I had seen Sarah Morgan’s name bandied about on fave author and autobuy lists for quite a while and it was recommended to me by Miss Bates Reads Romance.
I am so absolutely glad that I bought this book. I think that Playing by the Greek’s Rules has got to be one of my favourite category romances in the last 5 years, if not ever. I absolutely adored it.
But first, the blurb:
It’s time to throw away the rule book…
Idealistic archaeologist Lily Rose craves a fairy-tale love, but in her experience it always ends in heartbreak. So now Lily’s trying a different approach—a fling with her boss, infamous Greek playboy Nik Zervakis!
Anti-love and anti-family, Nik lives by his own set of rules. There’s no one better to teach Lily how to separate sizzling sex from deep emotions! But while Nik has the world at his feet, he also has dark shadows in his heart…
It starts as a sensual game, but can Lily stick to Nik’s rules? And what’s more, can he?
*sigh* I hate the word sensual. It just doesn’t work for me. The word makes me think of 80s boudoir photography and this book is far from that.
The story opens with archaeologist Lily angry and despondent having just found out the man she loved was actually married. Lily, who grew up in foster homes, is horrified. Family and marriage is sacrosanct for her. Lily blames herself for she keeps looking for a long term relationship with the wrong men. She swears that she needs to have rebound sex and tuurn her heart to Teflon. Her pursuit for love blinding her to the faults of the men she meets. Lily is a typical 20something year old and works several part time jobs so as to earn money to pay off her student loans so she finds herself cleaning billionaire hero Nik’s house when she gets into a fight with his high-tech power shower and needs to take her sopping wet clothes off. Which, of course, leads to their cute meet.
Hero Nik is surprised to find a near naked woman in his amazeballs house as is his girlfriend who walks off in a huff. Lily apologises and when she realises he doesn’t care about the woman decides that he is far from the sort of man she ever wants to be with. The only thing Nik cares about is that he needs a date for a museum opening that night and cleaner/archaeologist Lily will just have to step in thus giving the two more together time. From here, Lily decides that Nik is perfect as a rebound sex guy. She has not interest in being with him longterm and so she lets her guard down and just enjoys her time with Nik. The two laugh and talk, they have sexy times and just burn the pages for several days. Lily ends up accompanying Nik to his father’s fourth wedding and here it is that the sexy, fun talk ceases. Nik’s avoidance of love is because he does not want to emulate his father’s ways, always searching for love, always failing. Nik’s vulnerability emerges at this time. His difficulties reconciling himself to his mother’s abandonement and his father’s refusal to give up on love.
As for Lily, she wants the whole fairytale. She wants to “fall in love, settle down and have lots of babies” as she tells him. She wants the “happing ending part” and she just wants to be someone’s favourite person. And though she has fallen in love with Nik, she walks away because their deal was that they had a one-night rebound sex agreement. It was one night that kept stretching into days and days.
Sarah Morgan’s book is all about the heroine. Where in many romances the focus is on the hero’s transformation, this book is all about self-soothing, sunshine and puppies, funny and gorgeous, Cinderella story Lily. The hero Nik is hot – he of the “supersonic abs”, smart, (I kept picturing Sakis Rouvas and Lukas Yiorkas) rich Greek guy is not even aware that he needs Lily in his life but she is such a power that she doesn’t transform him, she just brings out the best in him, she highlights his already great qualities.
Sarah Morgan also manages something which most writes fail at: she beautifully captures the quintessential Greekness of Greeks. Where others write characters migh be called Greek, Italian, Spanish etc etc they are absurd, caricatures of the real thing often not understanding their cultural nuances. But Morgan excelled here. Nik to me was a Greek epitomised. His humouor, his stance, his attitude to sex. I love that he gave Lily a tour of his father’s island on his scooter “mihanaki”. Anyone that has ever visited Greece would immediately nod their heads and agree that rich and poor all have their mihanakia. Lily asks Nik if he feels Greek American or American Greek to which he answers “whichever suits my purpose at the time” which exactly how many people with Greek heritage feel (myself included).
Sarah Morgan also cheekily reflects a long knowledge of category romance’s tropes. From the sexy “safe word” scene where Nik blindfolds Lily, Lily asking Nik if she needed to pretend to be in a relationship with him on the way to his father’s wedding upon which he answers that they really don’t need more complications that role playing would bring and the little side wink of Nik buying glamour dresses for Lily which, of course, fit perfectly. But the trrope that she has really excelled at is the billionaire falling in love with Lily, a funny, smart heroine, living out her own Cinderella fairy tale. As mentioned earlier, it is at his father’s wedding that Lily discovers Nik’s deeper anxieties. Though she understands them, she also does not hesitate to call him out on them and tells him he needs to find his peace with his father. Lily sparkles. Lily is magic. It is during their discussion that Nik’s father says:
There are no guarantees with love, that’s true, but it’s the one thing in life worth striving to find”.
How true is that for all of us. Whether it is a deep love for a partner or searching for a love that grows from friendship, being hopeful for love sustains our life.
Lily, like Nik’s father, has had 3 failed relationships yet at no stage does she give up looking for her own happily-ever-after and Nik finally realises he can be this for her and she gets her heart’s desire. She is ever optimistic and full of light.
I think that Lily might just be my favourite fictional person.
I bought this book from the sales shelf at my local department store. I am so glad I didn’t borrow it. This book is aa keeper.
5 thoughts on “Sarah Morgan’s Playing by the Greek’s Rules”
Isn’t this sheer delight and nuance?! You’re so right: Morgan plays with the tropes and honours the tropes simultaneously. It is one of the genre’s gems! I want to read it again a good year after my review (thanks for the linkie-loo, aderfi!) and laud it all over again!
Indeed! I was wanting to read your review but I held off until I posted mine and, once again, we are reading buddies!
I have read this one! I read it because of Miss Bates’ review ::waves Hi:: 🙂 I really enjoyed it too, I often find the shortness of category novels undermines the story for me but this was well told within that tight frame. You are also right about the spirit of the book and the characters. I think the book worked for me because of that lightness and decency and it being about people owning their best selves.
I agree with you – I love seeing character’s best selves emerge. I thought Nik was fun and quite appealing from the beginning. He was always a good person – Lily just made him better.
I also think the tighter, shorter category form of romance is incredibly difficult to master. I too often find that characters aren’t as deeply explored, or that there is too much going on plotwise in a shorter romance but Sarah Morgan strikes a perfect balance and understanding of the form in this book.
[…] This was a cheeky, and perfectly written Mills and Boon that both adored and poked fun at the genre. Sarah Morgan is one of the highlighted author’s in the BFI’s love festival. Her M&B acts as an amuse bouche to her Puffin Island series which are all standalone books not published within the M&B line. This book was so fabulous. Heroine Lily is a self-soothing, post-grad archaeology student working 3 jobs to pay off her university fees who hooks up with Greek billionaire Nik whose house is one of the homes in her cleaning contract. Funny and smart with the expected absurdist plot line but with genuine emotions, sincerity that at no point becomes cloying or patronising. The narrative finds both of our protagonists realising the best of themselves through their time together. I put this book up there with Jennifer Crusie’s Charlie All Night – a category that is still being reprinted 25 yrs after its first edition. Link: to my full review. […]