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Posted July 14, 2014
HEARTS AT PLAY is book six in Melissa Foster's "The Bradens" contemporary romance series. This
one focuses on race car driver Hugh Braden and single mother Brianna Heart. Hugh lives the standard
wealthy playboy lifestyle--lots of cash, fast cars and women. But he's getting weary of all the flash and
glamour. I wouldn't say he's actively looking for true love. More that he's at that point where people
who've found success stop and ask, "Is this all there is?" Brianna is a waitress in a bar in rural Virginia,
not too far from one of Hugh's homes. He comes in for a (disastrously funny) blind date and falls for
Bree. But she's given up on men and dating--at least until her young daughter hits eighteen.
And so begins a race for Happily Ever After.
As we've come to expect from Foster, HEARTS AT PLAY is populated with likable, well-realized
characters. Even Bree's daughter (Layla) lives and breathes and has an active part in the story. Too
often kids in romance novels are no more than window dressing, or, worse, a means to evoke instant
reader emotion--just add "cute" and stir! Foster is a better writer than that. She builds Hugh's relationship
with Layla in parallel to his relationship with her mother, and we see all three characters blossom.
Another way HEARTS AT PLAY stands out is in the focus on Hugh's point of view. Usually it's the
heroine of a romance novel who gets the most air time. Here, though, attention is weighted toward
Hugh's efforts to come to grips with his changing personal values and his determination to win over
This book doesn't have the thematic heft of some of the others in the series. Both LOVERS AT HEART
and SEA OF LOVE deal with scary real-world situations like sexual violence and serious phobias--the
kind of crippling fear that scars the memory and stifles living. HEARTS AT PLAY is lighter. The conflict
can seem a little forced in places. The kind of molehills-for-mountains stuff that makes you want to
knock the main characters' heads together and order them to get over themselves.
On the whole, though, HEARTS AT PLAY is a fun, touching book. Well worth an afternoon curled up on
the sofa with your Kindle and a cup of tea.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 2, 2014
I must say this is my favorite of the Love in Bloom series so far.The way Hugh does a complete 180 is amazes me. Only thing I don't care for is how wishy washy Bree is. Otherwise love the book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 3, 2014
Beautiful story, excellent development. Full of love. I perceived the great value, love, and passion the main character shares for a single mother, her daughter; its just so wonderful. I highly recommend its reading.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 15, 2014
I enjoyed reading Hugh and Bree's love story. It was even more enjoyable because Hugh realized from the beginning that Layla and Bree
were a package deal.
Posted August 12, 2014
Posted August 12, 2014
Posted June 28, 2014
Reviewed by Natasha Jackson for Readers' Favorite
In Hearts at Play, it is time to get acquainted with Grand Prix racer Hugh Braden and single mom Brianna Heart. Hugh is used to living his life fast, both on and off the track. Beautiful women, glamorous parties and overzealous fan girls are the norm in his life, so when his crew chief, Art, suggests a blind date with a woman deemed “perfect” for him, Hugh is prepared for the worst. What he did not expect was the beautiful bartender not giving him a second thought. Brianna can spot a player a mile away and she pegs Hugh from the start, refusing to indulge in his flirtations or acknowledge his McDreamy-like appearance. Through Melissa Foster’s incredible words we see just how determined Brianna is to make a good life for her and six-year-old cutie, Layla. She’s sworn off men until her daughter is 18, but when her life gets thrown for a loop, it’s Hugh who steps up to give her a helping hand.
Melissa Foster has given us yet another amazing Braden tale. Hugh has lived his life the way he wants without regard to how a revolving door of long-legged beauties may affect his future. In Hearts at Play, that future becomes mighty present and Hugh comes through with flying colors. What made this story so impressive and sweet and swoon-worthy is that Hugh is great, even with his flaws and very public predilection for beautiful women. Bree is tough but tender, and is willing to judge Hugh on his own deeds rather than on Layla’s father’s bad deeds. It can be tricky to write a romance with a single mom without making her overbearing or too ready to settle down with a supposed ‘good guy’. Melissa Foster struck the perfect balance, making the story real and lovely.
