Liz Roscher: Navigating the Choppy Waters of Baseball Romance Novels

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A few years ago, I did a search on Amazon for baseball romance novels. The offseason was cold and lonely, and I enjoy a good bodice-ripper. To my dismay, there weren’t many. Maybe three or four, and none could be read electronically. Oh, how things have changed. Now, the search nets me 50+ baseball romance novels, nearly all of them able to be downloaded to the device of your choice. Ain’t life grand?

I chose three novels to read and review, sifting through titles like “Hard and Fast”, “Seasoned Veteran,” “Sliding Into Home,” “Extra Innings,” “Going Deep,” “Switch Hitter,” and “Hot Target” before settling on these three:

— “Throwing Heat: A Diamonds and Dugouts Novel” by Jennifer Seasons

— “Inside Heat” by Roz Lee

— “Deadlines & Diamonds: In It To Win It” by Morgan Kearns

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"Throwing Heat: A Diamonds and Dugouts Novel" by Jennifer Seasons

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Main Characters:

Leslie Cutter: Sister of a player on the Denver Rush, AKA the bizarro world Colorado Rockies. She’s been managing a nightclub that her brother owns since he bailed her out of financial ruin — a shady accountant ran off with all her money.

Peter Kowalskin: 34 year-old veteran pitcher for the Denver Rush. He grew up in the “bad part of Philly”, to which I (lovingly) say: be more specific. He is from “Philly,” has a “Philly accent,” and does things that are “Philly-style,” including giving someone a beating, and threatening to give someone a beating. Peter sings and plays the guitar, and also writes his own songs. No, this is not a romance novel starring Bronson Arroyo. I promise.

Romance Plot

After a failed attempt at a one night stand three years ago, Leslie must stay with Peter when her apartment, which he for some reason owns, floods with water. While she’s staying with him, their chemistry inspires a bet — if Leslie can abstain from sleeping with Peter until Halloween, Peter will do something that people have been begging him to do: sing and play guitar publicly for the first time ever, and at Leslie’s club. Despite the fact that the bet is a terrible idea, Leslie can’t resist the boost that would give the club and she accepts. Shockingly, the bet is harder than Leslie thought it would be. Eventually, they each realize they’re in love with the other, but instead of telling each other they use their unbelievably ridiculous bet as an excuse to pine away in silence and misunderstand what the other is thinking. 75% of the book is like this. Leslie, ahem, loses the bet at the last minute and runs away, thinking that Peter was only thinking about the bet. Peter then shows up at her club the next night to play and sing, and he publicly proclaims his love for her.

Do these people know they’re in a romance novel?

Oh, they know. And they’re not ashamed, either. The never ending flirting, the single entendres, the constant underwear prancing, these are all actions of people who know they’re in a romance novel. For Leslie and Peter, there is no bad time or place for them to start macking on each other. 

Baseball Plot

The Denver Rush are the bizarro world Rockies, as they play in the National League against actual real life NL teams. Peter is a veteran starter who, unbeknownst to his teammates and the world, will be retiring at the end of the season. He’s won two Cy Young awards, but he’s missing one important thing — a World Series ring. Despite dislocating his shoulder during the last game of the regular season, Peter is back in time for the final game of the World Series. The manager of the Rush, who is apparently psychic because otherwise why would he let him do this, allows Peter to start the deciding game of the World Series. Peter not only starts the game, but he finishes the game and wins. He’s a hero! With his career complete, he can now retire and focus entirely on his music. 

Thoughts

I found this novel to be pretty enjoyable. The plot was normal by romance novel standards, and it managed to flesh out both Leslie and Peter as separate characters with their own motivations. Leslie, despite being unlucky, was empowered and independent. She didn’t really need that hunky baseball player in her life, but that didn’t mean she didn’t want him there. Some of the sexy dialogue is a bit clunky, but most of it reads well. Baseball was woven into the plot pretty seamlessly, and it was obvious that the author knew a lot about it. There were a few embellishments for dramatic effect, of course (no way would a pitcher just off the DL go the whole nine innings in game seven of the World Series), but nothing egregious. The author didn’t feel the need to create any pretend leagues with nonsensical fake team names. 

