Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Batting a Thousand

Strike Zone
By Kate Angell

When I plucked Strike Zone off the book cart last week, I wasn’t really sure I could commit to it. As far as I was concerned, it had a couple strikes against it going in. First, it’s baseball themed, and I’m a hard core hockey girl. Second, the heroine, Taylor Hannah, is described as a “gutsy blonde thrill-seeking adventure guide.” In other words, the type of romance heroine I am least likely to relate to, as she represents the type of woman most likely to make me feel inadequate. But I liked the premise: on the day she was supposed to marry baseball player Brek Stryker, Taylor panicked and left the country without giving any explanation; three years later she finds out he’s engaged and realizes he’s the love of her life. So, in honor of opening day, I decided to give it a try out.
And I’m glad I did.
The prologue begins with Taylor doing some Xtreme skiing in France, something you’ll never catch me attempting. It ends with Taylor receiving a copy of Brek’s engagement announcement, which makes her feel physically ill and causes her to realize that she did something incredibly stupid in terms of her love life.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I can certainly relate to that last part. At this point I decided I might be able to like Taylor after all. When next we see our intrepid heroine, she is sweating bullets while dressed as a giant, fuzzy baseball, and has wandered into the team locker room instead of the mascot dressing room. Here she gets an eyeful of mostly naked professional baseball team, and after a few minutes decides that discretion is the better part of valor and closes her eyes.
The fact that she didn’t close her eyes immediately made me decide I definitely liked her.
Eventually, her ex figures out that something is not quite right with the mascot and he and Taylor have a brief confrontation. She would like to make an explanation, if not amends, but Brek is having none of it. He is now engaged to a woman who is her complete opposite in every way, and will not give her the chance to hurt him again.
So they go their separate ways, trying hard to ignore the chemistry that still sparks between them. Eventually, after a few chance meetings and a couple of personal crises for each of them, they are forced to try to find some way to mend their relationship in spite of the hurt and uncertainty that lingers from their breakup.
What I like about Strike Zone is the fact that Taylor and Brek’s road to reconciliation is a long and bumpy one. In spite of being a quick read with a strong subplot, I never felt that the story was rushed along. The plot unfolds over the better part of a baseball season, with relationships progressing in fits and starts, much as they do in real life. The secondary romance between Taylor’s sister Eve and relief pitcher Sloan McCaffrey is well developed and enjoyable, as Eve’s anxieties and Sloan’s over-the-top personality provide quite a bit of comic relief. In addition there are a couple of characters who are integral to the early stages of the plot and so deliciously kinky and loathsome I was sorry to see them go midway through the book.
Overall, this was fun and satisfying, light and quick and perfect for a spring afternoon. I’ll be ordering the author’s other two baseball books, Curveball and Squeeze Play, for those of you who decide you just can’t get enough of the boys of summer....

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