Release Date: May 3rd, 2022
CW: mentions of domestic abuse, scenes of gambling, threats and blackmail
He only wanted her heart.
Can a childhood game bring them together?
Olivia Wilde has resigned herself to never finding a love match. Her father has insisted she marry a man with a title, but the men her father deems acceptable are either boring or are only interested in increasing their own diminishing coffers. With her future looking dismal, Olivia vows to enjoy the last few months of freedom with her childhood friends, including Emerson Latham. His devilish smile and flirtatious teasing stirs up feelings she knows she cannot entertain.
Emerson is struggling to rise to his responsibilities after his father’s death. Though he is still learning his place, one thing he knows for certain is that he wants Olivia Wilde to be his wife. Emerson had long ago fallen in love with her quick wit, beauty, and passionate heart. Yet, without a title, he will never be permitted to court Olivia openly. But he has a plan that may give him a chance to court her in secret.
As the Season kicks off, Emerson proposes a playful game of tag. Olivia’s friends are delighted by the idea, though Olivia is wary. After all, the game must be played in secret as they tag each other at dinners and balls. As the romance builds between Olivia and Emerson, so does the risk of being discovered. Not only are their reputations at stake, so is their safety if they are caught by Olivia’s strict father.
Can their love find a happily ever after before the game ends?
I don’t have a lot of experience with historical romances, but I’ve always enjoyed the ones I’ve read. And this one is no different. I went into this friends to lovers romance mostly blind and was pleasantly surprised by the way it was written.
Emerson Latham has been in love with his sister’s best friend, Olivia Wilde, for as long as he can remember. Unfortunately, he’s not the kind of man her father expects Olivia to marry. As someone who has worked his way to his riches, Mr. Wilde expects someone of their new stature to marry his daughter. However, Olivia also wants nothing to do with these matches and suitors that her father keep thrusting into her life. Her feelings for Emerson have always been a little confusing, but the one thing she knows is that she cherishes their friendship and fears losing him in her life.
In order to keep Olivia in his life and close to him at all times, Emerson introduces a series of games during the Season. First up is the game of tag that also includes Emerson’s sister and his two best friends. The way they keep tagging each other, while dancing through the numerous parties and the fun that they have together was absolutely entertaining. I also loved Emerson’s friendship with Bradbury and Northcott, mostly because of how different all three of them were. I definitely enjoyed Arabella and Olivia’s friendship, especially their game of guessing the Shakespeare play. The fact that Arabella has a Shakespeare quote for almost every situation entertained me to no end.
While I knew it was a closed door romance, I would have liked for the slow burn to explode into something more. While the kiss was hot and beautiful, I felt like the actual slow burn started much later in the books. The characters are obviously in love with each other, but there’s so much else happening and lots of back and forth with the games and other interactions that at times it took me out of the romance.
I loved how passionately and desperately Emerson cared for Olivia, because of all the ways in which he ensured that he could be with her, even when he knew that he was risking it all. Gimme more heroes who would do it all for the love of the person they want. Games in the Ballroom was enjoyable and I had a few chuckles here and there. I would recommend it for those looking for a light, but fun, historical romance with a slight edge (because Olivia’s home life is a bit darker than I expected!)
Thanks to Shadow Mountain and NetGalley for generously providing me with an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.