Just so’s you know….
If you read all the way to the end, you’ll see why.
- Title: Squeeze Play
- Author: Kate Angell
- Series: Richmond Rogues, Book 1
- Genre(s): Contemporary
- Publisher: First published June 2006 by Love Spell; re-released as self-pub ebook December 2011
- Source: Amazon (99¢ ebook)
- Length: 318 pages
- Trope(s): Angsty Athlete, Flaky Heroine, Friends-to-Lovers, Big Misunderstanding(s), Dumped in Public, Rebound, Small Town, Plot Moppets, Weight-Shaming
- Quick blurb: Big-league ballplayers return to hometown for charity bachelor auction.
- Quick review: A lot of eye-rolling and some major ::HEADDESK::ing.
- Grade: D
The first in a steamy new series of romances featuring a hunky baseball team and the sirens who challenge the players in the game of love.
I have two positive things to say about this book:
(1) It was only 99 cents.
(2) It wasn’t Sweet Jesus! Honey Dews! bad.
But it was close.
I know I shouldn’t judge an entire series by the first book, but since it had a multi-arc storyline, I figured one book was more than enough.
You don’t believe me, do you? DO YOU? Well, all I can say is READ THIS:
- Home: The Small-Town Girls — Jacy the Wacky Coffee Shop Owner, Stevie the Low-Self-Esteem Tomboy, and Natalie the Big City Slut Who Tries to Throw the Game.
- Visitors: The Richmond Rogues — Pro baseball players, in town for a celebrity bachelor auction, known by their on-field nicknames of Risk, Zen/ Einstein, Shutout, Romeo, Chaser and Psycho. Collectively known as “The Bat Pack.” No, really.
The scouting report:
- Small-Town Girls Jacy and Stevie have the home-field advantage, and they know the value of well-timed coffee-inspired innuendo-laden puns.
- Richmond’s local-boys-done-good Risk and Shutout have history with and insider knowledge of their opponents, but mental trips down Memory Lane might weaken their defenses.
- Natalie the Slut, unexpectedly called down from her big-city penthouse, may throw both teams off their game with her wild pitching and penchant for crowd-baiting.
- Irrational jealousy resulting from big misunderstandings will dominate play, but players will also need to be prepared for numerous distractions from both sides of the bench in the form of cleavage- and/or ass-flashing and baseball-metaphor sexual propositions.
The pre-game show (aka the prologue):
Bottom of the ninth in Game Seven of the World Series – Rogues down one against Tampa Bay, two outs with a runner on third.
After whiffing a backdoor slider¹ and a curve, veteran hitter Risk Kincaid proves his nickname by — wait for it — CALLING HIS SHOT (see image at right).
And of course he knocks it out of the park. But it’s not just any ol’ game-winning hit! It’s a homer to the left field bleachers aimed straight at the scantily-dressed and vividly-coiffed female fan who taunted him on the Jumbotron.
While the 80,000² Tampa Bay fans pout, cry and head out to riot in the streets, Risk makes nice with the reporters for his SportsCenter highlight reel:
“What about the girl with the pink hair?” someone asked.
“What about her?” he shot the question back.
“You nearly slammed the ball down her throat³.”
A corner of his mouth turned up slightly. “She needs to learn to duck.”
Classy, huh? But I suppose taking her head off with a line drive homer is better than yelling “TAG” in the middle of a rodeo bar.
¹ Yes, “backdoor slider.” Take a WILD guess where my dirty mind went with that one.
² Yes, EIGHTY THOUSAND fans. Which is very impressive, because the largest pro baseball venue (Dodgers Stadium) has a capacity of only 56,000. I thought maybe the anticipated crowds forced a cross-town move to the Ray-Jay, but that only seats 65,000. So it must have been a cross-country displacement to Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.
³ Intentional or unintentional? You decide.
First inning (chapter one):
Oh, bloody HELL — I’m balking on the first pitch.
This stupid book has 13 chapters, and I don’t have the time or patience for extra innings. I have more angsty athletes to read about, dammit. I also have difficulty maintaining extended metaphors.
We’ll go with some obscure stats and random trivia instead.
Let’s start with the random trivia….
Stevie and Zen (Couple #2) flirt by trying to stump each other† with Q&As straight out of Baseball Trivia for Dummies‡. Besides the eye-rolling player nicknames and ubiquitous clichés [see below], these awkward dialogue drop-ins are the only thing this book can claim as baseball-related.
It’s pretty obvious the extent of research for this book consisted of fast-forwarding through the boxed set of Ken Burns’ Baseball and drunken marathon viewings of Bull Durham on basic cable.
