“Braxton Walker…do you ever smile?”
“Tyson Langley, do you ever shut up?”
Tyson has had a thing for Braxton for three years. Something about the tall, dark haired, and broodingly handsome boy makes him want to tackle him, pin him to the ground, and melt over him like honey — sticky, clingy, and impossible to get out of his hair. For the past three years, Braxton has endured Tyson’s attention — the snark, the smiles, the flirtation and dramatics. But it’s getting harder and harder to believe it when he tells himself that Tyson’s nothing more than an obnoxious bit of eye candy.
When Tyson gets a job at Shenanigans, the same college bar where Braxton works, the building tension between them explodes into a blowjob Braxton will never forget. One he doesn’t want to forget. Soon, they’re blowjob buddies — not friendly enough to be friends with benefits — but even that’s just a thin veneer over the truth. Braxton likes Tyson, likes being with him, even when they’re not fucking.
Playing Games is the first book in the Franklin U multi-author series of college romances, each designed to standalone, but set in the same universe. While this is labeled as an enemies-to-lovers story, it feels more like almost-friends to lovers. Tyson and Braxton aren’t rivals in anything, other than their own self imposed game of poking at one another. They’re full of banter, long looks and sticking their tongues out at one another, which could be cute, but lacks some of the bite that I would personally expect in a rivalry.
Tyson is the typical “rich kid” whose father pays for his way in school and gives him living expenses. However, ever since finding out that his father has been having affairs behind his mother’s back for the entire length of their marriage, including having at least two children with other women, Tyson has decided to cut his father off. He doesn’t want his phone calls, his lame attempts to “make things right,” or his money. Which is why he has to get a job. Tyson is reevaluating his entire life, at the moment, not even certain if he wants to follow his current career path — which was to be just like his father, to work at the same company and one day inherit — or if he wants to follow his own dreams and become his own person.
Braxton has a chip on his shoulder, always expecting to be judged for his father, currently in prison, and his brother, currently running parties every night out of the house and who may or may not be involved in any number of stupid things. He’s scraped together for scholarships, works hard as his job, and is fortunate his grandmother was able to help pay some of his college expenses. To see Tyson, who has everything, waltz into his job just to screw with his head pisses Braxton off, leading to their very explosive first fling.
To be honest, I found the chemistry between Braxton and Ty to be somewhat forced, and if it weren’t for their nicknames for one another, I don’t know that I would have always been able to tell them apart in the long moments of banter and bickering. The two of them falling into bed — or into closets and abandoned rooms (and once, in the college library at a table) — felt real enough, and the friends to hookups leading to something more almost worked … but only almost. For me, this book simply didn’t have anything in particular to make it stand out.
Braxton and Ty’s happy ending was such a foregone conclusion, even from the first page, with no drama or angst to add conflict, that it felt like a very one note read. The writing is fine, the pacing is fine, but nothing here caught my interest. If you’re a fan of college romances with a lot of sex, this book might well be for you. But if you want more bite and character growth, then I’d pass.