Posted June 21, 2014
Brianna Heart has been playing it safe for six years now, ever since she became a mother and realized that nothing in the world was more important than her child's happiness — not even her own. Between juggling jobs and raising her daughter Layla, she doesn't have time for dating, and she certainly doesn't want to introduce some guy to Layla just to have him leave when things don't work out.
Hugh Braden has been living it up, capitalizing on his fame to live life his way, without commitments tethering him down. The last thing he's looking for is safe and stable, but when he meets a cautious but beautiful waitress, his carefree non-plan goes out the window.
The Verdict: Today, the role of ysar is being played by the giant puddle of mush left after reading this book.
Clearly, I read a lot of romance. Some of it's funny or sweet or sizzling hot, and occasionally I'll come across something that has me watching for the opportunity to grab a free copy of something else. But rarely do I dip into whatever money I've managed to put aside for overdue bills in order to buy everything I can get my hands on. I might have done that here, with this series. And it might (assuming “might” means “omg, absolutely!”) have been totally worth it.
Hearts at Play is easily one of the sweetest love stories I've ever read, without once making me roll my eyes or think, “Well, of course it's sweet; it's obviously fiction.” Hugh is damned near perfect — without being utterly cheesy and overdone — and Brianna is so damned believable that she's got to be based on someone real. Perhaps it's because I grew up with a parent who tried so hard to date responsibly, without introducing me or my brother to anyone who might not stick around, that I so totally understood Bree. Whatever it was, I was beyond thrilled when Layla was mentioned, and I was completely sucked in and ultimately blown away by their story. Not only do I want my own Hugh, but I'm pretty sure I want my own Layla — because, damn, that kid's cute.
What's really telling, though, is that I sat here and absorbed every bit of the end of the story. I'm not in a habit of skipping endings, mind you, but generally when a wedding is looming, I begin to mentally check out, skimming past the way-too-fluffy vows and so-romantic-I-want-to-puke ceremony. In fact, I'm usually cringing much earlier than that, when whatever silly antics masquerading as a proposal are foreshadowed. But I'm pretty sure I lived and breathed this one, and if I didn't know better, I'd say I might have even experienced something reminiscent of emotion — something I try to avoid at all costs unless it involves spoiling a dog or celebrating an unopened pack of cigarettes magically produced by my couch cushions. If this keeps up, I might actually start acting like a girl!
The whole Love in Bloom series is just amazing, and if you've read my reviews so far, you know I'm ridiculously addicted. It goes without saying that anyone who loves a good love story should grab them all, but believe me, Hearts at Play is the one that will own you.
Posted June 12, 2014
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Posted March 11, 2014
Brianna only has one goal to work hard and make sure her daughter Layla has everything she needs. Being a single mom she has sworn to never to have a relationship until Layla is eighteen. She isn't prepared for when a sexy stranger walks into the bar she is working at one night makes her rethink putting men off. Hugh is tired of all the drama and the girls only looking for fame. He is in town for a race and just wants to stay away from all media. When he sees Brianna he is immediately attracted to her and wants to know more. Hugh has to make her see he isn't going to break her heart or hurt her daughter. She deserves some happiness in her life and he is the man to make her happy. He just has to make her see that.
Brianna is a wonderful mother and works hard to provide for her. She did it all by herself for a while until her mother finally came back around. She is used to being alone and afraid to have her own life. Hugh is a famous race car driver who is getting tired of all the nonsense. He just wants to race to have fun without all the media and crazy women. He is cutting back his schedule so he can have more time for the real things in life. He is so sweet and thoughtful you just want to grab him for yourself.
Since I met this family I have been waiting for Hugh's story. I love anything to do with racing and I kept wondering who Hugh would find. I figured it would be some sponsors daughter or even a rival female racer. But nope he falls for a single mom and I have to say Brianna is a better match for him than I ever would have thought. She brings out the softer, sweeter side in him and makes him so much more lovable. I love Hugh with Layla and how he is always putting her first even though she isn't his. He has to convince Brianna she should have a life and that he does care for her. I love him so much in this book. I will say a few times I wanted to smack Brianna and say look what you have don't ruin it. No one can ever say she isn't a wonderful mother. Both Hugh and Brianna are wonderful together as they bring out the best in each other. I love the ending of this book and I hate to say goodbye to this family. I hope to continue to see them in other series.
