After a woman claims she's pregnant with Wade O'Riley's love child, Major League Baseball's most celebrated catcher and ladies' man is slapped on the wrist by management and ordered to improve his image. His enforcer is the team's publicist, the tough and sexy Samantha McNead.
When Wade needs a date for a celebrity wedding, Sam steps up to the plate as his "girlfriend." But given her secret crush on him and that one awkward night a year ago in a stalled elevator with too much Scotch, the whole thing is an exercise in sexual tension.
Wade is thrilled when the pretense turns into an unexpected night of hot passion. But the next day Sam is back to her cool self. As a catcher, Wade's used to giving the signals, not struggling to read them. Now, to win the love of his "pretend" girlfriend, he needs a home run -- even if it involves stealing a few bases...
I've been impatiently waiting for Sam's & Wade's story since way before I finished Jill Shalvis' "Double Play", and let me tell you, it was well worth the wait.
I love stories about characters that have this incredible attraction but either refuse to act on it or, if they do inevitably act on it, pretend it didn't mean anything. They are usually really hot, and blended with the perfect mix of intense emotion. Can't get enough of that.
As the Heat's publicist, Sam McNead is determined to give a good impression to the public about the team. Sam and Wade agree to be "pretend" girlfriend and boyfriend to clean up his outrageous ladies' man image so they can focus on what's really important: winning games. She knows that throwing herself into an intimate situation with Wade will only add to the simmering attraction between them that wasn't quite satisified by their steamy encounter in an elevator a year ago, but she's nothing if not a professional, and she can handle a little heat, as long as it doesn't burn out of control.
Wade, on the other hand, couldn't be more pleased by his current circumstances. Despite what the public thinks about his lifestyle, Wade is not the "player" everyone seems to think he is, and he's not quite done with exploring this attraction he has for Sam. He can't help it if she floats his boat, and uses every opportunity to get his hands - and mouth - on the tantalizing woman acting as his girlfriend. And is Sam succumbs, all the better.
Eventually their incredible chemistry leads to several naughty and satisfying encounters, and Sam feels more and more like this isn't just physical between, them, at least not on her side. She's discovering a side of Wade she never thought existed, and she really likes it. When her young nephew comes to live with her for awhile, Wade really takes him under his wing and looks out for him when Sam can't always manage. It's a huge adjustment for both of them, but Sam finds herself falling for the two men in her life: her tough, smart nephew who is in serious need of live, and the sexy, tender baseball player that's managed to sneak his way past her defenses. Just what is a girl to do?
I liked this story even more than "Double Play", which is really saying something. It had a bit more heart, and I immediately found myself falling for Wade and hoping Sam would open her eyes and see what a great guy he was. He wasn't quite "there" when it came to getting the idea of commitment, but his actions spoke louder than words. It's pretty obvious Wade has strong feelings of affection for Sam, he's just not familiar with what they are or how to handle them. On top of that, he's trying to deal with a father who refuses to be ignored any longer. Having his father now in his face instead of hundreds or thousands of miles away is not easy for Wade to deal with, and he struggles with the bitterness and ugly memories from his childhood.
Sam is dealing with her own family issues. She's the only female working in her family business, and the men in her family tend to either yell at her or roll their eyes and ignore her ideas. She tends to put up with a lot of their behavior without fighting back, which is frustrating to watch, because it usually means they are taking advantage of her in some way, and she just takes it. However when she ends up with her nephew Tag, I think it as one of the best things that could have happened to her. It brings out a side of her that she usually keeps hidden, and her relationship with Tag is difficult at times, but also sweet and affectionate and normal. It opens up her heart.
Which means she's even more vulnerable to her growing feelings for Wade, but at least now she's not running from them anymore. She acknowledges to herself that she loves him, and while it hurts to think he doesn't love her back, at least she's taken that step and accepted it into her own life. The more I got to know her and watch her grow, the more I ended up liking Sam.
And wow, do these two have combustible chemistry! In a restroom, in a car, wherever the urge may take them. It's incredibly hot and sexy, and boy was Sam a lucky girl ;) I love how Wade can't keep his hands off Sam, even if it's just to show affection. And what woman could resist such a luscious, attractive, charming man focusing solely on her? Me? I wouldn't even try.
One thing I have to make sure I mention is just how well Jill writes the "guy" stuff. You can totally picture the conversations really taking place from a guy's point of view because they are so believable, and I've heard plenty of guys talk in that way. I believe it's one of the reasons her heroes are so incredibly sexy: because they sound like actual guys and don't say things a women would say.
I had read Holly's review before drafting mine, and I have to agree on everything she said. Especially the part about the ending of the book. I think this is the first time I was seriously disappointed in something I read - or perhaps I should say "didn't read" - in a Shalvis novel. The conclusion of the book was so abrupt and I was not prepared for it. I was like "what, that's IT???????" I'm sorry Jill, you know I adore the heck out of you, but why, oh why was Sam & Wade cheated out of their ending in such a quickie manner? It's like getting the only and only bites of the most decadent, to-die-for desserts in existence and being told "hey, that's it, no more." But I want more! Much more. At least another page. That would have made this the perfect book.
However I have not forsaken Jill, and hope we see Gage's story next. He's quite yummy. But even if it's not Gage's story, I'll still be buying more Shalvis novels. I can't give up completely on my addiction ;)
Btw, I'm holding a contest on Friday of this week to win a copy of both Double Play & Slow Heat, so stay tuned....
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****