If you’re going to write a sports-themed romance, make the sport an integral part of the story. Shoehorning in meaningless trivia AS TRIVIA is lazy and insulting.
And INCORRECT trivia – with bonus grammatical errors! — is…ugh.
“Who was the first professional baseball team? Name and year.”
She touched her finger to her chin as if in deep thought. After thirty seconds, she bent, her mouth within an inch of his own. “Cincinnati Red Legs in 1869.”
First of all, the question should be “WHAT was….”
Secondly, the answer. WRONG. Red STOCKINGS. They were only the Redlegs (note the spelling) from 1954 to 1959 to avoid “Red Scare” connections during the height of the McCarthy Era.
† Yes, that was intentional on my part. I couldn’t resist.
‡ There is no such book. I checked. I might write one.
The weird 1980s product placements….
This book was first published in 2006, and recently re-released as an ebook. I need someone to explain WHY WHY WHY there are so many references to decades-old trends and brand names.
- Lotus luxury car (probably because it corners like it’s on rails);
- Tube top and slacks (specifically, coral slacks help up by a drawstring);
- Dockers and Calvin Klein underwear;
- Popped collars and loafers without socks;
- Playgirl magazine (no really; see below);
- Wrangler jeans;
- Checkbook (carried by mega-celebrity superstar baseball player);
- King-size waterbed;
- Endless Love played at a country-club dance;
- Dave Barry books;
- Fashionable blue pantsuits; and – I shit you not —
- Warm milk before bedtime.
ALSO – I SHIT YOU NOT – post-sex Cosmo quizzes to determine marriage compatibility.
Screencapped for your maximum enjoyment:
…”can’t form an impression until I see the person naked.”
…”sharing a six-pack of beer, no burping.”
…”every hour on the hour.”
…”full Kama Sutra.”
…”not in this lifetime.”
Fun fact: Jacy uses a glitter pen to document their answers. I’ll bet it’s a Bic for Her.
The not-quite-naughty tattoo….
This is where the girly-porn comes in.
His sex twitched¹ when she skimmed a fingernail down his happy trail², the line between his navel and the base of his shaft. In bold black across his groin ran his Bad to the Bone tattoo. Jacy traced the tattoo, remembering his recent photo shoot with Playgirl. “Did you flash Bone during your layout?”
“Unzipped for the tattoo, but nothing lower.”
“Female fans will be disappointed.”
“There were ten ‘Men of the Outfield’ photographed.”
Listen up, kids: If you learn anything from this blog, let it be this:
Never ever EVER google the phrase “bad to the bone tattoo.”
Trust me. Let my stupidity be your salvation.
¹ This is a preview of more WTFery (see below).
² Oh, thank you so much for that explanation! I’ve always wondered what a “happy trail” was!
The coffee innuendos….
As you’ll recall, Heroine #1 (Jacy the Wacky Free-Spirit) owns a coffee shop. She and assistant Stevie are famous for their sugar and blow.
Dropping the cubes into Stall’s black coffee, she followed with a perfectly manicured fingertip, slowly stirring the brew.
Yes, she stirs her customers’ coffee with her finger.
And then, a few paragraphs later…
Risk watched as Jacy picked up Tate’s bone china cup, puckered her lips, and blew lightly on the opposite side from where he’d sipped. After several seconds, she took her own tiny sip, leaving a trace of pink lipstick on the rim.
“I think it’s ready to drink, she said, handing the cup back to Tate. “Let me know if it needs another blow.”
QUESTION: Does the Florida Board of Public Health know about this?
ALSO: Assuming she actually has any, what do the female customers think of this value-added service? Is our heroine an equal-opportunity blower?
After satisfying Stall and Tate, she worked her way down the counter, pleasing the row of males vying for her attention. More sugar. More cooling blows.
There’s a lot more where that came from, but we’ve got a lot of bases to cover. (Get it? Get it?)
The uncontrollable nipples….
Much like the members of the McCoy Joy Club, Heroine #2 (Stevie the Self-Conscious Tomboy) has very talented and creative nipples.
…A nipple that puckered from the mere suggestion of his touch.
…She’d embarrassed them both when her nipples beaded beneath his hot stare. She didn’t deserve a tip.
…Beneath his steady gaze, her nipples once again did the unthinkable. They pointed straight at him.
…Her nipples went on full alert. Points so visible it looked like she was smuggling raisins.
…Her nipples puckered and heat speared low.
Those were all from ONE SCENE in chapter one.
But wait – there’s more!
…her nipples tightened in greeting.
…Her nipples poked his dress shirt.
…The twist of attraction that sparked her nipples to hot little darts….
