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REVIEW:  Perfect Pitch by Mindy Klasky

REVIEW: Perfect Pitch by Mindy Klasky

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Reigning beauty queen Samantha Winger is launching her pet project, a music program for kids. All she has to do is follow the pageant’s rules—no smoking, drinking, or “cavorting” in public.

That’s fine, until D.J. Thomas—God’s gift to baseball—throws her a wild pitch. He slams her in an interview, and the video goes viral. Sam’s no shrinking violet. She parlays D.J.’s apology into a national T.V. appearance—and a very unexpected, very public kiss.

Soon, paparazzi catch the couple in a steamy make-out session, and Sam’s music program is on the block. The blazing hot relationship is threatened even more when D.J.’s son begs to trade in Little League for music class.

Can Sam and D.J. sizzle past the sour notes and find their perfect pitch?

Dear Ms. Klasky,

After enjoying what is actually the second book in this series, “Catching Hell,” I knew I wanted to go back and start from the beginning. While there are some things I liked about “Perfect Pitch,” it wouldn’t have got me caught on these books had I read it first.

The relationship between DJ and Sam starts innocently enough with DJ making a thoughtless comment about the Summer Queen. What or who is the Summer Queen? A made up beauty contest set in North Carolina with Samantha Winger as the current title holder. Sam has dealt with ten months worth of the “morality” clauses expected of the reigning Queen – no public drinking, carousing, hooting or hollering. She manages to turn DJ’s public apology into an opportunity to publicize her passion which is helping re-establish music in NC’s public school system.

Sparks fly between DJ and Sam but after a steamy kiss photo taken by a local paparazzi hits the papers, Sam is on probation as far as pageant officials are concerned. She can deal with that now that a local businessman has offered to help get her Musicall program off the ground, though. It just so happens that the school chosen for the pilot is attended by DJ’s son Daniel and it’s then that Sam discovers the boy’s love of music and dislike of the life his father has planned for him – to follow in his footsteps as a major league pitcher just as DJ did with his father, Hall of Famer Dan Thomas.

While DJ is amazing at reading and understanding Sam’s interest in him, he’s incredibly obtuse about his son. And while Sam is determined to see students get the chance to learn to love music, she’s seemingly blind to how sneaking around with DJ could end up sinking Musicall almost before it even starts.

To be honest, this one is not as good as second novel. The shorter length worked there because focus is entirely on the two main characters while here there are distractions to the relationship between DJ and Sam. Yes, Daniel, DJ’s son, is a point of contention between Sam and DJ in terms of his future as either a ball player or a musician but time has to be spent with him and explaining him instead of spending it on Sam and DJ together. As well, Sam’s issues with the Summer Queen rules serve to take time away from the couple together.

There is also less baseball in this book. A little time is spent on the fabulousness of DJ’s no hitter game and the dreary reality of a long series of games on the road as well as how careful DJ must be with his pitching arm but it’s more background white noise instead of front and center to the book.

When the conflict over Daniel’s music v sports flares up, the already short term flash sexy relationship between Sam and DJ crumbles in a heartbeat only to be just as quickly resurrected with a simple “I’m sorry” and seemingly all is forgiven to be followed by more behavior that any romance reader can tell will lead to disaster.

When the Big Breakup occurs late in the story, Sam and DJ do finally yell their concerns and problems at each other. However, when the public reunion takes place – and yeah, I’ll give DJ props for making sure that Sam gets a public apology and proposal after the public way their relationship torpedoed her career – I’m blinking at how easy it all goes. Over a longer period of time, with more discussion I could believe this but as truncated as the action becomes, it was too much too soon along with too little baseball. C

~Jayne

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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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