Verdict

Read with a glass of wine and Bronson Arroyo’s Youtube videos playing in the background. And check your shame at the door.

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"Inside Heat" by Roz Lee

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Main Characters

Megan Long: A saintly pediatric nurse who works in the cancer ward of a children’s hospital.

Jeff Holder: Closer for the Texas Mustangs baseball team, and Jason’s twin brother.

Jason Holder: Catcher for the Texas Mustangs baseball team, and Jeff’s twin brother.

Romance Plot

After meeting Texas Mustangs closer Jeff Holder at a baseball game, Megan Long convinces him and his twin brother, catcher Jason Holder, to visit the patients in the children’s cancer ward. The brothers then take Megan out to dinner, and they decide that she is the woman for them. Just her. Megan, who doesn’t seem to have any friends or family, decides that living with them is a great idea, and sees no problem with them sharing her. Because…I haven’t the faintest idea. Megan didn’t seem to know why she said yes, either. Of course, Megan and Jeff start to form an attachment, and Jason eventually removes himself from their very strange threesome. Jason sees that they’re in love and has no problem with it, but because they’re all in a romance novel, Megan and Jeff don’t tell each other how they feel until 10 pages from the end. Megan thinks Jeff hates her, Jeff thinks Megan is in love with Jason, but they straighten things out and end up together. Presumably still living in the same house with Jason. 

Do these people know they’re in a romance novel?

They all know they’re in a romance novel. Well, the twin baseball brothers who ask a woman to live and sleep with them both think they’re in a porn movie. Megan, to her credit, is pretty sure she should be in a romance novel and spends a lot of time breathlessly exclaiming “This can’t be happening!” Like she knows that this is waaaaay too insane for a romance novel, but she doesn’t care because her romance novel gets to have ridiculous amounts of sex in it.

Baseball Plot

The baseball storyline centers around Jeff and his intense hatred for Martin McCree, a batter on another team who has been taking steroids, which is viewed as the worst thing any player could do. McCree was apparently terrible his entire career until this season, and he is now a talented superstar. Thanks to steroids! Everyone knows that McCree is doping, but he hasn’t been randomly selected for testing yet, allowing him to continue to take steroids and sully the game of baseball. Even the umpires hate McCree. Jeff eventually has trouble getting McCree out and becomes obsessed with him, to the detriment of himself and his teammates. His manager benches him until the last game of the regular season, when Jeff is called in to get the save. McCree is the last batter Jeff faces, and he’s so intent on striking him out that he starts throwing over 100mph. His last pitch is 104mph, which strikes McCree out, but also tears the ligaments in his elbow. You know what that means! Tommy John surgery! The book ends with Jeff starting his throwing program with a AAA team in Oklahoma City.

Thoughts

This book is pretty much “The Room: The Romance Novel.” The characters have no actual personalities, no clear motivations for any of their actions, and their conversations have absolutely no depth or subtext. The author essentially wrote a porn movie, only in narrative. They’re twin brothers who decide they want to be with the same woman, but not with each other because they’re not gay! One is a pitcher and one is a catcher, but they are not gay for each other or any other men! They just like sharing a woman! That is not sexy to me, that is super weird. It’s squicky and strange. Why do they want this one woman? Why is it important to them that they share a woman? Why is Megan willing to do this with nary a second thought? Why does the author keep using the phrases “woman parts” and “lady parts?” These questions go entirely unanswered, their motivations completely unexamined. Though, to be honest, that could be a blessing in disguise. I’m not sure I want to know. I will say that the baseball elements, despite being a little cliche, were really detailed. Jeff has a number of internal monologues about pitching, getting a save, and baseball in general. In fact, those were the best parts of the book. The parts where no one was having sex.

