Book Review: Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren

*** Again, a reminder! This is the third full-length novel in the Beautiful series. If you haven't read the previous books/novellas, DO NOT pass go and collect your Will Sumner yet! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND COLLECTING YOUR BASTARD, BITCH, STRANGER, AND BOMBSHELL FIRST! ;) ***

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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.
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4.5 STARS


Even as each couple became seamlessly woven into the next story, I loved that every book in this series still brought something different to the table. They are all so obviously Christina Lauren creations and belong together in their Beautiful universe, but each novel stands strong on their own. And, as if to highlight that, Beautiful Player was the pretty wonderful bookend.
     Ziggy waved to Max, and then turned to me, eyes wide. "Wow. He's...hot. I met Bennett earlier, too. You guys are like the Hot Men's Club of Manhattan."
The first two couples exuded instant, electrifying chemistry, with crazy intensity right out of the gate. Beautiful Player, though, is a little different. It's all about Will Sumner and Hanna "Ziggy" Bergstrom. Their romance is definitely different from what we've seen from Bennett, Chloe, Max, and Sara. They start off cute and nice and...dare I say it...innocent? Normal? *GASP* This time around, it's all about the slow and sweet burn.

Will had history with Hanna's family...maaaybe Hanna even had a total teenage crush on him ;)...so they had an easy familiarity. I was able to see their friendship develop first and foremost, and the things that could've been awkward were in fact...adorable, endearing.
     "Are you always this open with people?" I asked
     She shook her head. "I think this might be you-specific. I say a lot of things, really, but I especially feel stupid around you, and I can't seem to shut up."
     "I don't want you to shut up."
I definitely adored the "Project: Transformation" aspect of this storyline. Will is 31, runs a successful firm with Max, and has a doctorate (I kinda love it when Hanna calls him "Dr. Sumner"...), but as smart and "adult" as he is, he has never dealt with falling in love or focusing on one woman only. Hanna, on the other hand, has been so buried beneath her work and school schedule that she neglected her social life. So, even as a 24-year-old grown woman, she has never "gone wild" or experienced what so many others have typically accomplished in their youth.

It starts out as Will just trying to help her become more socially active, the "player" giving the "nerd" some Dating 101 and imparting his wisdom. That part was smile-so-hard-you-hurt delightful and hilarious!!!
     It took me a beat to understand why he was laughing... "You know what I mean. Will you come with me?"
     He looked up at the sound of me smacking my forehead. 
     "Oh my God, that's worse. Just text me if you're interested in coming." I winced, turning to walk down the trail toward my apartment building and basically wanting the trail to crack open and transport me to Narnia. "Forget it!"
     "I like it when you ask me to come!" he called after me. "I can't wait to come tonight, Ziggy! Should I come around eight? Or do you want me to come around ten? Maybe I'll come both times?"
     I flipped him the bird, and kept moving away down the trail. Thank God he couldn't see my smile.
Will is genuinely fascinated with Hanna and her curiosity, her barely-there verbal filter, and her special blend of intelligent and inexperienced. *I* was fascinated with Hanna.
     I wanted to know Hanna, to hear her thoughts on everything.

     Ziggy was Jensen's sister. Ziggy was the kid I never knew.
     Hanna was this uninhibited, self-possessed woman in front of me who I was pretty sure was going to effectly wreck my world.
I liked that Hanna knew Will already because it shed a light on the guy we all wrote off as a womanizing smartass in the previous books, the serial dater and lover, but non-committer. There were actually a lot of layers to Will, and I was a little more than smitten thanks to those new details...the part about his mom and sisters, his glory days in a band...and, of course, all of those tattoos that have been hiding underneath his sleek business suits! *swooon*

The level of adorable just kept climbing. Their ridiculous, random, yet fantastic conversations kept getting fantastic-er. (Yes, I know that's poor English. This is what my swooning has reduced me to.) I laughed and squeed so hard with these two that my abs hurt. My sides hurt. The muscles in my face hurt. This is what happens when the bad boy is a little bit of a nerd himself, and the "geeky" girl is so quirky and delightfully exuberant!
     "Oh, my God. Did you just use an O-chem reference to tell me Aaron looks better from the back than the front?"
     I groaned and looked away. "I think I just broke some sort of nerd record."
     "No, that was amazing," he said, sounding genuinely awed.
I also wish I could make a smart nerdy joke about their chemistry...because...Damn. That kept climbing, too. Is there a dirty talk or smut Hall of Fame? Christina Lauren need to be in it. Will and Hanna's Dating 101 became a bit more...oh, let's say....hands-on. There was even a scene involving tea and honey and Will...and do I really need to explain why I would love this??? *wolfish grin*

Will and Hanna dangerously hovered above that line between "friends with benefits" and "something more", and any given moment could make them swing either way. It was a completely exquisite kind of angst!
     "I'll make it good," I spoke into the skin of her neck. "Just let me feel you."
But, then...There is that undeniable "Yuuuuup!" feeling when Will's friends, our dear Beautiful gang, point out that Will and Hanna spend a lot of time together. There has to be real interest there, right?! There's a bond beyond the attraction!

