Sunday 7 December 2014

Review ~ A League of Her Own by Karen Rock.

Title: A League of Her Own.
Author: Karen Rock.
Publisher: Harlequin.
Genre: Contemporary Romance.
Publication Date: December 1, 2014.
Source: Review copy/Netgalley.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | eHarlequin

He was attractive, talented…and way off limits.

Heather Gadway may have been a world-class college pitcher and a top university coach, but she's a rank amateur when it comes to managing the Falcons, her father's struggling minor league team. And when it comes to managing her aggravating attraction to Garrett Wolf, their talented new pitcher. It's going to be difficult enough to make it as the first female manager in the league and prove to her overly critical father she's worthy. No distractions. No missteps. And certainly no romances with players. Everything stands between them—including their troubled pasts—even as Heather's world falls apart and Garrett's the one who's there to catch her…

“Are you ready?” She dropped a bag by the backstop, pulled out a blue visor and adjusted it over her head. When she swept off her glasses and peered up at him, his stomach jittered and his breath hitched. He reined in his slipping control and forced an easy smile.

“Sure. Would you like to pitch first?” He wanted her to say yes. Going last meant he could guarantee his score only topped hers slightly, just enough to make Holly Springs dust in his tire treads and Heather a dream that’d never materialize.

She angled her head so that her long ponytail slid over her tanned shoulders. The smile she gave him was as sweet as freshly squeezed lemonade, minus the sugar. “I’d like to observe you first, if you’d don’t mind.”

“Observe me?” The question leaped out of him in surprise.

She finished a gulp of her sports drink and lowered it, looking him dead in the eye. “So I can finish taking notes on you.”

He nearly swallowed the sunflower shell he’d just popped in his mouth. Her ego must be out of control if she thought he’d lose. He flexed his fingers and nodded curtly. “It’s your prerogative.”

Dean’s red hair appeared in the dugout, and he jogged around the fence, pulling on his catcher’s mask. “Sorry I’m late!” He dropped two bags of balls beside home plate and squatted behind it. “Who’s pitching first?”

“Looks like me.” Garrett sauntered toward the red clay mound, ignoring his jeering teammates.

“Whatever you do, don’t pretend you’re in a game or you’ll definitely lose,” heckled Hopson, whose comment earned a round of chuckles from the team.

“Go get ’em, wild thing,” put in Waitman, who did an impromptu dance Garrett caught out of the corner of his eye. The rest of the crowd joined in, laughing.

“Ignore them, Wolf.” Dean punched his mitt, his nearly colorless eyes squinting against the sun.

Garrett shrugged. “Who? I don’t hear anything but some whining gnats.” This was actually going to be fun. Pitching contests meant no batters. Nothing but mitt. And his throws would strike it every single time.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhh! That hurt,” guffawed another player, and some made boo-hoo sounds.

“Knock it off, Falcons,” snapped Heather, and the rowdy bunch subsided. Even Garrett gaped at her, surprised. Her voice might be low, but it demanded attention.

“Sorry, Skipper,” murmured the new shortstop. A few kissy noises erupted, then stopped when she turned her head and stared hard into the dugout.

“Thank you, Valdez. As for the rest of you, stay and act like the professionals you are, or leave before I ask you to. All right?” She leaned her defined arms on the padded top of the dugout fence, her shapely ankles crossed. But her casual pose didn’t fool him. She was deliberately acting like this to make him believe her victory was a foregone conclusion. It was the oldest trick in the book. She’d need to do a lot better than that if she hoped to best him.

“Ready whenever you are,” she said, her voice flippant, her lips turned up in a ready-for-anything smile.

A League of Her Own is the second book I have read by Karen Rock and both times I’ve loved how she’s built the connection between the love interests, making the development in their relationships natural and paced well. A League of Her Own surrounds the romance of Garrett, the Falcons’ baseball pitcher, and Heather, the Falcons’ new interim manager. The author draws on several sensitive themes throughout this book, such as addiction and foster care, and I love how she epitomises the heart-warming novel. At times I found the story a little sad, and at others brighter and more uplifting, but it was entertaining the whole way through and I was rooting for a happy ending for everyone involved.

A League of Her Own defines the slow-building romance, to the extent that I was almost halfway into the book before I could understand what either character would see in the other one. I struggled to believe that this novel could bring a romance story that I could get behind, because both Heather and Garrett seemed so critical of each other and overly judgmental too. Heather takes the role of interim manager after her father’s health scare, and she becomes the first female manager in the league. She has a strange bond with her dad – though he’s always checking up on her, he never seems to believe in her or be proud of what she achieves, but this only makes her want to prove herself more. Her issues with her mother, who she has no contact with, leads her to struggle to trust anyone and so managing recovering alcoholic Garrett is a problem for her. She doesn’t believe he’ll cut out the alcohol and I didn’t particularly like the way she kept checking up on him. It seemed unfair that she could judge him and come to conclusions without any evidence. Then again, he was just as offhand with her. I liked the banter and interaction between them from the beginning but his initial issues with her seemed purely because she was a female coach and I found that a little annoying. Realistic, but not that great to read.

I was surprised at the way this book was going and I really thought I wasn’t going to enjoy the romance at all. But then we saw the introduction of a foster kid in Levi, and the way Garrett responded to him was beautiful to read. It really helped me connect with his character and I loved Levi’s involvement in the way Garrett’s character developed. Their scenes were, for me, the most powerful and touching in the novel and the way Garrett approached Levi made all his positive traits stand out and I warmed to him very quickly after that. Levi’s story was really moving and though things could have struck a nerve with Garrett, he instead showed such a brave and caring side that it was impossible for me to dislike him. And then we get to see some romance which I could actually believe and I was drawn in to the story, wanting the moment to come when Heather and Garrett could overcome all the obstacles put in front of them and make things work. The twists kept coming towards the end and everything was up in the air, making me even quicker to turn the pages and see how things would play out. I loved how the author built up to the end.

Another highlight of this novel for me was the well-researched portrayal of baseball. I love sport but being in the UK, have little knowledge of baseball but feel like I came out of this novel much more informed, and entertained, by the sport. I liked how the sport didn’t get forgotten for the romance and there were plenty of games mentioned, bringing out how tense it can get when the team is struggling and on the other side of that, how good team spirit can help results. The baseball theme wasn’t overdone but it was just right, and made this book stand out a little from other contemporary romance novels I’ve read. I loved getting to know a little bit about some of Garrett’s teammates and they brought quite a few amusing moments in the book. A League of Her Own kept on getting better and it provided a really captivating story which I’m getting used to from Karen Rock. It’s sweet and emotional and a rewarding read.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon US

Karen Rock is an award-winning YA and adult contemporary romance author. She holds a master’s degree in English and worked as an ELA instructor before becoming a full-time writer. Currently she writes for Harlequin Heartwarming and her first novel for the line, WISH ME TOMORROW, has won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the 2014 Golden Quill Contest and a finalist in the Published Maggie Awards. The first novel in her co-authored YA series, CAMP BOYFRIEND, has been a finalist in the Booksellers Best and Golden Leaf awards.

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  1. Thank you very much, Sophie, for this wonderful review. I appreciate your thoughtful insights and am honored to be on your blog today. Wishing you a Happy Holiday season and New Year ahead :)

    1. You're welcome! Happy Holidays to you too :)


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