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.