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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

'The Comeback of Roy Walker' The Bakers of Baseball #1 by Stephanie Doyle

Received via NetGalley

From the BLURB:

Roy Walker never did like the taste of humble pie. Too bad he's getting his share of it now that he needs to pitch one more season of pro baseball. Worse, he can't achieve it without the help of physiotherapist Lane Baker; the one woman who won't have anything to do with him. Somehow he has to make amends for the past.

But his intentions to be a better man get sidelined by the combustible connection between him and Lane. Ego aside, it's time to admit he never stopped wanting her; and his greatest comeback will be winning her!

‘The Comeback of Roy Walker’ is the new Harlequin contemporary romance novel from Stephanie Doyle, and what is the first in a new series I believe is tentatively titled ‘The Bakers of Baseball’.

I requested this book from NetGalley on a whim – I just really felt like reading some sports-themed romance, and this one about a retired baseball pitcher who needs to get back in the game intrigued me.

Roy Walker is retired, and was once good enough to be a hall-of-famer. But then he blew his 80-million dollars retirement fund on a bad tech start-up and now he’s hoping there are more bullets left in his arm to get him back into the major leagues and back on top.

But to get back in the game he has to first start out in the minors, working for his old baseball manager, Duff – and with the hopes that Duff’s physical therapy daughter, Lane Baker, will forgive Roy a mistake he made five years ago enough to help him get back in the game.

Five years ago Lane was married to a fellow teammate who Roy knew was doing the dirty behind her back. Roy and Lane were close friends then, and Roy harboured a serious crush on her … which is partly what motivated him to break the news of her husband’s infidelity in (with hindsight) what was the most painful way possible. Lane hasn’t spoken to Roy in five years, until she’s called home around the same time that Roy is looking to cancel his retirement – called home because her younger sister, Scout, is worried about their dad, Duff’s ailing health.

I really, thoroughly and unabashedly enjoyed this novel. For starters, I loved that Roy is genuinely down and out when we meet him – he’s nearly flat broke (his accountant told him to file for bankruptcy, but Roy decided to pay off his creditors instead and now has nada). I’ve never read a romance novel in which the hero is so genuinely down on his luck, and still very much the hero. Roy’s misfortune is tied to his romance with Lane … because Roy is so embarrassed by his failure, coupled with how he hurt her five years ago, he’s so convinced that he’s not good enough for Lane. 

By contrast, Lane’s backstory isn’t as well filled out. It’s initially interesting and very meaty, but falls by the wayside in a way that Roy’s anti-retirement and embarrassment linked to that isn’t – somehow his has more emotion behind it, and explored because of it. I also love that Roy is older than Lane – she’s in her late twenties, he’s in his earlier forties – so as an athlete he especially feels over the hill, when he has to start competing against young up-starts who also look up to him for having been in the major leagues. 

Lane kind of has every right to be angry at Roy for something that happened five years ago, and I love that Doyle doesn’t allow that to slide and she teases that out too … it also makes for some lovely friction between the two in the beginning, adding to the build-up when they start to find their way back to each other.

“… He made us say over and over again that relationships were worth fighting for. They were the only thing worth fighting for. So I fought and I fought harder. But the harder I fought, the harder it was to have the energy to keep fighting. During that time you and I were becoming friends, I thought it was all so perfectly innocent. Until you kissed me and I couldn’t pretend anymore.” 
“That’s what upset you the most that nigh. I was right about that, wasn’t I?” 
“I cheated, Roy. I cheated on my husband … with you. You weren’t just my friend.” 
Roy sighed. “What’s your biggest secret, Lanie? I want to hear you say it.” 
She looked at him then. “I don’t hate Roy Walker.”

There’s also a side-story going on about Lane’s dad Duff, whose ailing health has everyone concerned. Then there’s Lane’s sister Scout – who works with Duff, and is just as baseball-mad as he is –Scout’s story will be the next in ‘The Bakers of Baseball’ series. At first I hated having to read the cut-away to Sctou’s side-story, setting up her novel … it wasn’t as interesting to me as Lane and Roy’s rekindled romance, not until Scout’s love interest actually makes it onto the page and then I was intrigued by their chemistry and history. Certainly I’ll be coming back for book #2 (and, actually, I’m keen to look up some of Stephanie Doyle’s backlist, because she so impressed me with ‘The Comeback of Roy Walker’).


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