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Sunday, April 11, 2010

'Double Play' Pacific Heat #1 by Jill SHALVIS


From the BLURB:

Pace Martin is the ace pitcher for the Pacific Heat. He's got the arm, the experience, and the wins. He's also got the pain, the pressure, and the possible end of his career looming over him. The last thing he needs now is a distraction, even if it comes in the form of a tough, beautiful, tell-it-like-it-is writer who sees past his defenses.

Holly Hutchins knows a good story when she sees one, and the tall, dark, and slightly attitude-challenged Pace Martin fits the bill. But when she realizes there's more at stake than just a win, she starts to see the handsome, broad-shouldered jock in a different light.

Pace and Holly begin a seductive game, but in the face of unexpected betrayal and challenges, they'll have to find the courage to swing for the fences...

This is the first book in Jill Shalvis’s ‘Pacific Heat’ series.

I loved this book. Which is surprising, since I am Australian and everything I know about baseball I learnt from watching ‘A League Of Their Own’ and ‘The Sandlot’.

There is baseball in ‘Double Play’. It’s not one of those contemporary romances that features a sports star but conveniently lacks any real sports jargon. But actually Shalvis uses the baseball theme quite interestingly and wisely. She tosses the terms around; ‘curveball’, ‘homer’, ‘quick pitch’, and the chapters are accompanied by a famous baseball related quote. My favorite; “I don’t want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it(Rogers Hornsby). I even recognized one of the quotes: “There’s no crying in baseball!” (Jimmy Dugan from ‘A League Of Their Own’). It helps that Shalvis’s main character, Holly, is an investigative reporter doing an expose on the sport via one of the most popular teams, the ‘Pacific Heat’. Holly is able to really dig into controversies like early player retirements, media pressure, drug testing and the price of fame on sport stars. Holly’s investigative works acts as both a plot trigger – when her snooping into drug testing threatens her new relationship with Pace – but also as insight into a sport some readers may not be familiar with. By the end of ‘Double Play’ I was getting a little bit teary at how much the sport meant to Pace, I actually felt like I understood his ‘love of the game’.

I loved Holly. She’s stubborn, uptight, and hard-nosed, and she can’t blaspheme to save herself (fother mucker!). At the beginning of the book Pace observes that Holly isn’t particularly attractive – she’s a bit big, with plain brown hair and plain clothing. But over the course of the book he starts seeing her in a new light – around the same time that he starts to think of her as witty, insightful and down-right cute, he also starts to comment on how sexy, curvy and soft she is. I liked the fact that Holly didn’t undergo some big extreme makeover, but rather her personality shone through and Pace was able to marry her inner charm with her outward appearance. It may seem lame, but it’s a nice subtle message Shalvis sends.

I really liked Pace. He’s very much a ‘guys guy’ - stoic, bull-headed and tough to crack. He doesn’t like showing vulnerability (especially around Holly) and he doesn’t like depending on other people. His shoulder injury really forces him to let his guard down and he undergoes a rather rapid transformation that was great to read – because it is a bit-by-bit transformation.

…“And honestly? I don’t get it. You stand on a mound directly in the path of baseballs flying at you at the speed of light, and yet you’re afraid of her. One woman. I get that there’s a reason you’re afraid. Love can suck golf balls, and we both know it. But taking the walk instead of the hit? That’s just stupid.”
Holly appeared in the doorway, and as she seemed to be able to do, laid her eyes right on Pace.
And damn if something didn’t shift inside of him. “I know,” he said to Wade. “I know it’s stupid to take the walk.”

Holly and Pace had fantastic chemistry. What I liked best about them was that it wasn’t purely physical. I hate it in romances when the author bases so much of a couple’s ‘connection’ on an intangible attraction – i.e.: they look at one another across a crowded room and are ‘drawn’ to one another. Uck. I hate that. Pace and Holly had a slow-burn romance; banter in the beginning, that turned into awkward chemistry and then full-fledged flames. Shalvis writes their attraction in stages, and the reader is right there with Holly and Pace, reading into all those lingering looks and late-night wonderings until it all culminates into some seriously good smutty sex scenes.

Shalvis has wonderfully set-up a series in ‘Pacific Heat’. Pace’s teammates are secondary characters, only Wade (whose book ‘Slow Heat’ came out February this year) gets much of the limelight. But Shalvis drops enough interesting tidbits about the lesser characters that you just know she has their stories waiting in the wings. Among the ‘Heat’ team is Joe Pickler, a second baseman who gave up med school to join the team, and Ty Sparks; second pitcher who overcame childhood leukemia.

Thanks so much to Patti of 'Book Addict' fame for recommending this series.
I really hope there are more books lined up for this series. Shalvis took me out to the ball game in ‘Double Play’, and now I want to go back again, and again, and again…

5/5

'Pacific Heat' book #2

4 comments:

  1. Yay! I'm so glad you liked it! I think baseball is boring so at first I was a bit hesitant but I loved both books too and can't wait to see if she's got more planned for this series. (I loved the quotes at the beginning of each chapter - they were pretty funny)

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  2. hmmmmm I really liked your review... but Im not sold LOL =)))

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  3. I have Slow Heat...I am really looking forward to trying this author! Sounds like there is some really good build up of romantic tension :)

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  4. I've got Slow Heat on my TBR pile, and I think I'll move it up to the top after this review. Sounds like she's just the kind of writer I like!

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