Pace Martin is the ace pitcher for the Pacific Heat. He's got the arm, the experience, and the wins. He's also got the pain, the pressure, and the possible end of his career looming over him. The last thing he needs now is a distraction, even if it comes in the form of a tough, beautiful, tell-it-like-it-is writer who sees past his defenses.
Holly Hutchins knows a good story when she sees one, and the tall, dark, and slightly attitude-challenged Pace Martin fits the bill. But when she realizes there's more at stake than just a win, she starts to see the handsome, broad-shouldered jock in a different light.
Pace and Holly begin a seductive game, but in the face of unexpected betrayal and challenges, they'll have to find the courage to swing for the fences...
Jill Shalvis, oh how do I love thee, and thy books? Oh, just more than words can say.
Writing about sports heroes has got to be very challenging, because we don't see a lot of them out there, and because there's got to be such a stigma attached to them. Let's face it, the majority of these players make more money than us regular folk will ever see in our lifetime, and many of them live and party like there's no tomorrow. There's the women in every city, those groupies; there's the instant recognition and adulation from the fans. Who wouldn't get a swelled head with all that attention and instant access to the hottest clubs and events? But probably the biggest strike against sports players these days are all those drug scandals.
Jill addresses each of these issues here in her recent Berkley release. Pace Martin is one drop-dead sexy player, in every sense of the word, and he's used to having all the advantages that fame and money can buy. But lately he's been feeling the physical strain his body has endured by being in such a competitive sport. Despite all the exercise and therapy, the downtime and relaxation, there's very strong chance that he'll need to have surgery, and this is a big deal, not something Pace takes lightly. Depending on the damage to his arm, he may end up with a procedure that will end his career, and that is just not acceptable to a man who's lived and breathed baseball ever since he could remember.
Holly Hutchins is a reporter who sniffs out the dirt and reports on it. She's not a tabloid reporter, but rather an investigative journalist who prides herself on telling both sides of a story, regardless what her research uncovers. When her latest assignment involves reporting on the Heat, Holly's not exactly thrilled, but a job is a job, and she doesn't have much of a choice. Besides, she senses a story waiting to be uncovered, and trusting her instincts, she'll dig it up no matter what it takes.
As to be expected, Pace is reluctant to be interviewed by the perky yet persistent reporter. In fact the first time he sees her, he mistakes her for just wanting his autograph. But Holly isn't one to give up easily, and despite her unwanted attraction to a man who earns his living with his brawn, not his brains, she nevertheless dogs his every step until he figures out it will be less painful to just give in. Of course that's when he thinks this is a one-time deal. Before too long Holly is writing a series of articles all about the Heat, which means she'll be sticking around. Which means that despite how much they both might try to deny it, they're very attracted to each other, and all those moments of close proximity are bound to lead to something crazy and explosive that neither one of them could have counted on....
"Double Play" is a fun, sexy, inside look into the world of major league baseball and the men and women who love and live the game. We see the toll it takes on the players who are under tremendous pressure, the endless temptations that are thrown their way everytime they turn around. There's the curse of steroid use, the fanatical fans, the unrelenting need to win. The legends to live up to, the superstitions that tend to make even the most rational of people a little crazy.
Pace initially seems like your typical baseball star, armed with stunning good looks, a golden arm and money to burn. But as we get to see more closely into his daily life, we see that he has problems just like everyone else. His relationship with his father pretty much sucks, he's got an overzealous fan who thinks they're soulmates, his shoulder hurts like a bitch, and he can't stop thinking about an irritating yet irresistible woman who's not fooled by his charm. We see his softer side in the way he responds to a group of young kids who love baseball like he used to. Pace is a bit of a teddy bear, but he's not a sappy fool. He's still a guy, and really, would we want him any other way? Not in our books, we wouldn't.
I flucuated back and forth with my feelings for Holly. At first I liked her, but then when she was in her all hard-ass reporter mode, I didn't. I've never been a fan of reporters/journalists/hacks, whatever. No, I've never been a fan of the relentless drive to follow a story to its inevitable conclusion, no matter where that road may lead or who might be run over in the process. I don't like the invasion of privacy. But despite my personal hang-up, as I got to "know" Holly, and saw what made her tick, and what realizations she came to about the way she's lived her life, the little stinker wormed her way past my defenses, much like I'm sure she did with Pace.
There relationship was a bit rocky at times, but they became friends, and eventually lovers. Despite how they were both unused to opening up to people, their feelings for each other made it impossible to keep their usual safe distance for long. It could be painful at times, and it probably would have been easier if they could just walk away, but both of them had done that too many times in the past. But could they figure it out before their pride had them both walking away? Well duh, of course they could, and they did, and they pretty much will be living happily ever after for as long as they both shall live. Because that's what happens in a romance. But despite the predictability of our HEA books, it's the journey that makes it so much fun to get to that obvious destination. I love a romance that deals more than just the sexual attraction, but isn't too heavily mired in serious issues. Pace especially was having to struggle with the possible loss of a career he's dreamed about his entire life, while Holly faced the realization that she's never let anyone in, not really. So both of them were dealing with demons that scared them silly.
I loved this glimpse into the world of baseball, even though it's not my favorite sport, or even my second favorite. I liked the players, their close-knit version of family. I liked their passion for the game, watching how they interacted, what it was like for them to live on the road. I'm sure somewhere out there, there are players that do it just for the love of the game, players who have families they care about and go home to, rather than living for the next booty call. Until then, there are books like "Double Play" to read and savor.
The next book, "Slow Heat", will be out February 2010, and yep, I'm sooo gettin' it!
Rating: **** 1/2 out of *****