It’s spring training time for the boys of summer and has me in the mood for a baseball story. It was only icing on the cake to discover that this one was set in my own backyard and the hero was playing for a fictional version of my favorite local baseball club. This was once of those complex May-December style romances with there being a twelve year difference between the hero and heroine. So with all that in mind, I eager cracked this one open to enjoy myself.
The story opens when thirty-four year old divorcee, Maddie, comes home after another lousy date determined to chuck it all. There is no such thing as a right guy for her and she’s not wasting anymore time trying. Her BFF, Karen, encourages her to keep her dream alive and be open for opportunity.
And just like that, opportunity walks through the door of her sister’s home in the form of her college-age niece’s new boyfriend. Her sister has been raving about her daughter snagging a pro ball player and now here he is to meet the family. Maddie feels an instant spark of attraction toward the tall handsome Chase Patton who is polite and quiet with everyone. He hits it off with Maddie’s nine year old Bree which scores points with Maddie and it surprises her to learn that they live in the same apartment complex and he promises game tickets and to play catch with Bree. Maddie is terrified and upset over her attraction to someone who is way younger than she is, but also seeing her niece and then there is the promise he made to her vulnerable fatherless daughter.
Chase can’t get the beautiful Maddie out of his mind, but he has to give deep thought about taking up with her in the middle of his rookie season. He can’t afford to be distracted, but he feels that walking away from whatever this is he is feeling is wrong too. First he has to set her niece straight and then he has to feel his way with her. He senses that she’ll be a tough sell because of their age difference.
Chase was right and Maddie does have an emotional crisis when she realizes that he is interested in her and he wants to be with her and Bree. It takes all her friend Karen’s coaxing and verbal boot up the butt to get her to give it a chance. Karen tells her to grab after happiness for once, quit waiting for Chase to act like Drew who left her and to forget what other people think. For a while, this works. Maddie and Chase have something beautiful and good going, but then her fears return double as other people interfere. Maddie pushes Chase and her chance at happiness away breaking both their hearts.
Alright, so the plot on this one was a wonderful blend of romance and sports. I really liked how there were many scenes depicting Chase’s games, his time with the team and even some of the romance took place mingled with the games. So many times I’ve picked up a sports romance only to discover there is little sport in it. The romance is the main theme of the book, but the balance was nice. The romance was rather an angsty messy sort when it came to Maddie, but clean and heartwarming when it came to Chase. Thank goodness for Chase and getting his narrative voice at least half the time to get me out of Maddie’s head. Okay, she wasn’t that bad, but the insecurity is hard to read.
This leads me to discussing characters. I totally get Maddie and why she is the way she is and her mistakes even made sense. Maddie is a normal every day gal with flaws and issues that are brought on by others. The people who should have supported her most and cared about her well being let her down. Bree is Maddie’s main focus so when pressure was put on her from several directions, I got why she freaked and ran. Maddie is not a confronter. She is not brave or strong. If it weren’t for Karen and Chase standing firm for her, she would never have given Chase a chance nor stayed with him at all. Her tentative leap of faith to let things take their course with Chase was monumental for her. Her concerns were about things that did need to be considered and hey, it is wild to think a young big name athlete is interested in a serious relationship with a much older woman and spending time with a nine year old. Like I said, I get it. I really only held one thing against her (okay, well two if we count the few times she pre-judged Chase and said some hurtful things). It was the last bit when she knew she screwed up, but chickened out, got stubborn and chose to let everyone suffer. For all her vacillating back and forth and causing heartbreak, I really didn’t hate her. I truly just wanted her to let go her fears and reach for happiness.
Now to Chase…Chase absolutely made everything worth while. Maddie’s emotional hick-ups, her issues, and other people’s criticism- yep, all worth it just to read about a guy like Chase. He’s twenty-two, but he is mature well beyond his years. He’s a rising star athlete. And he goes after what he wants. In this case, he wants Maddie and he wants Bree. He wants this little family and the sheer happiness they bring him. He’s no arrogant, grabsy alpha dog who tries to bully Maddie, but he is a pillar of strength, calm and full of sense. He is a tender daddy to Bree and a passionate lover who appreciates Maddie’s quiet, gentle beauty while giving her the confidence to let herself go in the bedroom. I loved reading the scenes when he’s in the game and when he spends time with his girls in the park. He’s just this amazing guy and I wanted him for Maddie and Bree.
The author did a great job with the secondary characters of Karen, Bree, Chase’s teammate Jerry, Chase’s parents and ugh, yes even with Maddie’s jerky relations. All these folk play a big part in shaping the direction of the story and I always enjoy that because it gives depth to a plot.
In fact, I was excited to see that the next book features brash and bold Karen and Jerry. I hope it has some scenes with Chase and Maddie too. I felt things weren’t quite finished even if the main conflict was settled. Okay, I’m a vindictive sort and wanted Chase to help Maddie deal with all those people who gave her a hard time and I also wanted some of the after the HEA to see what happens next for them. I wasn’t ready for it to end I guess.
To wrap it all up, this was a big hit with me and I think Sports Romance lovers should definitely grab it up along with any contemporary romance lovers who enjoy passionate romances.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.
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