Verdict

If you’re in the right mood, read with a bottle of tequila, several limes, and a shaker of salt. Or save yourself the brain damage (and therapy bills) and just drink the tequila.

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"Deadlines & Diamonds: In It To Win It" by Morgan Kearns

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Main Characters

Jane Alexander: A “professional” “journalist” who is assigned to cover the Utah Rockets for a local TV station, though you never see her do any professional journalisting of any kind. 

Grayson Pierce: A baseball player of indeterminate position for the Utah Rockets, though you never see him play any baseball and he rarely talks about it.

Romance Plot

Jane Alexander and Grayson Pierce have a history. They grew up in the same town, nursing secret mutual crushes. Though they are supposed to go to the prom together, Jane stands Grayson up when she overhears that he only went with her because he lost a bet. Of course, this isn’t true and Grayson thinks that she callously stood him up for no reason. Fifteen years later they still haven’t talked about what happened to their prom plans, and they now have to see each other nearly every day. Jane is turned off by Grayson’s bad boy persona and still nursing hurt feelings from high school, but Grayson is desperate to get Jane back. So he agrees to give her an exclusive interview only if she agrees to stay at his giant, secluded ranch for a week. Of course Jane’s boss agrees to this and instead of quitting immediately, Jane actually goes to his ranch. They finally discuss their prom night misunderstanding and fall in love instantaneously. But there’s no happy ending just yet. Grayson’s public persona as a bad boy is entirely fictional — he was convinced by his agent that no one would ever become a fan of a boring, clean cut, normal, handsome baseball player. So Grayson decided to hire someone who looked exactly like him to carry on as a hard partying womanizer so his public image would be safe. Or “safe”. Derek, Grayson’s doppelgänger, sees that Grayson is settling down and decides that the best course of action is to break into the house, knock Grayson unconscious, and try to fool Jane into having sex with him. Jane may be an idiot but she isn’t stupid, and she immediately realizes that the man with her is not Grayson. So she shoots Derek when he tries to force himself on her. And they all lived happily ever after.

Do these people know they’re in a romance novel?

These people think they’re in a Very Special Episode of Seventh Heaven. There is a lot of ooey-gooey happy-sappy lovey-dovey stuff, but that’s it. There’s almost nothing racy or sexy described at all. There’s barely any flirting, and there is no scantily clad prancing. When a romance novel is devoid of florid sex-related language, what else is there? Send these two back to Walton Mountain where they belong.

Baseball Plot

There is none. Baseball isn’t central to the story at all. Grayson Pierce could have been any rich guy with a psycho evil doppelgänger. You never even find out what position he plays! The epilogue reveals that he hit the winning home run in the final game of the World Series, but that is the most we hear about any game that he plays. I’m not even going to get into the issues surrounding Jane interviewing Grayson a second time near the end of the book, when the two of them are involved  with each other but hiding it from everyone. (And that includes being shady about it on camera during the actual interview.) That’s some quality sports journalism right there.

Thoughts

Getting through this book was so hard to do. As soon as Derek the evil doppelgänger was introduced, I knew what would happen at the end of the book. I kept waiting for something baseball related to happen, or for some misunderstanding to tear the sickeningly happy couple asunder. No such luck. I didn’t think it was possible for a book to have a psycho evil doppelgänger and still be boring and chaste. I was wrong! This book has so much wasted potential. Verdict

Run, don’t walk away. You could consume enough alcohol to make it interesting, but then you’d be dead. (So don’t do that.)

Liz Roscher is the Supreme Blog Mistress at The Good Phight, SB Nation’s Philadelphia Phillies blog. When she’s not writing about or watching baseball, she enjoys baking, crafting, Chase Utley, and yelling at the Phillies through her TV. (And reading baseball romance novels, of course.) She lives in New Haven, CT, which is just eight miles from the PEZ Visitor Center. 

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