Strike Zone by Kate Angell
I love sports so any half way decent sports book is going to please me. I give this caveat because there is probably alot wrong with this book (including the baseball stuff) but I still enjoyed it. I think it was a combination of Sports + Estranged lovers = Win for me.
Brek Stryker is the headline pitcher for the Richmond Rogues. Taylor Hannah was his fiance who stood him up at the altar. He has a new fiance but he’s never really moved on as evidenced by the emotional gut shot he experiences when he sees Taylor for the first time in three years. Taylor has heard about Brek’s new engagement and came to spy on him for the last time before he gets hitched. Taylor hasn’t really gotten over Brek either.
Taylor is a thrill junkie. She is constantly challenging herself by engaging in the most extreme sports such as competitive paragliding, rafting down the Brahmaputra, or cross-country skiing in Longyearbyen. She can’t be tied down even though she loves Brek and Brek is a home and heart kind of guy, even as he admires Taylor’s verve. Taylor is grounded, though, by a torn ACL. Bret, still loving Taylor, recognizes immediately how excrutiating the recovery will be for Taylor and moves her into his guest house. Problems are compounded when Bret suffers a serious injury of his own. Together the two work on rehabbing their prospective injuries.
There is a secondary romance between Taylor’s sister, Eve, and the up and coming reliever, Sloan. Eve manages the thrill seeker business with Taylor serving as a guide. Sloan initially wants Taylor and so signs up for some thrill adventure to impress Taylor. In the meantime, Sloan finds himself wanting to unbutton and unwind the uptight Eve. Sloan is such an unabashed ass that you can’t help but find him endearing. The relationship is not resolved at the end of the story but the handwriting is on the wall.
I’m a bit conflicted on Taylor’s emotional arc. She didn’t want to marry Brek because she was afraid to be tied down. The relationship is resolved when she realizes that she can have both her thrills and be married to Brek. The problem is that she doesn’t agree that she’ll still be a guide, but rather she gives that all up to be Mrs. Brek Stryker.
The problems are many:
The Richmond Rogues reads more like a Triple A team than a major league team. I can’t say that I have ever seen a multi-million dollar a year arm take on a mascot during the middle of a game. I also wonder about the competitive nature of a pitcher who makes seventh inning sex dates with his ex. Oh, I just plan to pitch 7 innings and then I’ll meet you in the locker room so we can bump uglies. This is a guy who wants to win a Cy Young? I mean, I guess it could happen but it just makes me question his dedication to the game.
Speaking of dedication to the game, I am pretty sure fans would be up in arms (not to mention fellow players and the owner of the team) when a multi-million dollar a year pitcher goes on these thrill adventures. There was a huge hubbub over Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger who got into a motorcycle accident and didn’t wear a helmet. He virtually had to promise that his days of taking risks off the field were over. As you can see, the helmet incident has its very own wikipedia section on Ben’s page. There is a laundry list of activities that are prohibited in pro sports contracts and I would guess these thrill adventures fall into them.
Brek’s fiance is a total skeeve and the villiany of her actions are cartoonish but maybe intentionally so. It was hard for me to discern whether the fiance was intentionally ramped up to be amoral or whether that was just a device to make it okay for Bret to emotionally cheat on her and ultimately dump her for Taylor.
Despite all the problems, Strike Zone is a short and breezy read and if the reader can put aside the fact that some of the actions of Bret, as a baseball player don’t ring very true, it’s a fun contemporary read. C+