Tag Archives: Professional sports

Love & Rugby Combine to Make Kat Latham’s Knowing the Score a Win

5 Aug

Knowing the Score (London Legends #1 – Spencer and Caitlyn) by Kat Latham (Carina Press, August 5, 2013)

I love a great sports romance, probably because it’s almost impossible to find a hero who isn’t incredibly confident and physically fit (six packs are a given, right?). Add to that the intricacies of a specific game and the challenges to a relationship with a public figure and you have a built-in conflict for the couple to overcome. Perfect.

That said, the best sports romances are the ones where the writer is damn smart about whatever game they have chosen as a focus. I don’t need a rulebook, but show me that you know your sport and that world becomes that much more believable. Great sports romance writers like Jaci Burton in her Play-by-Play series, Jill Shalvis’ Pacific Heat books, and most recently Alison Packard embarking on her new series featuring the San Francisco Blaze baseball team, all have that combination of intelligent detail and heartfelt emotion that make their books a winner.

Well, ladies, you’ve got one more member in the clubhouse, and she comes with a decidedly international flair. Kat Latham has just had her first book published by Carina Press, Knowing the Score, and MY GOD, it’s fantastic! Latham, a California native who lives in the Netherlands with her British husband, has traveled all of the world working as a writer for nonprofits specializing in human rights. I’m going to go out on a limb that she’s probably a pretty terrific person based on her altruistic interests and the fact that she sounds nice on her blog. Did I mention she just had a baby in April? What can this woman not do?

Knowing the Score could not have a more terrific premise. Spencer Bailey is a rugby superstar still haunted by an incident in his long distant past. Abandoned by his mom to the care of his grandparents, he’s horrified when his elderly grandfather is in the hospital from a heart attack. Luckily some good samaritan happened across him and gave him CPR until the ambulance arrived. When the curly haired redhead appears in the hospital room, Spencer is ready to do what it takes to get this gorgeous creature in his bed. He has strict rules that he only has sex in the off-season so as not to distract him from rugby (or chance a scandal while he’s playing) and the clock is ticking.

Caitlyn Sweeney may be a twenty-seven year old virgin, but she’s no fool. Spencer is sex-on-a-stick and she has no idea that he’s famous, despite walking past his underwear billboard advertisement everyday. If she can just turn off the negative voices and fear in her head, she knows that he would turn her on like a lightbulb, but she’s not sure that she’s capable of working past all the baggage she’s carried around for years. Her job at an international aid organization is rewarding but her Visa expires in December, so when she hears that Spencer is more than happy to patiently coax her along and that he only wants something for the off-season, it’s the perfect answer to her “rid me of this hymen already” prayers!

Rugby – full-contact, no padding, and lots of mud with men in shorts. What’s not to love?

What neither expect is how much they end up liking and admiring one another. And that feeling, combined with the trust and intimacy involved with the physical side of their relationship, results in both of them falling fast without knowing if there’s a real future with each other. Add to the mix that both Spencer and Caitlyn are keeping some pretty big secrets in reserve and this happily ever after might go off the rails quickly.

I cannot say enough about how much I adored this book! Spencer was wicked sexy, a man scarred by his past errors in judgment, who is so clearly smitten with Caitlyn (her obliviousness regarding his fame and his sport delights him) that he’s often unsure as to what he’s actually feeling. Caitlyn has had a crap childhood followed by a pretty awful young adulthood so – unlike too many of these stories involving older modern virgins – it’s very understandable that she’s waited until now to trust someone enough to have sex with them. I loved her work as well as her modesty and anyone reading this book has to also appreciate the delightful character of Spencer’s elderly grandfather, who is adorable in his machinations.

This book represents the first in a series, London Legends, and all I can say is THANK YOU!!! I’m not sure I could manage this novel as a one-off. Please note that ebook readers usually start you at the first page, which means that you’ve missed the introductory note from the author where she gives you some vocabulary regarding rugby. Unless you are a rugby aficionado, I suggest you read it before you start, otherwise you’re going to be more than a little lost. (A hooker is not what you think it is.)

I’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed I won’t have to wait too long for the next book in this series. Knowing the Score is going into my reread pile, for sure, and at a mere three dollars and change I would say every sports romance enthusiast needs to get off their bum and purchase this ebook post-haste.

Many thanks to Kat Latham for writing such a terrific romance!

Surrender My Heart by Kayla Perrin Misses Tugging the Heartstrings

18 Jul

Surrender My Heart (Harts in Love #2) by Kayla Perrin (Kimani Romance, June 1, 2012)

I love books about professional athletes, probably due to the fact that they are often the modern equivalent of the Regency rake. Talented, usually wealthy, with women throwing themselves at their feet, these beautiful men are ready to be reformed through the love a good woman. At least in books. 🙂

But this personal preference of mine relies on an author who can make the world of professional athletes come alive, like Jaci Burton. Whether from choice or editor’s decision, Kayla Perrin not only doesn’t dwell on this aspect, but she misses the emotional mark in terms of her two characters in Surrender My Heart.

