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Ellen Hartman

REVIEW:  The Long Shot by Ellen Hartman

REVIEW: The Long Shot by Ellen Hartman

Dear Ms. Hartman:

Within the space of about 20 minutes, I received two emails from disparate parties telling me I must read this book.  I toddled off and did what I was instructed. There were parts of the story that I loved but parts that frustrated me a great deal and so while I can see the charm of the story, some of it remains overshadowed.

Hartman the Long Shot
The Long Shot features a former pro basketball player who comes back to his hometown to coach his alma mater, not realizing he agreed to coach the girls’ team because the heroine, a guidance counselor for the high school conveniently leaves out that information

Let’s set aside, for the moment, the improbability of a 6′ 2″ white guy (he must play the point guard position although it is never stated because 6’2″ is on the short side in the NBA and most shooting guards are going to be at least 6′ 5″) going direct from high school (no guard has ever gone from high school to the NBA) being an NBA star.  Let’s set aside that this story could have so easily featured black athlete instead of a white one and concentrate on what makes the story good because if I dwell on the characters’ whiteness for too long, my angry face may make an appearance.

Julia Bradley is the guidance counselor at the Milton High School.  She has held that position for close to a decade and she also serves as the coach of the Lady Tigers, the girls’ basketball team.  Julia seems to know next to nothing about basketball but she tells us that her real work, connecting with the students, is done in the team setting.  The girl’s season is in jeopardy because of budget cuts. Julia bets the principal that her girls will make State in exchange for a promise of future funding, as if a principal is the sole person in charge of determining how school budget money is allocated. Nonetheless, moving forward, Julia realizes she needs boosters to financially support the girl’s season and concludes that a new coach would be beneficial.

Julia calls Deacon Fallon, a former Milton High School basketball player whom she views as her biggest failure.  She could not get Deacon to go to college; instead the lure of professioonal sports won out.  But Deacon was a success in the NBA until a shoulder injury forced him into retirement.  He owns a string of clinics around the state but has had nothing to do with Milton since his graduation.

Deacon’s brother gets into deep trouble at his college and Deacon must bail him out.  Worried that Wes doesn’t understand the value of having to fight for anything, that he’s cruising by on Deacon’s name and Deacon’s money, Deacon agrees to take the coaching position for one year at Milton High School not knowing it is for the girl’s team.

Of course, the team is disastrous – a melange of untalented girls more interested in their nail polish than pounding the hardwood.  Deacon’s brother, Wes, however relates to these kids and is able to breakthrough with a routine akin to High School Musical (and I am not exaggerating this in any manner).

Julia and Deacon’s attraction to each other is immediate and very little time is spent concerrned about either their age difference because the emotional conflict is centered around Deacon’s secret.  He is severely dyslexic and Julia’s family is the type that gives books as presents.

The best and most moving parts of the book are from Deacon’s point of view. His feelings of adequacy are challenged by his illiteracy.  He hides it from everyone, including his brother Wes. Only his agent is aware of his disability.  He is fearful of even going into a restaurant because he won’t be able to read a menu to give an order.

Wes believes that his brother, Deacon, is all powerful and feels less in his presence, causing him to act out against Deacon.  The book’s emotional arc covers the reconciliation of the brothers as well as a romance between Julia and Deacon.

I disliked, however, Julia’s presentation.  Her view that Deacon was her first failure was self indulgent masochism.  This man went on to be a success. It wasn’t academic success but he was able to take care of himself, his brother, and set up a string of successful businesses. What more could you want from a student you once cared about?  Her portrayal was rigid.  Because he didn’t go to college, he was her failure.  How humiliating for him.  How self indulgent of her.

Deacon was absolutely right to question how they could have an adult relationship when she refused to recognize that he wasn’t a failure.  I was further frustrated that the darkest moment was totally placed on Deacon’s shoulders.  Julia should have been equaally responsible and she failed to step up to the plate.  Perhaps it was because this was Deacon’s story and Julia was just the bystander.  She did not grow throughout the story.  She appeared to be as rigid and moralistic at the end as she was in the beginning and that was a true disappointment.  C

Best regards,

Jane

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[rant on] I understand that so many romance books feature hockey players because hockey is a white man’s sport (witness the terribly racist things that were tweeted after Joe Ward’s overtime goal sent the Boston Bruins packing from the Stanley Cup playoffs) but basketball is not a white man’s sport.

