Spring time in Michigan wouldn’t be complete without Opening Day for the beloved home baseball team. And as a long time resident, I can attest to the truth of this so I was excited to grab up this book that highlights the star commitment shy starting pitcher for a fictional Detroit baseball team and a spunky, stubborn hot mess of a real estate gal who makes Jerry’s commitment issues minor league. These two took my on quite the emotional roller coaster ride, but along the way I had a good time enjoying their witty exchanges and time spent at the ball park. Go Get ‘Em, Rockets!
This is a follow-up sequel to The Change-Up and though its Jerry and Karen’s story, there is an assumption that Chase and Maddie’s story has been read. I was glad to see a continuing story line with them to see some details wrapped up. It was in the first book that both Jerry and Karen were introduced and it seems everyone, but Jerry and Karen caught a glimpse of their instant attraction.
Karen puts herself out there as a brassy, loud, confident woman who says and does what she wants. When it comes to relationships, she’s the one who does the leaving. No commitments, no promises, and definitely no feelings or she’s out of there. Better yet, a quick one time only is even better. Never again will she let a guy get past her walls to hurt her like Brian did. She’s had a crush on Jerry Smutton, the Rocket’s ace pitcher, for some time and now that Maddie is engaged to Chase, she admits to a dream or two about seeing what he’s all about under that uniform. She convinces herself that he’s probably a stuck on himself jerk now that he has a contract that was the biggest and longest in baseball history. But she’s willing to give him a go and brush him off just like any other man who has the potential to hurt her.
Jerry doesn’t know what it is about the bold and sassy Karen Bently, but he wants to get something going with her. He doesn’t do relationships and he’s not interested in anything permanent because the game has his focus, but he wouldn’t mind having some fun with her. He’s very observant so it doesn’t miss his notice that she has some issues of her own. If he wants her to say yes, then he has to keep her off balance and off her game. Between casual dates and checking out houses together, he has her where he wants her, but then he starts to see what he has and he likes her.
That’s when things go south. Karen freaks when she senses something significant between them, his game goes off and before he can collect the pieces, the unthinkable happens.
I found the other book in the series engaging because it put the ‘sport’ in sports romance and this one continued with that same level of balance. I enjoyed how the author balanced the sports backdrop, the character development and the romance. Character development of the three is the focus. The narrative switches back and forth between Jerry and Karen which is nice. There is an opportunity to get to know both of them. In Karen’s case, she spends a lot of time in her head. Jerry, as a pitcher, works hard not to spend any time in his own head. They both see things very differently. For most of the book the conflict is over the relationship, but I enjoyed that zinger near the end the author tossed at me that upped the ante on things for the characters and tossed in an external conflict issue.
As to the characters, here in lies my only issue with the story. Just as in the last book, the heroine tends to freak out and make it all about herself. She makes it way harder than it needs to be and she frustrated the heck out of me when I had to read it. Not that I mean to go all Freud on things, but her crap is not about men like she thinks or lets others think. This gal had daddy issues. Instead of dealing and healing, she becomes a manhater and takes almost sadistic glee in using guys and tossing them aside. I feel sorry for her because stuff like an absent dad and a broken relationship do leave there marks, but its how she let it twist her that became the problem. The lying and denying over and over got frustrating. I was honestly done when her reaction during the hospital scene was to run off and make it all about herself when a guy lies in a hospital bed injured.
The other main character redeemed things somewhat. He has his flaws, but he owned them, dealt with them and moved forward. Jerry is the ace pitcher of the squad and he feels he has something to prove since he got such a big contract. He works hard and I loved that a good portion of the book speaks to that. Jerry has these issues and he’s at a point in his life where he both fears and longs for some permanency. He sees his buddies getting into serious relationships and putting down roots and for the first time, this doesn’t exactly repel him. His thing with Karen has him turned upside down and inside out. She gets his attention and he sees that she’s high maintenance. He knows nothing with her would be easy, but almost subconsciously Jerry accepts the daunting challenge. He tries to follow his usual MO when it comes to women, but it is different from the beginning and he finally has to acknowledge that. I respected that he understood what his confusion was doing to Karen so he apologized and was honest with her.
Overall, it was an engaging read. I struggled with the heroine, but could get past it for the hero and the baseball plot threads. I would love to get Bucky’s story and continue to get glimpses in with Chase and Maddie and Jerry and Karen. For Sports Romance lovers who enjoy baseball as the backdrop and a tough relationship issue to tackle, do give this one a try.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for my honest review.
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