Sara living on the fringes. In Stranger, we meet Will and George, and the group dynamic gets a little easier. But in Player, I think the group really finds its stride, together, even as Chloe and Bennett work on their wedding, and Max and Sara have their own thing going on. Will loses his status as the fifth wheel that made "Bombshell" a little sad (but also funny because the other guys play pranks on him). And in Player, I also like seeing the different combinations of characters—Will & Max; Will, Max & Bennett; Will, Chloe, and Sara; Hanna, Chloe, Sara; Hanna, Chloe. Seeing how smaller groups interact is one of the things I love best in books with ensemble casts, like Six of Crows and Harry Potter, but that rarely happens in romance since they're usually entirely focused on one couple, but I thought Player masterfully balanced primary focus on Will and Hanna's relationship with scenes featuring members of the group.

Beautiful Player is a highly recommend title. It's funny, sweet, romantic, and sexy: everything I want in a book. I love the characters and believe in their development as separate characters and as a couple. I love how life moves on not just for Will and Hanna, but also for the secondary characters. Also, I should probably do an Audio Adventures review for the audiobook, but it's incredible. One of the best I've ever listened to. Sebastian York and Grace Grant ARE Will and Hanna to me, and it's always a little weird hearing them narrate other books, even others in the Beautiful series or Wild Seasons just because they wholly capture the story. Definitely give it a listen! 

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About the Author:
Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates/brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The coauthor duo writes both Young Adult and Adult Fiction, and together has produced fourteen New York Times bestselling novels. Their books have been translated into 31+ languages. (Some of these books have kissing. Some of these books have A LOT of kissing.)

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  1. Excellent review! I love when confident characters suddenly becoming bumbling people because they really want another person to like them. Great characters and chemistry are so imporatant in a romance too and I'm so happy to read that you love them so!

    1. Oh my gosh, I could just die listening to these two be all awkward and adorable. It's the best!

  2. This is actually my first time hearing about this series, so thanks for putting on my radar! It sounds awesome, and I'll definitely check it out :D Fabulous review, Mary! I'm so glad you loved this book :)

    Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

    1. I'm surprised you haven't heard of it! It's not YA, but Christina Lauren are crazy popular. I hope you give their adult books a shot!

  3. I love this series so much! I will read anything and everything by Christina Lauren!