All of the books after Beautiful Stranger pretty much have the best dialogue. I know I've waxed plenty of poetic about Christina Lauren's absolute gift with dialogue, but that gift shows off its glorious self all throughout Beautiful Player! This book really benefits from having the whole group available!
     Max leaned his chin on his fist and smiled at me. "Christ you're precious, William."
YES! OH, WILLIAM. *gleefully bounces in seat* I loved their snark and cheekiness. I don't know how to pick just one quote. I want to type out all of them.
     He stared at me a beat longer before holding up a finger for me to wait, and pulling his phone out of his jacket pocket...He shushed me, hitting speaker so we could both hear the call ringing. Bennett's voice answered on the other end: "Max."
     "Ben," Max said, leaning back in his chair with a giant grin. "It's finally happened."
     I groaned, resting my head on my hand.

     A loud slap sounded in the background and I imagined Bennett's desk had just received a very enthusiastic high-five. "Fantastic! Does he look miserable?"
I loooved having the other two couples around for commentary! And also for genuine support for Will and Hanna! You get the full picture of these friends and their love/loyalty to each other. If there was ever a time to "call in the cavalry", Bennett, Chloe, Max, and Sara made up a damn good cavalry. Sara and Chloe drop some major knowledge on young Hanna, and I loved how they were also there for Will...it's like watching a baby brother grow up, the last one to fall in love! *oh, there goes another squee*
"When you're younger, you want the boy who knows how to play the game, but when you're older, you want the man who knows when its not a game."
So, when it all took a nosedive? When the time came for Will and Hanna to decide which side of the line they were going to fall on? It almost felt too real and too hard, and I think I was more anxious with these two than I ever was with the other couples! I'll confess...there was a part where I was too riled up about what could happen next, so I skipped ahead a couple of pages to check first! *meep* While Max Stella may be my #1, I think Will Sumner wrecked me the most. Actually, I was a lot more all over the place emotionally with this couple!

I had never been this angry during the other books, either! (Not even with Bennett and Chloe! LOL) I mean...I was frustrated. I understood the WHY, but it didn't change the fact that I was UGHHH. I resorted to typing out mean and vulgar notes, in CAPS LOCK, to work out my frustration...MISCOMMUNICATION IS THE WORRRST.
     "Shit, Ziggs, I'm sorry."
     She sucked in a sharp breath. "So I'm Ziggy today. Interesting."
     "Yeah," I mumbled, and then hated myself immediately. "No. Fuck, I don't know who you are this morning...It messes with my head to call you Hanna." It makes me think you're mine. I didn't add.
But I wasn't pissed at the writing, or hated the characters' behavior outright, because there was plenty of background for both characters for me to understand their choices. I just realized how hard I was rooting for them! I was getting pissed because I wanted to shake them and I wanted them to figure things out already. I was invested in the Happily Ever After!

Honestly, though, these authors have never let me down before. I should've known better. ;) The situation became much more difficult and complicated for Will and Hanna--and Christina Lauren managed to wring a considerable amount of anxiety/doubt out of me--but their ending was a satisfying one. (Showers are apparently a magical, life-changing kind of place in the Beautiful world...)
I was struck by the realization that this moment was probably harder than all the tests Id ever taken in school, every long night in the lab. Science had always come easy for me--I'd studied hard, of course, I'd done the work---but I'd never had to dig this deep and push on...I'd never been more tired in my life, I'd never been in more pain, but I'd also never felt more alive.
I was SO happy to see "the talk" happen. I was happy to see him express why he was upset. I was happy that they finally reached a point where they understood each other. Everything was laid out. Cards on the table. By the end, I let out a nice, big happy-sigh of relief! Beautiful Player felt a lot more sentimental, and it baited quite a few reactions from me! Will and Hanna, though, were just so good together that it made all of the frustration worth it! I loved the laidback humor and wit. I loved the sincere and intimate moments as much as I loved the sexy ones. I loved Beautiful Player!
 
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PURCHASE


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SERIES

| Beautiful Bastard + Beautiful Bitch | Spotlight |

| Beautiful Stranger | My Review |

| Beautiful Bombshell | Spotlight |