Since Lloyd made history, the NBA has increased its number of black players to 78 percent, according to the league’s racial and gender report last year. About 83 percent of the players in the league are people of color. Source: NBA

In fact, the few white men that have success in the NBA are currently European players like Dirk Nowitzki. Hell, even Stephen Nash is from Canada.  Further, to have some random white guy be the protagonist for this basketball book when the sport is predominantly black just reeks of white privilege. This random guy is of the 17% that is not a person of color?  If there was any book that could have featured a person of color, surely one where the protagonist is a basketball player is that book.  It’s not playing to type to have the main character a person of color, it’s just playing to the high percentage of reality. In fact, there isn’t even anything in the book to even indicate that there are people in color in this person’s world. If a player made it to the elite NBA level, there would have to be more than one person of color in his field of acquaintances.  The only people of color are a few players on the girl’s team. The girl’s team!  Ugh. I don’t know whose fault this is, but this bothers me.  [rant off]

REVIEW: Wanted Man by Ellen Hartman

REVIEW: Wanted Man by Ellen Hartman

Rhian’s Rooftop Resolutions:
1. Write a children’s book
2. Learn to play basketball
3. Have a summer fling

Between caring for her orphaned nephew and working as a tech writer, Rhian MacGregor has spent several years perfecting the art of abstinence. But the arrival of Nathan Delaney—her gorgeous housepainter—has her contemplating a new instruction manual: Seducing Your Handyman.

She’s not thinking of getting serious, of course. She’s only got the summer to herself before it’s back to real life. Besides, Rhian doesn’t do serious, because the consequences are too painful.
Just as they will be when she finds out who Nathan really is…

Wanted Man by Ellen HartmanDear Mrs. Hartman,

I guess this is a reissue since the eharlequin website lists it with a publication date of 2007 and an onsale date of September 2011 but whatever it is, I’m glad I’m finally reading it. Oh, and I love that the cover shows the pepto bismol pink painted house that Nathan paints to get into Rhian’s life. Cover images that match what actually happens in the book – yeah!

Okay the set up for the book requires a little suspension of belief about Nathan. I know some famous authors are fairly reclusive but the lengths to which he’s gone just don’t seem like even they’d be enough. Not with today’s easy access via the Internet to everything about everybody. But I’ll just go with it and keep reading. The celebrity, tabloid “journalist” daytime show host’s decision to discover who author Chris Senso really is seems all too real though. Anything for increased ratings no matter who it might hurt or whose life it might change. That being said, the way you’ve fashioned the character of Lindsey Hall makes her sound exactly like the uber exuberant, “will stop at nothing to get the story,” “perfect hair and makeup” type of modern TV personality. Can I say I fairly much despise them? Yes, I can. And Nathan’s ex Patricia – wow, what was he thinking to get hooked up with her? The scene at the end where those two are pitted against each other is worth it though as the perfect revenge.

Nathan Delaney does have some concrete reasons why he wants privacy – both as Nathan and as his nom de plume “Chris.” Because of his bad experience as a college basketball player, I can see why he isn’t eager to be in the spotlight anymore. And why he’s initially skittish when first introduced to Rhian’s friends and her nephew Jem’s family. I like the slow, sweet build up to a physical relationship that they have but I could see the Big Mis situation coming. When one character tells another “I have something to tell you” and that telling gets interrupted for sex, the hand grenade explosion isn’t far off. Nathan loses a few points with me for his reaction to what happens and I’m not entirely sure his initial “I’m sorry, I should have believed you” is enough for me. The man had lots of chances before that night to tell the truth.

Rhian starts the book as if she’s going to turn into one of those martyrs who gives up her entire life for the service of others. I do like the relationship she has with Jem but I’m glad she is going to have most of the summer to herself and that she already plans on having some adult fun when she’s got the chance. And that she goes ahead with her dream and actually finishes it! The HFN ending to that – her being an author – is a nice change from the usual “she becomes a huge worldwide star with her first book!” epilogues I’ve read in the past.

Matt and Min – kind of sound like they’re a pair of cartoon mice, don’t they – are fun secondary characters and really help with the way Nathan resolves the whole issue of his privacy. Jem comes across like an eight year old, basketball mad little boy who hasn’t quite gotten to the independent “don’t hug me in public” stage yet. He’s in the story just enough to not annoy me.

I might not always end up reviewing all your books but I do always look at them and here I’m glad that I’ve got a chance at reading this one that’s been out for a while. Ebooks are wonderful and reissued backlists are even better. B-

~Jayne

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