Posted March 9, 2014
The second that I have read in this series, Melissa Foster is wrapping up the Braden clan by finding them their match. I’m a sucker for a romance when I know, as I turn the first page, that the story will have a happy ending, reading is an escape and I want to leave that world with a smile.
Brianna is a single mum, she is, like many single mothers out there, entirely dedicated to her child and doing the best for her possible. With a twelve year plan to take her to her daughter turns 18: men, dating and the concept of love are not on her radar.
Hugh is the fast-paced celebrity brother: a grand prix racer he goes through women like his race team does tires. Tall, leggy, easy on the eye and not requiring commitments, his intention and desire to find a lasting relationship is negligible.
When Hugh spots Brianna he is instantly intrigued: so different from those he is used to encountering, she doesn’t even know who he is or what he does. Her casual responses, while friendly are distant and he is far more used to having women falling over him, knowing who he is and how his position can improve their lives.
Hugh makes some huge changes in his life: he wants Brianna and will need to drop that ‘rico suave’ exterior to show her that he has a heart and they stand a chance. Brianna is so focused on keeping Layla happy, even to the detriment of her own life, that she is unwilling to allow a man in. But, like all good things, plans change and Briana needs to face some of her own insecurities to take a chance at a family that will be more than she ever imagined.
Characters are well defined and portrayed, with real emotions and insecurities that feel natural and familiar to all readers. While the instant attraction and connection was a bit farfetched, and made hash of Brianna’s ‘set in stone life plan’, it did show how futile such rigid planning can be. Foster manages to incorporate real world concerns that will resonate with many, and while making this a romance, the omnipresent issue of family and children first kept the reader aware of the choices and how difficult it is to balance all the concerns with everyone’s best interests at heart.
A great installment in the series, I do need to go back and read the earlier books in the series, but I didn’t find a great lack of understanding or information jumping into the series at the end.
I received an eArc copy from the author via Tasty Book Tours for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Posted March 5, 2014
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hearts at Play by Melissa Foster is the ninth book in the encompassing Love In Bloom series and the sixth book in The Bradens portion of that series.
Once again, Melissa Foster delivers a sweet and heartwarming tale. This one is of two people with different life goals who begin to realize that, despite themselves, they may actually be better WITH the other person in their lives. They realize it's okay to open up and not try to do everything by yourself.
Hugh Braden is a Grand Prix racecar driver and is using to living life fast and hard. He accepts a friends offer of a blind date because, honestly, can it be any worse than the gold-digging fan girls that currently chase him around? He didn't expect to be so besotted with the date that wants NOTHING to do with him.
Brianna Heart is a mom to a beautiful six-year old girl and has a twelve-year plan of working two jobs and staying away from guys so that she can be the best mom possible to her daughter. she isn't expecting to be blown away by Hugh and fights it as much as possible.
Can these two work out their difference in expectations and life-plans to finally allow love into their lives?
Posted March 3, 2014
I might end up sounding like a broken record when it comes to this series, but honestly, once you’ve read it, and I highly recommend you do, you will understand why I always end up saying, “I LOVED THIS BOOK!” I started this book while on the road over the Valentines Day holiday – after traveling “home” to celebrate our nephew, Chandler’s, 1st birthday!! That’s a 6 hour or so trip (It shouldn’t be, but with potty breaks, food breaks & just stretching breaks (& getting Rosalie out of her carseat breaks) it ends up being that long. I started the book probably an hour into the trip, after I finished another that I was almost done with, and I was done with Hearts at Play that same night. I couldn’t & didn’t want to put it down!
I have to say that I completely agree with Leila over at Life as Leelsfollow! What I agree with her about is the fact that I, like she did, didn’t pay much attention to Hugh Braden in the previous books, because I thought he was nothing more than a cocky man-whore!
