Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW "The Winning Season" by Alison Packard

Thank you to Carina Press and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review

Kelly Maxwell has finally landed her dream job as publicist for the San Francisco Blaze. But the team's newest member, handsome bad boy catcher Matt Scanlon, is refusing every interview. She's got to get him to open up before the season ends, or she may not be back next year. And after everything she overcame to achieve her dream, Kelly's not about to let that happen.

Matt Scanlon just wants to be left alone to rebuild his life and his career. After a year of masking the pain of a recent loss with hard partying and fast women, he finally hit rock bottom and was traded to a team he's loathed his entire life—a team with little to no chance at the post-season.

Butting heads is getting Kelly and Matt nowhere but annoyed, and with the team's schedule on the road, they can't avoid close quarters—or their surprising attraction to one another. As the season winds down, Matt finds his growing feelings for Kelly have brought his numbed emotions back to life. But when betrayal shatters their fragile trust, winning it all seems more impossible than ever.
The Winning Season is like a no-hitter in baseball, the book is not perfect, but dang, it is pretty darn close.  

Upfront.  I have a pet peeve when it comes to sports-themed romances.  If an author is going to make one of the characters a professional sports athlete, please, please, make the sport relevant in the story!  Show me something about the sport - a good game description, a nuance about what it means to play the game, anything, something!  

I'm happy to say Alison Packard does a great job of integrating the sport into the romantic storyline.  Baseball is not incidental to the story and both hero and heroine are athletes.  They remind me a little of pro volleyball player Gabrielle Reece and her superstar surfer husband, Laird Hamilton - two top-rated athletes finding their way around love. 

Kelly Maxwell has a dream job - doing PR for the MLB team, San Francisco Blaze.  She has all the headaches and joys of working in an ├╝ber, male dominated sport.  Being a competitive athlete, she has learned be fiercely competitive in her job and let her work speak for itself.  Because of her difficult history, she does not want to draw attention to herself. 

Matt Scanlon used to be the Golden Boy of the Los Angeles Dodger until the last year when he took a 180 degree turn.  His bad boy antics gets him traded to the division rival, Blaze, where he takes over for a beloved rookie catcher who is out on the Disabled List. 

Matt and Kelly quickly go nose-to-nose and it gets ugly.  Neither is known for holding back their criticisms but what soon surfaces is a begrudging respect and attraction.  The romance is sweet and edgy at the same time and I enjoyed the trading quips between the two.  But I what I really enjoyed was Ms. Packard descriptions of the game.  She is a fan.  It is obvious and she brings her joy of the game to the pages.  I love that!

It would be a perfect book, but there are too many dangling threads.  Too many characters introduced with barely a storyline.  With that much investment, I need for that characters' story to go somewhere. 

I believe this would be an excellent start to a series and truly hope that Alison Packard continues to flush out these stories within the context of Major League Baseball. I'll be first in line to read it.

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