Fun YA/NA contemporary romance
Reading Level: Young Adult/New Adult
Release Date: June 27, 2013
Pages: 402 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Ten years ago, Holly was 8, her brother Justin 11, and their mother and father had a happy marriage. Or so Holly thought, until her father, a wealthy, pro baseball player, fell in love with another woman and asked her mother for a divorce. The family split in two, Holly leaving with her mother to live in Pennsylvania, and Justin staying behind with their father in Arizona. During the intervening years, Holly has seen her brother rarely and her father only once, when she attended his wedding to his long-time lover five years ago. Currently, Holly has just graduated high school, and has come to live with her father as a last resort, because her mother has married an Italian count and moved with him to Italy and Holly has no desire to live outside the US. Justin, her father, and her newly pregnant stepmother all welcome Holly to their home. But Holly feels alienated from all of them, especially her father, whom she has never forgiven for betraying her mother and destroying their family.
Just before she arrived at her father’s home, Holly had spotted a handsome, reckless young man drag racing in his truck on a public street. Enraged at his endangering other people, Holly had scolded him loudly when they both pulled up at a stop light. She is surprised and dismayed when he shows up minutes after she reaches her father’s house and joins a party Justin is having at the huge pool in the back yard. She learns the young man’s name is Doan, and he’s a good friend of Justin. Doan is also a talented college pitcher with a good chance at being drafted into the pros–if he can overcome his reckless behavior.
Doan makes it obvious that he is interested in Holly, but she refuses to go out with him, in spite of her unwilling reciprocal attraction to him. Then her father and Justin strongly urge her to participate in the summer baseball league her father coaches for a group of college players, two of whom are Justin and Doan. In spite of her unresolved resentment toward her father, and her desire to resist temptation by staying away from Doan, the chance to play baseball is too hard to resist. During her childhood before she parted from her father, she played baseball constantly and was quite good at it, and she longs to play again.
Holly and Doan are two wounded souls, but they compensate for their pain in opposite ways. Holly needs to feel in control at all times, and in Holly’s opinion, Doan seems to prefer to be out of control at all times.
There is plenty of sexual chemistry between Holly and Doan and lots of fun repartee as they move from antagonists, to mutual respect, and very gradually to romance. I enjoyed their relationship very much, and though initially in this novel both Holly and Doan have a lot of rough edges, it soon becomes evident that each of them has a huge capacity for love, a great deal of loyalty, and an innate depth of emotional courage. The author does a terrific job of conveying Holly and Doan’s romantic journey from distrust to trust as they gradually confide their deepest secrets and fears to each other and risk being emotionally vulnerable to one another as they never have to anyone else.
The subplots of the baseball league and Holly’s relationship with her father and brother are very well done. I also appreciated the chance to reconnect with Natalie and Shane, the protagonists from Cinderella in Skates, as they live out their happily ever after. Natalie attends college and works in the same town as Holly’s father and brother, and Shane, who attends college in California, comes to visit her.
Though the protagonists are “new adults” rather than teenagers, I think this book could be classified as both YA/NA, since the subject matter is appropriate for older teens 17 and above. The hallmark of most NA these days seems to be a lot of raunchy sex, foul language, heavy drinking and sometimes drug use, and the story lines are often very dark. That kind of “edginess” is not as apparent in this book. Yes, there is some swearing, and occasional heavy drinking, but there is no consummated sex, only very sweet, affectionately passionate kissing between the protagonists.
The writing in this book overall is excellent. The characters are sharply drawn, the setting in Arizona is vividly conveyed, and the scenes with baseball are quite interesting, even for people like me who are not big fans of that particular sport. Best of all, Carly Syms is terrific at writing romance. I have read all her YA/NA contemporary romance novels so far, and I look forward to reading anything else she offers.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Baseball Subplot: 5
Family Drama Plot: 5