Harlequin Blaze, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-79268-9
Contemporary Romance, 2006
Boys of Summer revolves around three friends in Louisville who adore their local baseball players. I’ll be honest with you folks, it’s the cover that compelled me to buy this book without even reading the back blurb. If you have seen the cover, I don’t believe you can blame me for being shallow because… really, just look at the cover. Since this is supposed to be a sexy anthology, the titles of the short stories are supposed to evoke all kinds of dirty images in one’s head.
Anyway, Julie Elizabeth Leto kicks off the show with Fever Pitch. Donovan Ross owns the baseball team Louisville Slammers and is, from all appearances, the golden boy of Louisville. Handsome, charming, loved by all, what’s not to love? Well, Callie Andrews may know the answer to that, since our heroine is his ex-wife. Still, the signs are there that the estrangement is not going to be a permanent one. She owns Diamond, the fanciest restaurant in town, as well as a less formal pub called Fever Pitch, and Donovan always brings his team to one of these two places for meals. When Callie learns that Donovan is in danger of losing the Louisville Slammers due to an unwise business decision – and trust me, it’s a really stupid act on his part – and the whole town turns against him, she finds herself torn between wanting to hit him in the head for being so stupid and to offer him some comfort TLC.
I like Callie since she seems smart enough to be aware of her own strengths and shortcomings. However, due to the length of this story, I am not sure what to make of Donovan who merely goes through the motion in this story. These two interact quite well on an intellectual level, but I have a harder time being convinced of any chemistry that they have. Donovan and Callie get separated and get back together so easily that I can only wonder whether they will easily drift apart again while still keeping in touch sometime in the future when they come across another hiccup in their relationship.
Kimberly Raye is next with The Sweet Spot. The title is also the name of gourmet ice-cream shop in Louisville that is owned by our heroine, Babe Bannister. Not content with having an ice-cream named after him, Babe decides when this story opens that she is going to ask baseball star Cody Cameron to have an affair with her. In other words, she wants a Cody Cameron Explosion of her own. She wants his ice-cream cone and she wants it now. Only, she’s rather nervous because she is, as she puts it, “a size eight trapped in a size twelve body”. Just like how I’m Jessica Alba trapped in, you know, my body, I suppose. The fact that Babe’s sisters are all athletic, rail thin, and gorgeous only causes poor Babe’s confidence to plummet lower. But with the Slammers scheduled to be transferred to Las Vegas in about a month’s time (see the previous story), Babe has to act fast if she wants an ice-cream explosion to remember for the rest of her life.
Alas, as Babe decides to make a play for Cody, her buddy Brodie Jessup, who also happens to the team coach, begins expressing his reservations about her plan to have a no-strings-attached fling with Cody. And just like how every besotted fool will do in this kind of stories, Brodie doesn’t just come straight out and announce to Babe that he has a bigger penis than Cody and therefore she’d be better off with him. No, he offers to pimp out, sorry, help Babe get Cody. Babe becomes increasingly silly as the story progresses, just like heroines like her in this type of stories tend to be. Really, I’ve read this story so many times before, with or without the baseball angle, and I’m only glad that this story is short and therefore it is over because it puts me completely to sleep.
Leslie Kelly closes the anthology with the really dirty-sounding Sliding Home. Heroine Janie Nolan doesn’t care about baseball but as life will have it, she manages Round the Bases, the Louisville baseball memorabilia store. It’s actually her brother’s store and she’s just running it while he’s off doing his thing in the Middle-East with the National Guard. As it happens, her grandmother’s boyfriend has a hot grandson who also happens to the star pitcher of the Louisville Slammers so Janie, meet Riley Kelleher. Despite Janie’s impression that he’s a shallow womanizing player, Riley however has been feeling rather mellow recently about life and love. It could very well be possible that love is written in the stars for these two.
While I have no problems with Riley and Janie – they are likable types, coming off more like pretty real folks rather than stereotypes playing out their roles according to the script – I find that Sliding Home is the weakest story of the three when it comes to pacing. The story can skips a few weeks from chapter to chapter as the two characters take their time to even make the first move. The result is a sluggishly paced story that seems to meander aimlessly towards the happy ending instead of taking me along for a thrilling ride to the end. If the pacing has been tightened considerably, I suspect that this could easily be the best story of the three. Oh well.
Boys of Summer is a quick and breezy read. All three stories are pleasant, but there is always something about each of them that prevents them from being really good in my opinion.