REVIEW: It Started with a Crush by Melissa McClone
“Lucy Martin’s dream of marrying her Prince Charming might have fallen apart, but she’s determined to make her soccer-mad nephew’s dreams come true. But that means asking her old crush Ryland James, the legendary bad boy of soccer, to coach her nephew’s team.
Injured and ordered to polish his tarnished reputation, Ryland’s looking for distraction. Coaching might be more involvement than he likes, but with gorgeous Lucy offering cookies as a bribe he can’t resist! This soccer superstar might have met his perfect match…if he can convince the once-burnt, twice-wary Lucy to get back in the game….”
Dear Ms. McClone,
This book turned out to be more than the cute, sassy read I thought I’d get based on the book blurb. But that’s not to say that I liked what I got instead of what I thought I’d get. There are some things hinted at early in the book that turned out not to have a great deal of impact on the story or the characters. Plus the first half was filled with lusting while the romance of the second half felt rushed and unfulfilled. I also had issues with how involved I felt with Lucy and Ryland.
In the introduction to the book, I discovered that the heroine is a liver transplant recipient and you talk about how you went to lengths to find someone to talk to so this would all be correct but…except for a few passing comments about how this made heroine so ill as a child, there is almost no current inclusion about how it affects her life now – and I imagine that it would if only in how many anti-rejections meds she has to take. Perhaps it was a matter of not having enough space to include details but I had initially been excited at the thought of reading about such a heroine.
Ryland comes from poor background and was teased and bullied over it. When he returns to town and begins to coach, you say that he notices some of the people who did this are now parents watching their children play on the Defeeters but honestly this doesn’t seem to still affect him much – to the point that it’s almost like you went to a hero checklist and ticked off this item to add to the book to act as a quick background shading like hair color or height. He also says he’s already earned so much money that he doesn’t feel the drive to make tons more which doesn’t seem quite right an attitude for a man who grew up so poor.
For the first half of the book it’s lust, lust, lust. Endless sections of lusting. Every scene has to have either Ryland or Lucy mentally lusting over the other to the point I’m surprised they don’t walk into walls or run over fire hydrants because of it. Lust is fine but not so much that it takes over and overshadows their other connections which I really wanted to see.
Then at the halfway mark, things flipped and suddenly after pretend dating for a few weeks, the two of them go out to dinner and finally share their secrets about her illness and his childhood poverty. Only there’s the one brief mention of both issues and then zip! everything gets buried again. Lucy’s art also gets similar short shrift. She paints and sketches a little, bares her artistic soul to Ryland off page and then events speed on along leaving that behind as well.
It takes an overseas article about the two of them together to get Lucy all bothered and finally facing that she’s falling in love with Ryland. I’m glad I get told this because without that, I wouldn’t have thought so. Lucy then goes from feeling she’s in love to pissy that Ryland so easily dismisses this as mere tabloid gossip. Now that she’s on the love bandwagon, she wants to be a WAG for real. But no dice from Ryland who’s still focused on getting back to his MLS team. That is until a tornado ripping through town while he’s back in Phoenix gets his attention and – I guess also due to the end of the book rapidly approaching – he admits his feelings and goes for the engagement ring GOAALLL. Only, this feels rushed to me as well.
The parts of the book I do really like are Lucy and Ryland’s coaching of the youth soccer/football team. It’s this that awakens Ryland’s renewed dedication to the sport and determination to regain his teammates and the fans’ respect. I did wonder though why such a star player would be allowed to recuperate from his injury so far from the team doctors and trainers. Yes, I know the book plot depends on it but it still seems incorrect.
Too much lusting then such a quick turnaround to instalove means the book doesn’t work for me as a romance. I also felt that there were too many issues that only served as tokens of character development without adding substantially to the story. As well, for a great deal of the book, I felt distanced from the characters- as if I’m being told about them but not that I’m really “feeling” what they’re going through. For me, the sports sections are the best but they’re not enough to carry the rest. D