REVIEW: High Heat by Sierra Dean
Miles Cartwright had the rookie season of any player’s dreams. The San Francisco Felons made it all the way to the World Series – with some help from his electric talent – then lost it all in game seven with him on the mound. To make matters worse, a misunderstanding has him in hot water with the law, and on a short leash with his club. The next season might be his last shot at a major league career, and he can’t let anything get in his way.
Last chances are something Carmen Murphy is all too familiar with. Her goal of becoming a respected sports writer is circling the drain while she wastes her talents writing sports gossip for a trashy, but popular, blog. Getting some insight on the Miles Cartwright scandal would be great for page views, but she knows a candid editorial could be just the ticket to a real career. Too bad Miles doesn’t trust her.
With the heat of summer building, and two dreams on the line, can Miles and Carmen both get what they want, without getting in each other’s way? And can they stop driving each other crazy long enough to realize that what they’re looking for might be right in front of them?
Dear Ms. Dean,
For the most part, I don’t read many sports themed romance books anymore. Too many issues to be dealt with – including TBI in football and hockey players – or the lack of POC when setting books in a real life world full of diversity on top of the lack of familiarity I have with some sports to know if the depiction is correct. But this one interested me after reading the excerpt that starts with the hero having just given up the winning runs in the final game of the World Series. I wanted to see where he’d go from seemingly the lowest point in a professional career with a heroine determined to write all about it for her career.
From the start, I liked Carmen Murphy. Here is a woman fighting to establish herself in the male dominated world of sports reporting. Since she works for a sports blog – and one that isn’t above depending on click-bait headlines – instead of an established major network or newspaper, she’s got to work even harder to be taken seriously. Yes, she’s had her share of threats and trolls from past stories as well but in an effort to dig deeper and get more than the usual blah, blah, blah answers to trite questions, she goes after a story from Miles. She also loves the game – listening to the whack of baseballs hitting leather gloves, reeling off stats and nerdy minutia, the feel of the stadium during a game.
Carmen does see that a lot of these players are “smoking hot” but she keeps her mind on her job and realizes that they are a job for her – one that pays her mortgage and her bills. Carmen rarely just stands there drooling over them. When her interview with Miles after the game gets personal, neither she nor Miles immediately fall into the mistake of believing it’s anything more than a hot night of great sex. No instalurve here. Both are well aware of the double standard involved with any sexual relationship between them.
Carmen also follows her journalistic instincts and asks tough questions even if it won’t win her any friends on the team. When she realizes that the draft of a story she’s started is coming from a personal place of pain and that it is based on an incomplete understanding, she shelves it and starts over. After she’s interviewed Miles and others close to him for an in-depth piece, she picks up on the fact that it needs that little bit more to move from good to great. There is some foreshadowing in the book of conflicts to come in the final section but there’s one event that caught me off-guard which is actually something I like in a story.
Miles seems like a baseball player. He gets bored with the same old questions from the press so Carmen’s efforts to ask questions that make him think and which show how much she knows and cares about the game are refreshing. Not that he wants to answer all of them though. I also like that Miles is well aware of the fact that he won’t be a pro athlete forever – the very nature of the unnatural movements of pitching leading to wear and tear on his body guarantee that – and is determined not to fall into the habit of expecting adulation or perks from the public. Being treated differently by fans just because of his sports status, sits wrong for him. On the other hand, he’s finally feeling a true member of the family team with pick up basketball games on off days and fantasy football.
Carmen’s click-bait stories might annoy him but when they talk, she gets under his skin with her intelligence, her insights and philosophical musings. The fact that she puts off any more physical interactions with him until she finishes writing her story on him does attract him – forbidden fruit and all that. As he gets to know her better, he likes what he discovers. When the final conflict erupts, it’s real and not something easily dismissed. Miles’ reactions to it seem realistic as well: anger, bewilderment yet still an attraction to this woman he’s come to have deep feelings for.
I also enjoyed the scenes of Miles at work on the pitcher’s mound. How he sizes up batters, how he works with his catcher and how he tries to keep from getting too deep inside his own head and overthinking things, how he loves the evening light on the field at the end of a game. These interludes gave the story an easy, lazy afternoon game feel – like a pitcher pausing to eye a runner on first before returning his attention to home plate. Brava for including POC as well with Carmen shown interacting in Spanish with some of the Latinx players.
The resolution of Miles and Carmen’s relationship – personal as well as professional – is a mix of today’s social media reality plus a dab of romance book. Twitter, Facebook, the team blog and (no doubt) a stadium cam all play into getting these two back together but they still also need old fashioned face-to-face to work out what happened. By the end, I feel they have even if their jobs might make things a bit more hectic. B