posted on May 9, 2023 by Julie Hammerle


PLAYING FOR KEEPS was a tough book for me to write.

I’d always had the meet cute in mind – a security guard is called to investigate a woman who is disturbing the peace, by eating ice cream while wearing beaver slippers – but it took me a while to really get to excavate the actual story.

I finally hit upon it in the summer of 2021 (wow, that’s a while ago now!) It was during the delta variant’s reign of terror. Our Vaxxed Girl Summer had been thwarted, and I was feeling down. And, even though the book isn’t even remotely about the pandemic, I wrote a real downer of a draft.

Don’t worry. That’s not the final book. My editor (rightly) asked me not kill a character, and the book really became what it is – the story of two lost and broken people finding each other at the exact right time.

So, yes, it’s a romcom, but it’s a romcom that gets down in the weeds with the two main characters. Because life is messy and sad and hilarious – sometimes all at the same time. The good comes with the bad. You go to buy your favorite ice cream, and your credit card is declined. But then the hot security guard who nearly arrested you the day before, offers to pay for your treat…and kisses you to help you save face in front of your ex-husband.

Tale as old as time.

And here’s an excerpt from PLAYING FOR KEEPS…right after that first kiss.


Bryce’s lips still burned from the kiss.

God, she was so hard up for physical contact.

She rubbed her ice cream against her lips, just to cool them down.

As she passed Ted and Rita on her way back to her car, she gave them a wave, hoping to appear unrattled and nonchalant, but no doubt failing miserably.

That. Damn. Kiss.

She turned on her car and all the lights on the dashboard pinged to life—check engine, oil, brake, oh and now the gas light had joined them. Forty-nine miles to empty. Well, she’d make it back home at least. And then she’d never be able to drive anywhere again. Just the way she wanted it. Leaving the house never failed to end in disaster for her.

Before she could put the car in reverse, she noticed Jake coming back over, walking with purpose. Bryce licked her lips. Oh my god. Was he coming back to kiss her again? He felt it, too, didn’t he? It wasn’t just her?

He knocked on the window, and Bryce rolled it down.

“Hey,” he said, his hazel eyes boring into hers.

“Hey,” she breathed. Why was her life becoming a romance novel all of a sudden?

“What’s your address? And give me your phone number.”

Her lips parted and her heart sped up. “What?” Holy shit, he wanted her number. Maybe she should be concerned that this man appeared to be turned on by grime and avantgarde footwear.

Jake leaned in closer, spoke more softly. “Back in there.” He nodded toward the shop. “Your credit card…mishap. Bryce, I want to make sure you’re okay.”

Oh, so that was it. Pity. It was a pity kiss, and this was a pity ask for her phone number. Well, forget it.

She started to roll up the window.

“I will follow you all the way back home,” he said. “I’m not going to let you drive off…” He glanced at her dashboard. “…with next to zero gas and no money. I am a security guard in this resort, and I am concerned about your safety and security. I have to be. It’s my job.”

Her eyes stung. He was just covering his bases, being nice and doing his job. She was a fool to ever think it could be any more than that. She was wearing beaver slippers, for goodness’s sake.

“I’m going to be fine,” she said.

“I’m sure you will be,” Jake said, “and I’m going to be there to make sure of it.”

Julie Hammerle

Julie Hammerle

USA Today bestselling author Julie Hammerle writes young adult novels that focus on nerds, geeks, and basket cases falling in love. On the YA side, she is the author of The Sound of Us (Entangled TEEN, 2016) and the North Pole romance series (Entangled Crush, 2017). For adult romances, check out Knocked-Up Cinderella. A graduate of Butler University with degrees in secondary education and Latin with a minor in music, Julie lives in Chicago with her family and enjoys reading, cooking, and watching all the television.

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