He’s a LOT like Treat – or that’s how I perceive him to be! Yes, this might just be a book, but the fact that he fell in love with a woman who had a child from a previous relationship really made me like him! I know how it to be a child with only one parent, and when my dad married my mom, then adopted my brother Tim and I, I know that it had to mean that Hugh is a winner!! He’s not my favorite – my favorite is still Rex, but he’s close to the top!
I fell in love with Layla and Brianna (Bree) when I first “met” them! Bree seems like this extremely down to earth woman, and of course, Layla just HAD to be adorable!! It really makes me hope that when Rosalie grows up, she thinks of her daddy as her prince, just like Layla thinks Hugh is her and her mommy’s prince!! I did, however, think Bree had to have something wrong with her to actually think she could hold out on a “12 year plan”. (Read the book to find out more about THAT!!)
As with the rest of the books about the oh so sexy Braden men (& Savannah) I highly recommend this book!
Posted February 26, 2014
Brianna and Hugh's lives speed towards each other and neither of them have a clue what they are in for!
Brianna is a smart and cautious single mom working as a bartender. She has a plan and there is nothing that will derail her.
Hugh is a lady's man. He drives fast cars and goes through women just as fast. Something about Brianna has him hooked though.
Will his fast past stop him from being with the woman he loves? Will Brianna be able to look to the future with him?
This book was steamy wormies. Such a great story and I love how Melissa Foster just keeps producing these amazing stories and amazing characters you can't help but root for. This book will not disappoint! Go Wormies! Go!
Posted February 26, 2014
So once again here we are with another Melissa Foster review, and she never EVER disappoints! Hugh Braden is one of those characters that you just have to love because he is an adrenaline junkie. Being a grand prix driver he is used to all of the attention that he gets from women but he does not expect at all that he will want to try for the attention of a woman himself. Of all women to catch his eye, it happens to be a bartender while he is out on a blind date gone wrong. He can not even fathom that she is trying every way in her power to avoid him at all costs. I was entranced that someone would not want to just lunge at the chance to be with Hugh, but the story unfolds even more to explain why.
Brianna Heart is by far my favorite so far of the women. She is the single mother to a six year old named Layla. I have a five year old little boy and one year old little girl and I could never imagine going at something like raising a child all on your own. She had strength that most women could only dream of digging up within themselves. She has made a pact to herself that she wants to give all of her attention to Layla while she is growing up, and so she does not want to start getting involved with anyone until Layla has turned eighteen! That's twelve years from now. Truly amazing pact to make to sacrifice companionship with another to be the best mother that you can possibly be for a daughter that seems like she has already been through enough. Layla's father left when shewas young and so Brianna has her heart set on making sure that she is happy in every way possible, but when she sees Hugh and he continues to show up at her place of work it all seems like her plan is going to fall apart. I was rooting for her to get her happiness that she deserved as well even if it meant breaking her pact to herself to be with a man until her daughter turned eighteen.
Hearts at Play is the ninth installment in the Love in Bloom series and by far my favorite. I liked that the main character, Brianna, did not have everything going for her and that her life was complicated. It made her really easy to relate to because she represents all the strength in a hard working woman that is driven to do anything to make her life better. Hugh was a great eye candy for this novel and I am not giving anything away as far as the relationship goes. You will just have to read yet another masterpiece from Melissa Foster to find out for yourself!
I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.
Posted February 25, 2014
Brianna Heart has stolen my heart. She is my absolute favorite of all the Braden spouses. Melissa has saved the best for last! Brianna is a single mother, solely devoted to raising her young daughter up right. She has sworn off love…Until she meets Hugh Braden. Can Hugh melt this long frozen streak in Brianna’s heart?
Hugh is the baby of the Braden family and my personal favorite of all the “kids”. Taking on a single mother and fully understanding that her heart will be forever divided between her daughter and her new love is one of the many qualities that make Hugh a man to admire.
Growing up in dirt track racing country, I was a little leary on Hugh’s career. Most dirt track racers have one thing on their mind…the next race. I was a little unsure if Hugh would be able to break out of my preconceived notions of racers, and he did, right off the starting line.