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REVIEW: Strike Zone by Kate Angell

Strike Zone by Kate Angell

Book CoverI 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+

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells. No book format.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

18 Comments

  1. Chicklet
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 16:18:22

    See, if I want to take in a baseball-themed romance, I just watch Bull Durham again. *g* You’re absolutely right: this sounds more like a minor-league team than a major-league one. I don’t know why it couldn’t just be about a minor-league team in the first place. And also…

    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.

    That just chaps my hide. I haaaaaate those kinds of endings.

    Oh, and is Kate Angell related to Roger Angell, the famous baseball essayist?

  2. Meril
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 16:21:39

    Like the fantasy readers who get irritated at sloppy worldbuilding in fantasy romances, I get irritated with bad sports in sports romances. If I can’t believe this is an actual, for-serious baseball team, how can I believe in the romance?

    If a starting pitcher gets taken out in the 7th inning, either he’s going to be icing down his arm in the trainer’s room or he’s going to be hanging out on the dugout rail watching the rest of the game. (And after watching last night’s Giants game where one of the coaches made a very wet Tim Lincecum put on his hat before going to the rail to watch the game, I have a feeling some of these guys are micromanaged to an inch of their lives.)

  3. Jane
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 16:26:12

    Yeah, there are alot of things wrong with the baseball aspect of the book like the crowds the author references of 80K. Yankee Stadium is the largest capacity stadium and I think it only seats 54K. There’s a scene in which Brek hits the opposing teams mascot IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GAME. Even if that would ever happen, pretty sure it would result in a bench clearing brawl.

  4. Sarah
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 17:38:51

    Most pro athletes have a no risk-taking clause in their contract. The strange thing about the Ben R. incident was that he didn’t have one of those clauses in his contract. I’m sure he does now.

  5. Dana
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 18:41:37

    Well, I wrote a very long rant about how an earlier book in this series about the “Richmond Rogues” (a major league team in Richmond? Really?) drove me crazy, and my internet browser ate it. So, I thought better of ranting on an unfamiliar blog to a bunch of people I’ve never met. But, suffice it to say, I’m a huge baseball fan (Mets in particular), and I was personally insulted by the fact that this author not only seemed to know nothing about the sport, but hadn’t even spent 5 minutes doing research on the subject. She didn’t have to set this romance in the world of baseball, but for some reason she CHOSE to do so (and it couldn’t be because she is a fan of the sport, maybe someone said that there was a market in this kind of book). This is one of the reasons that romance gets no respect- nowhere else have I seen such shoddy background building (and I read widely). I mean, a mystery set in the world of baseball could never get away with the enormous, glaring errors that this author commits. I could tolerate the small issues that only a real baseball fan might pick up on (like having the Yankees be an NL team- they just couldn’t exist as an NL team, they’re the very definition of an AL team), but she didn’t even seem to understand the whole bullpen concept. Grrr. How does this stuff get published? This is worse than bad prose to me- it’s blatant lack of respect for the readers, the genre, and your own fictional world. Everyone has their sore points, and this one is mine. Almost makes me want to write a baseball set romance myself, just to even out the cosmic balance. Needless to say, the previous book was an F for me (regardless of the fact that the actual plot and writing were fun), and I will not be reading any other books by this author.

    Well, I guess I did end up ranting after all. Sorry.

  6. Jane
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 19:24:59

    I’m feeling guilty for giving it such a positive grade but it is kind of a fun book. The author definitely is taking a vacation on the sports part.

  7. Dana
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 00:03:55

    I decided to see if the author has a webpage, and discovered that Kate Angell is actually Roberta Brown, a successful literary agent. Now, more than ever, I think that the story is set in the world of baseball because she saw that was an under-served market. I’m all for filling niches, but, please, couldn’t she have put at least a little bit of effort into learning about it before she started? And yes, otherwise her books are fun. Which makes me even madder. She had it in her to make a good book, and chose the easy way out, resulting in a shoddy product. Are there any good baseball romance novels out there?

  8. Jane
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 00:10:41

    Dana – yes, I thought that Lisa Renee Jones’ Hard and Fast is a great baseball book. One that I thought got the sports right. I also think that Deirdre Martin does a great job with her hockey books.

    Hard and Fast is a Silh. Blaze I think. I reviewed it on the site . . .

    Here’s the link.

  9. Shannon Stacey
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 07:13:02

    As a Sox fan, having the Yankees put erroneously in the NL would kill a book for me—immediately and irrevocably. Maybe I should take it off the TBR pile and take it to the UBS to save my blood pressure.

  10. Chicklet
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 09:36:06

    Now that I know Kate Angell’s real-life identity and her probable reasons for writing the book, I’m even more ticked off at the inaccuracies in the story (the Yankees in the NL?!). Note to authors: Please respect me enough as a reader to get basic facts correct in your books, kthxbai.

  11. Ann Bruce
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 10:16:04

    I also think that Deirdre Martin does a great job with her hockey books.

    As a Canadian, a die-hard hockey fan since the age of five, and someone who used to date hockey players and team owner’s sons, I have to respectfully disagree. In fact, I was insulted by Ms. Martin’s hockey books.

  12. Jane
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 10:18:11

    Oh, Ann. Don’t tell me that. I love Body Check. Sigh. Does no one do sports right?

  13. Shannon Stacey
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 10:38:10

    I think blending the sports world with romantic fantasy’s probably a pretty intense tightrope act. There’s “football’s not really like that” and there’s just wrong.

    I think SEP’s football series is really good. But I read one football romance (and I don’t remember any of the who/what details) in which the heroine became the team’s kicker. I don’t know how that turned out for them because I stopped reading it.

    Maybe the romantic fantasy requires taking some creative license, but in Dana’s example, that falls—for me—into the just plain wrong column. Even if, in the author’s world, the creation of the Richmond Rogues and other expansion teams required some realignment, you don’t put the New York Yankees in the National League. That team almost transcends the sport, being almost as much a national institution as a baseball team. (Typing that made me throw up in my mouth. Yankees suck. That’s better.) That’s not only an error, it’s practically blasphemous.

    I think if you’re going to not only write a baseball romance, but brand yourself as a baseball romance author, you have to have some respect for the heart of the game and its fans.

  14. Ann Bruce
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 10:44:59

    Sorry, Jane. If it makes you feel better, I gave Ms. Martin two chances (she flunked both times–and that included Body Check), so I haven’t read her in years and years. Maybe the later books are better researched? Maybe she actually spent time with real hockey players?

    Edited to add:
    Or it could be me and hockey. Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score made me want to demand my money back about three chapters into the book.

  15. Ann Bruce
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 10:46:42

    I second SEP’s football books. I understand her husband’s a coach (someone correct me if I’m wrong), so she has an in.

    And even if she got the football wrong (heaven forbid), her characters and their relationships would still sell her books.

  16. Bonnie L.
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 11:37:34

    If I remember correctly, SEP’s husband was the general manager for one of the Chicago area teams.

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