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REVIEW:  Catching Hell by Mindy Klasky

REVIEW: Catching Hell by Mindy Klasky

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Anna Benson is an eager “May” to Zach Ormond’s downright sexy “December”.
At age thirty-seven, Zach is a veteran catcher in the last years of his contract, grateful for a no-trade clause that will let him retire a star in Raleigh. Twenty-five-year-old Anna has grown up in the Rockets’ front office; her grandfather has long groomed her to take over the team.

When Zach finally realizes Anna is no longer a star-struck kid, their passion flares like a game-winning grand slam. But after a freak accident injures a young phenom and forces the team to land a new player, Anna must sacrifice Zach for the Rockets, convincing him to forfeit his hard-won no-trade guarantee.

There’s hell to pay. He’s doing everything in his considerable seductive power to make her keep him—on the team and in her bed. How can Anna and Zach live happily ever after when their romance will destroy the team they love?

Dear Ms. Klasky,

I’m glad that you kept listing your Diamond Brides series on our submissions site until I wised up and decided to give one a try. For readers looking for a shorter length novel or those interested in sports romances, I can recommend this one as a good starting point to what looks like a long season of baseball romance. Though this is the second book in the series, I never felt lost for not having read the first one yet.

When I realized “Catching Hell” was in the short category book size, I wondered if it would feel complete without also being rushed. You manage to tell a whole romance arc because for one both characters have known each other for years even though the beginning of their association is when the heroine is ten and the hero is twenty-two. The second reason is that the story is ruthlessly focused on just these two people and their issues. The hero of the next story is mentioned and the heroine has a small role here but they are included only to the extent needed to work for this story and do not act as obvious sequel bait.

The difference in ages between Zach and Anna did have me squirming just a bit as the story opens but both Anna and Zach do think about and acknowledge this and move past it. Still it’s 12 years for those who are counting.

I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy baseball more in a story than I do in real life. However the baseball stuff feels real or at least it seems real to me. As well as having older Zach concerned about his aching knees, there is a lovely scene where he and Anna watch a game together and bond some more over the intensity with which they analyze it like a chess game.

As well it has the nitty gritty details of owning and running a team but with the real counterparts who would be there – scouts, the manager, coaches, etc. Anna isn’t trying to do all this on her own. I also love that Anna is shown having agency and being competent and also being respected for this. True fans of the game will probably appreciate that it features a made up team with a fictitious name in a town without an existing major league team.

The conflict here is genuine and not something silly that could have been solved by the ubiquitous five minute conversation. Anna has the team’s overall future to worry about while Zach is obviously concerned with his own. There’s no real villain here just two people working out issues. Real Life stuff.

At first the methods that the Rockets management use to try and encourage Zach to wave his no-trade clause are funny – and he treats them that way, brushing them off as minor inconveniences – but as the situation drags out, I started to wonder how this would play out in the real world. Would a MLB team be so petty or would they go straight to the finale that Anna devises? I’m not sure but as the stakes escalated I thought about how it might negatively impact the rest of the team.

So how was the romance? Sexy and smexy. Anna knows what she wants. Zach knows what he wants. They both end up wanting the same thing and going for it with gusto. There’s no double standarding here and Zach appreciates Anna’s enthusiasm and skill as a lover.

As for the long term relationship, I was delighted that so many opportunities for a Big Mis to rear its head were avoided. Yeah, Zach and Anna are on opposite sides in the contract dispute but they manage to still work on that and keep up a separate romance at the same time. When the chips were down, a compromise – that I sort of had worked out in my head – was reached and everyone got what they wanted and needed. And for those wondering, they might be surprised at just who ends up suggesting the compromise.

It’s fast, fun, and flirty. It’s a shorter novel but it concentrates on the essentials so it feels complete. There is enough time that passes so I can believe that the attraction is more than a passing fling – well, Anna has moved through all those stages already and Zach figures it out fairly soon. As I said, I do like that Anna is shown as knowing her baseball stuff and being respected for that.

I had fun reading this, the time seemed to zip by, the characters are intelligent, talk to each other and the conflict is real. The resolution makes sense and I can see myself continuing further with the Raleigh Rockets and their love lives. B

Jayne

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REVIEW:  Risk by Cora Brent

REVIEW: Risk by Cora Brent

Risk (Gentry Boys #2) by Cora Brent

Dear Ms. Brent:

I read the first book in the Gentry Boys series, Draw, when it lingered at the top of the Kindle charts a couple of months ago. I’d found it on Scribd and felt it was a no risk proposition (and by found it, I mean, it was part of the subscription service).  There was something very alluring about your voice, the slow southern lyricism of your characters’ internal monologue, the occasionally witty dialogue, and the certain we’ll love before our doom theme that provides the overriding suspense.

Risk isn’t terrible different than Draw but that’s part of the appeal, I think. I know what I’m getting and it’s comfortable.

Tallulah Rae Lee is a waitress at Cluck This, a fried chicken establishment near Arizona State University. She rooms with a quiet, secretive girl and has only a few friends. Her past is a roadmap of wrong turns marked by increasingly bad male choices starting her falling for her mother’s boyfriend at the age of seventeen and ending with being a kept woman of a wealthy married man. At some point, she realizes she’s never going to find the love she needed between the legs of a male and she focuses on making enough money to pay her bills. She misses her three sisters who she walked away from when her mother threw her out, but she doesn’t know how to reconnect. In short, Truly is lonely but trying.

Creedence Gentry is one of three Gentry triplets who grew up under the abusive hand of their dad. The father would either beat them all or beat one or make Creed choose who he should beat, promising a terrible retribution to the other two brothers if he wouldn’t choose. The Gentry boys escape their oppressive small town and make their way to Phoenix. The one brother has started classes and the other brother Cord (the hero of Draw) is a burgeoning tattoo artist. Creed drinks and serves as security for ASU football games. Oh, and he’s committed himself to a shady promoter who sets up fights to the death between poor schmucks like Creed and ex cons.

In Draw, Chase is beat up and in exchange for information about the perpetrators behind the deed, Creed offers himself up as tribute in a dangerous game. All three brothers know that this is very close to a death sentence and Creed’s response is to ramp up his drinking and his screwing around. His eyes light upon Truly and she can’t resist.

There are a couple of problems in the book. First, Creed is portrayed as super rough around the edges and appears to view women as “holes” in the first POV. This is abandoned later, but the set up of Creed as this foul mouthed misogynist does little to serve the story. Second, he’s portrayed as having a heavy drinking problem but fortunately for him Truly makes his thirst go away. That’s not really how alcoholism works and it’s a little frustrating to see it portrayed like that.

Truly and Creed fall quickly for each other but the threat of Creed’s fight and his possibly short time on this earth is a dark cloud over their romance.

Despite the problems, I really liked Truly and because she wanted Creed, I wanted Creed for her. I didn’t think Creed was as interesting as Truly’s character. Yes he came from an abusive household; yes, he was in unfortunate circumstances, but a lot of those circumstances were his own making and I never felt like he owned those like Truly owned her mistakes.

But for readers that like the gruff alpha who is head over heels for his woman, this will be appealing but the book was made for me with the Truly character. If she’d been less interesting, less spirited then I wouldn’t have liked the romance or Creed as much.

Interestingly while the characters have sex quite a bit, the scenes themselves are very short (only a few of paragraphs) I wouldn’t qualify this as an erotic romance but a sexy contemporary. B-

Best regards,

Jane

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