Inside Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play Cover Shoot

Ah, book covers. We’ve all spent many hours admiring the chiseled, God-like heroes that grace each cover, but rarely do readers get to see exactly what goes into crafting the image of a perfect hero. We got the opportunity to sit in on a cover shoot for Jaci Burton’s celebrated Play-by-Play series, and it was awesome. Join us, won’t you?

After the release of the first Play-by-Play book in 2011, The Perfect Play, Jaci’s series attracted a super dedicated fanbase and Claudio Marinesco has photographed every one of Jaci’s Play-by-Play covers. The thirteenth book releases this fall, but fret not! It is not the end for the beloved sports series. In fact, today we watched as Claudio shot the series’s 14th cover! We know, right? Unfortunately, much of the information about this 2018 release is being kept tight under wraps, but we got Jaci to share a few treats with our readers …

Cover Model Derek Nicholas

But, of course, first, #priorities: Let’s get to know the cover model: personal trainer Derek Nicholas. This was Derek’s first book cover— but there’s no arguing that he was a total natural. You may even say that cover modeling was Derek’s fate: he has been training beside Berkley editor, Erin, at her gym for years. 

Derek and I chatted while he mugged for the camera. When I asked him how he felt about becoming so many readers’s new book boyfriend, he appeared puzzled at first. Realizing that Derek was fairly new to Romancelandia, I explained the turn of phrase. He laughed and said that being a book boyfriend sounds like fun. And why wouldn’t it be? Hoards of adoring fans are going ogle his hard-earned abs every day. Everybody’s happy.

Of course, there is much more to Derek than a hot body. This cover model has a total heart of gold. After complimenting my glasses *nerd swoon* we settled in to chat some more about what it means to be a cover model. Though this was Derek’s first shoot, he was certainly more than qualified to represent Play-by-Play’s 14th hero. That’s because both the hero and Derek are very experienced in the game of hockey (how’d you like that first hint about the book’s plot?).

Cover Model Derek Nicholas

As much fun as it was to get to know Derek, my real fangirl moment came when I sat down to chat with Jaci. I first started reading the Play-by-Play series as a college student— many, many years before my tenure at RT. The first book, The Perfect Play, was an RT Top Pick! back in 2011— it even earned a nomination for RT’s Book of the Year! Six years and 12 (soon to be 13) books later, the series has come full circle: the first couple’s son is our new hero.

We chatted for a while about The Final Score, book 13, which will be available in September. Nathan, who is the hero, was just 14 when we met him in The Perfect Play six years ago. In a way, Jaci is sort of like his mom. He was a young, awkward teen when his mother, Tara, fell in love with football star Mick Riley. But readers wanted more. After growing to love Mick and Tara’s family, they wanted to see what kind of man Nathan had grown up to become. And so, after quite a bit of internal debate, Jaci decided that at 20 years old Nathan was ready to fall in love. His love interest is none other than Mia Cassidy, another kid who grew up in a sports dynasty. Though Jaci admitted to being nervous about readers’ perception about the story, we have to say it sounds awesome!

Jaci Burton  Derek Nicholas

Of course, The Final Score isn’t what we’re here to talk about. We want to know about the mysterious book 14. The most intriguing tidbit (to us at least) is where Jaci came up with the idea for the book: the 2016 RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas! As Jaci’s editor, Kate Seaver, was also in attendance at the convention, after Jaci shared her idea it was full steam ahead!

Sadly we are not allowed to share the title with you (though it is a good one!), but we can say with confidence that the hero is a hockey player! Of course, this tidbit prompted us to ask if we would be returning to the St. Louis Ice team that we know and love, but Jaci’s lips were sealed.

Webmistress Kristin Stec with Jaci Burton  Derek Nicholas

That said, we can tell you the names of the hero and heroine. Our hero is Will “Mad Dog” Madigan, a bruiser of a hockey player and his heroine is Amber Sloane. Hard as we tried to guess Amber’s occupation (masseuse … doctor … PR person … book blogger??), Jaci wasn’t ready to share that particular detail. And if you think extensive knowledge of the series means you can guess the characters’ identities, we are sorry to report that both hero and heroine are brand new to the Play-by-Play series.

Another bit of information we gleaned from the shoot is that the hero must have some pretty impressive tattoos (as you can see from the pictures, Derek is fairly tatted up). Since we don’t see photoshop erasing any of that glorious artwork, we feel it is safe to say that Mad Dog takes pride in his ink. 

Of course, knowing a new Play-by-Play book is coming in 2018 isn’t quite enough for us. We wanted to know if there are any more surprises in store! While there are no plans for a book 15 … yet, Jaci assures us that this doesn’t mean the series is coming to a close. In fact, we asked if she would ever consider writing about a new sport (say swimming, or basketball) and she replied, “Well, I never say never,” so there you go!

You guys, working in Romancelandia is so hard … #fridayfeeling #covershoot #jaciburton #covermodel #bookcover #coverart #sexymodel #hothero

A post shared by RT Book Reviews (@rtbookreviews) on Apr 21, 2017 at 1:33pm PDT

More details on book 14 will be released some time this summer, so keep an eye out! If you’re as excited to see the series continue as we are, you can pre-order your copy of book 13, The Final Score, now! Digital copies start at $9.99, grab yours here: Amazon | BN | Google Play | iBooks | Kobo.

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