Hubscher, Libby. Play for Me. Berkley, 2023. 368 pp. ISBN 9780593547229 $17.00.
Not every romance has to involve a book store of bake shop. When the rookie pitcher is too injured to play, trainer Sophie Doyle makes a controversial call on a player that rabid Red Sox fans think cost the series — and costs her the job, as well as her relationship and housing. She finds work at a New Hampshire boarding school where her clients are wrestling with academics and other extra curriculars as well as athletics. Faculty housing is sparse and utilitarian and all-male, but it only takes one almost-glimpse of skin in the shared bathroom for a lock to get installed. Conflict arises when a student who excels at both baseball and piano is pulled in two directions, and music instructor Jonas is as convinced is a prodigy at piano as Sophie is that is a prodigy at baseball. When grumpy Jonas, a former concert pianist, reveals he can barely play, Sophie has physical therapy exercises that may help him limber his hands.
The writing and relationships are excellent. I love both music and baseball, and found the entry point fairly low, readers do not need to know a lot about or be passionate about either to engage with the story and characters. The subplot of Sophie’s dad, struggling with a Parkinson’s diagnosis, adds depth and the other roommates (a gay couple) add color. As might be fitting with a private school setting, the sex is discreet and behind closed doors even though their attraction is evident and encouraged by students.
I received a free, advance reader’s review copy of #PlayForMe from #NetGalley.
Richardson, Caroline. Out of His League. W by Wattpad, 2022. ISBN 978-1990259067 $16.99
Brave wine sommelier and baseball fan Gretchen makes a bold move when she spots her favorite player en route to Vegas, and buys him a cup of coffee, fully knowing he’s just been “sent down” post-slump. They connect and then, their one-night stand turns into a real but challenging relationship, with job insecurities on top of the long-distance romance.
Set in Canada and the US, with plenty of sportsball and inside baseball to captivate readers who swoon over passionate pro-athletes, and culinary and wine details that are enticing to foodies. A solid read – Good Read reviewers note Out of His League was published on Wattpad, and kudos to Richardson for a solid novel with a broad appeal.
I read a digital advance reader’s review copy of #OutOfHisLeague from #NetGalley
Darling, Ron. The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball, Pitching, and Life on the Mound. Knopf, 2009. ISBN 978-0307269843 288 pp. $24.95
Former Mets’ pitcher Ron Darling dishes on what it’s like to be a major league pitcher, approaching pitching holistically, from standpoints of stamina, science, mental focus, statistics and more … this as-told-to memoir is not intended to catalog Darling’s achievements, but to illustrate the lonely position that so much of America’s past-time hinges on.
The writing is straightforward but mundane, and the blow-by-blow didn’t hold my interest much past the 50 page mark, though the structure is interesting, with each chapter modelled after an inning in a key game to illustrate the author’s points.