I plan to start writing reviews of baseball romances here in anticipation of a future research project (in short, never let the literature and genre fiction nerd go to the SABR convention.) Here’s the first, which is the first primarily because the library wanted it back.
The good news: this mostly works as a romance novel. My problems with it as a romance are my problems with certain genre tropes, like the Big Misunderstanding–you know, there are a lot of problems in romance novels that are mostly created by an utter failure to communicate. To be honest, at this point, my tolerance for “works as a romance” involves the postulate of “If the plot was posted at Ask MetaFilter, would the majority of comments involve DTMFA?” If so, it’s not working. The ending, however, did not work because I couldn’t believe the baseball aspects of it. The ending did make sense in some terms of characterization, especially when reflecting on the sex scenes–the protagonists get a thrill out of risk–but there was too much fear out of Alicia outside of the sexual situations to not make that part of the characterization there and at the end ring true.
The bad news: It’s the baseball. It usually is. There at least was some, which puts it above a lot of novels with supposed baseball-playing heroes, but…really, pitcher rehab does not work that way with the sort of injury Garrett was supposed to have had. It’s a shoulder injury. The novel starts in the offseason and Garrett has been out with it since August. He didn’t have surgery but he didn’t start throwing until spring training and then isn’t depicted as getting into any game action. I think of Chris Narveson’s shoulder rehab and laugh. If a pitcher misses that much action, I’d think that extended spring training and a minor league rehab assignment would be in his future, but instead Garrett is throwing in live games out of the bullpen. Did I mention that he’s a starting pitcher? I really didn’t think that his unwillingness to do his physical therapy–the entire impetus for his and Alicia getting together, first as therapist and patient and later as a couple–rang true for what the reader was told was a competitive, hyper-successful pitcher. Frustration at progress, yes, but not refusal. The medical staff came off as kind of incompetent as well which isn’t so surprising considering what’s been revealed about other clownshoes medical operations in MLB.
What this book really brought to mind was the trend in romance novels to have extraordinary heroes. It’s even worse in a book like this where the supposedly successful heroine has a pretty severe case of Impostor Syndrome. As for the hero, sports romances are going just as over the top as their other contemporary fellows (the billionaire thing did not start with Fifty Shades of Grey; it’s only following the trend but since it sold so well, it caused it to flourish) with super-successful athletes with nearly unbelievable accomplishments.
A quote from the book on Garrett:
“Garrett has been the perfect specimen of a pitcher for five seasons,” Manny said. “We plucked him out of college ball, he spent six months in AAA before we brought him up, and he’s been in our starting rotation ever since, with one of the lowest ERAs of any pitcher in the league. He’s won the Cy Young Award twice, pitched a near perfect game last year, and held the strikeout record the past two seasons. He’s the golden boy.”
…well, perfect game aside–Philip Humber (who would look great on a romance novel cover, btw) threw one of those–that sounds pretty exceptional. Tim Lincecum, before the wheels came off, with even more extraordinary powers of pitching. That’s the sort of hero we’re dealing with now in single-title sports romance. Thrown by a Curve is the fifth book in a series, where all athlete heroes are successful and hot. (I tried reading book 2; it was a DNF, and I noted something re biphobia making me quit reading. I’ll probably go back to it for the project but not like it.) Apparently Athlete Hot, where the hotness comes mostly from the athleticism, is not a thing in Romancelandia. It’s not that I want the romance novel with Jeff Karstens as the hero, but maybe we could get AJ Griffin (or Philip Humber, heh) once in a while? (Yes, I have Issues with Generic Contemporary Romance Novel Hot. After writing the first draft of the review, I realized that Shelly Laurenston’s Pack series of shifter paranormal romance has plenty of guys who look like Griffin. OK, they’re lion shifters, so that’s probably not what I’m looking for in my non-sfnal romance.)