Natalie Hart Cooper is reeling from her husband’s betrayal. He has left her for her supposed best friend and now the tabloids are saying that they are engaged to be married. Consider that the divorce papers she received unexpectedly in the mail are barely dry, this is a blow to Natalie’s self-esteem, but she’s got bigger fish to fry.

Her sister, Callie, was just in a car accident resulting from the Hart sisters attempting to find their mother. She left all three of them over twenty years ago and the women want to know what happened. Callie fell in love with cop Nigel in book #1 in the series after the three sisters reconnect after a decade of estrangement. Successful singer Deanna and Natalie had a falling out over a guy and not even mother hen Callie could keep the three of them together. The catalyst for their reunion is the death of their beloved Aunt Jean and as they gather for the funeral and to help their uncle, wounds are healed.

The backstory is well-done, not feeling heavy-handed or drowning you in exposition, and you certainly feel Natalie’s emotional betrayal when she gets the divorce papers. Her lack of pondering whether or not she still cares about her ex-husband Vance has the reader wondering if Natalie is ready to be the heroine of a romance or if she runs the risk of simply having a rebound relationship. I could have used some more insight as reassurance.

Heart to Heart (Harts in Love Book 3) by Kayla Perrin (Kimani Romance, July 1, 2012)

When Michael Jones spots Natalie shopping near a restaurant he owns he immediately turns on the charm. With little physical description of either of them, the reader is still given the impression that he’s a gorgeous wide receiver and she’s built on the side of curvy supermodel. But Natalie blows him off, her professional athlete “player” bell dinging a warning, and he’s shocked and intrigued. When fate throws them together in the form of a local charity asking Natalie to help plan a benefit gala (she was a very successful fundraiser in Texas with her ex), she can’t say no. Michael and Natalie end up spending time together and she begins to thaw toward him, frightened by her physical attraction, but willing to take a chance.

One of the reasons I enjoy romance novels is the chance to have two points of view. Unfortunately, practically the whole book, with only a few memorable exceptions, is from Natalie’s standpoint even though Michael seems like the more empathetic character. Natalie is undoubtedly a caring, elegant woman but with all the time she spends comparing Michael and her ex-husband, I’m worried about the success of her relationship. And how did she become a successful fundraiser after a mere two years of marriage to a professional basketball player? Did she have a degree in marketing beforehand? What kind of job did she have before getting married? If she thought her husband was cheating on her six months into her marriage, did she insist on counseling? Hire a private investigator?

What comes across is that Natalie is a very private, almost uncommunicative individual, scarred from her mother’s abandonment when the sisters were children. Aside from her good looks and competence as an events organizer, I actually don’t see why Michael is attracted to her, other than her telling him “no”. He doesn’t really ask her any questions about her marriage, which would had offered an opportunity for him to discuss his own past and condemn cheating in a relationship, or we could have seen Natalie playing with her young family members and Michael thinking about what a good mother she would make to gain a little insight. A real opportunity missed would have been for Natalie to meet Michael’s brain-damaged mother – I can see a sweet scene of Natalie rubbing lotion into the older woman’s hands or caring for her that would have revealed her nurturing character while also showing him her softer side.

I also was dismayed that so little was actually said about Michael being a professional athlete. I assume it wasn’t football season since there was no discussion of his actually playing in games, but what of his training schedule? Professional appearances? No mention of a personal assistant? In this case, it seems making him a professional athlete is more of a trope designed to help the reader understand why Natalie would assign Michael a character of being a playboy and not trust him, rather than to lend a depth of understanding into his character. Since athletes are often disciplined, college-educated individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds, this is also a missed opportunity to flesh out Michael’s character.

From a writing standpoint the dialogue frequently felt stilted. I’m not saying either character had to be a poet, but sandwiching everyday conversation with descriptions that tap into the five senses would have helped me understand the underlying attraction better between the two of them. The search for the Hart girls mother is a clever story arc that clearly does a good job tying the books together. When Michael drives Natalie on the spur of the moment from Cleveland to Philadelphia to follow up on a lead about her mother, it shows a great side of his loyal character (but sadly a rather unattractive and withdrawn side of Natalie, as much as you understand intellectually what she’s going through).

In the end, I came away with the impression that Kayla Perrin’s editor had stripped out a decent amount of description in order to meet a word count or that Ms. Perrin wrote this book really quickly and was unable to give it a couple more revisions that would have added in layers of emotional depth. This is a shame since the story potential was quite good, but in the end, it didn’t make me Surrender My Heart at all.

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