- Title: Fontana
- Author: Joshua Martino
- Series: N/A
- Genre(s): GLBTQ, Contemporary (NOT a romance)
- Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, July 2012
- Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($9.99 ebook)
- Length: 264 pages
- Trope(s): Closeted Athlete, Hard-Bitten Sports Reporter
- Quick blurb: Attention-whore sports columnist outs closeted slugger during record-breaking hitting streak.
- Quick review: First-person POV from unlikeable narrator didn’t work for me AT ALL.
- Grade: DNF
“A coach once told me that if I’m polite to you guys, you’ll save the tough questions for the other players,” he said. Charmed by his frankness, I laughed and told myself that from then on, I would save my worst for his teammates.
I DNF’d this pretty quickly, primarily because it wasn’t what I expected, but also because the stupid Cardinals put me in a cranky mood even before the narrator pissed me off.
Blame my immersion in Romancelandia, or the fact that I didn’t finish it, but this book would have worked much better for me with a little more sensitivity and a little less heavy-handed sensationalism.
I knew this wasn’t a romance, and I was actually looking forward to a different perspective, but I wasn’t prepared for the first-person POV from the sleazy reporter/blogger. Jerry’s unrelenting assholery came through loud and clear in just the first few pages, and his character and voice pushed me away instead of engaging me in the story.
This admission may discredit this entire review, but I bailed on the story even before The Dramatic Big Reveal. In addition to my aversion to the narrator, the lack of POV from the title character made me feel he was nothing more than an empty prop. I needed to know something — anything — about Ricky Fontana beyond Jerry’s alcohol- and ego-skewed observations and the inevitable abuse from fans.
A few other issues raised my inner red flags, even from the first chapter:
I remembered those knuckles, that grip, decades younger, squeezing each grain of pine in his bat….
A PINE bat? Really? That kind of “huh???” moment — in the second sentence of the book — killed the scene-setting and character-building for me immediately. And it wasn’t just in the e-galley I read, it was in the published sample on Amazon as well.
A few pages later, we get this:
Men cheered for his batting eye, and women serenaded him for batting his eyelashes.
This was followed by a sample of a supposedly humorous column written by the skeevy reporter, with the cringe-worthy headline of “Female Fans Fond of Fontana.” This hard-hitting essay featured phrases like “a gaggle of Gotham girls would gladly fill his passenger seat” and “October can’t come quickly enough for some ladies.”
Not done yet….
He smiled with broad lips and brilliant teeth that could melt the frostiest woman into a puddle of desire.
Oh, BARF. I fully admit to making tongue-in-cheek comments about player appearance (good god, get rid of those playoff beards, FFS), and I know that scene was intended to set up the narrator as a smarmy dickhead and demonstrate the pressure on the gay slugger, but for me, the misogyny went too far. One or two references to “fawning lady fans” would have been enough — after that, I felt alienated as a reader and disrespected as a true baseball fan.
A general tip for all authors of sports-theme books: Women who read books about sports are in all likelihood fervent and knowledgeable fans. In fact, women currently comprise nearly HALF the MLB fanbase. PLEASE do not dismiss us as brainless bimbos. In other words: Don’t. Piss. Us. Off.
This last bit of whining is really just a personal quirk for me, but I prefer fictional sports teams and player names in novels. The closeted phenom played for the Mets (at least not the Yankees, thank god), and the repeated references to Jeter and A-Rod and other real-life A-list players kicked me out of my reading trance. Jeter was name-dropped SEVEN times. Naming current players will also date this story quickly — especially considering A-Rod’s disastrous 2012 season.
One more bit of whining: paragraph breaks. For GOD SAKE, break up the three-page-long paragraphs of internal monologuing. This should be a no-brainer for digital formatting.
This contemporary drama was definitely intriguing and worth the attempt, but I think I’ll stick to historicals, non-fiction and fluff with HEAs for a while.