…She was more than a handful. He toyed with the jutting peaks. “You’re pointing at me.”
Let’s all point and wave goodbye to Stevie’s self-actualized nipples — we’re heading south.
The euphemisms for male genitalia (the short list)….
Well, the LIST is long, but the one and only euphemism is short.
…If he wasn’t careful, the press of his sex would pop the buttons on his denim fly.
…his muscles, along with the thick ridge of his sex, left her wet.
…His eyes darkened, narrowed, and his sex twitched.
…Sweat broke out on his brow. His sex started to rise.
…The tip of his sex stretched up to meet her finger.
…His sex jutted like her nipples.
…Her gaze fixed on his sex beneath his black briefs.
…His sex pressed painfully against his button fly.
…His gut pulled as tight as his sex.
…She wiggled her her toes, and his sex twitched.
…His sex shot north.
…His sex felt hard against the small of her back.
…fire in his eyes, his sex straight up against his belly.
…Her thumb poked his sex.
…his hips jerked, along with his sex.
…squeezed his testicles and swelled his sex.
…His sex stood upright against her belly, poking her for her attention.
…the room rose as hot as his sex.
…tickled the tip of his sex.
…His sex stood rigidly upright.
…her hand slide along his thigh, tapped his sex with one bloodred nail.
…the thought of her puckered nipples cause his sex to twitch.
…His chest and sex swelled simultaneously.
Still with me? There’s a whole lotta twitchin’ going’ on around here, and it’s mostly my left eyelid.
In more than 300 pages, and THREE — count ‘em, THREE — horny heroes, the only other references to boy parts are DICK (3), PENIS (1) and SHAFT (1). ZERO mentions of COCK, ROD or MEMBER. What the hell kind of smut book is this???
Yes, I had to capitalize all those. It’s my blog, I can capitalize naughty words whenever and wherever I want.
These take place in walk-in coolers, on buffet tables and behind dumpsters in alleys.
…She came with six strokes of his sex. He climaxed seconds thereafter.
…Once sheathed, he took her, lifting and penetrating….¹
…If Jacy Grayson didn’t lower her pert little ass, he would take her from behind. Doggie style.²
…She’d tried to mount him on a ski lift in Switzerland.
…His dick called the shots.
…Again and again, he mated with her mouth.
…He took her in the missionary position.
…Tonight was good. They would come together for the burn.
…”My corporal went into battle without a helmet…”
…Fear kept him stiff.
¹ Just like a Playtex Cross Your Heart bra! Oh, wait — those separated, not penetrated. Sorry.
² Another helpful definition of erotica slang! I’ve always wondered what “doggie style” meant!
The no-nookie rule…
The backstory for this is complicated and meaningless, so let’s jump right in:
In the heat of her hurt and anger, she hit on a drastic measure. Celibacy would get his attention, which she relayed in the baseball lingo he’d understand.
“Stevie’s temporarily out of the game. Until she’s back at bat, you won’t be rounding my bases.”
Don’t worry. The embargo doesn’t last long. You were worried, weren’t you?
The “never mind, you’re forgiven because I’m horny” purple prose….
…The orgasms they shared went beyond the physical. Each climax embraced the collective oneness of mind and soul.
…They had first made love at eighteen. A memory that had grown up with them, as she’d become a woman and he’d become a man. A sexually competent man who always satisfied.
…She could already feel the warmth of his mouth, the moist sweep of his tongue, the delicious tug of his lips when he licked her fingers clean. Her body melted like the butter on the stove.
…Risk bore the chiseled maturity of a man who’d lived and learned, yet still planned to explore.
…”Life shifts, sometimes shakes like an earthquake.” He spoke as if from experience. “Little remains constant. No matter the heart’s involvement.”
…he turned to her dresser and opened the top drawer. A wide, deep drawer displaying her collection of underwear, color-coordinated to match a sixty-four-count box of crayons.
That last one wasn’t exactly purple prose, but you have to admit it was colorful. (HA! Get it? I crack myself up sometimes.)
The Oh, FOR. FUCK. SAKE. Bench-Clearing Brawl.
That would be me brawling with the author. You might be thinking, “What’s she being so cranky about? That stuff isn’t that bad.”
First of all, I’m pretty much always cranky. You must be new here.
Secondly, the “not that bad” fun factor just barely saved this from a failing grade, because this <insert creatively naughty word that I’m too pissed off to create> PISSED ME OFF.
In the very first sex scene in the very first chapter, we’re treated to this:
…he grunted when he lifted her. “One too many sugar cookies?
But don’t worry — that’s just waif-like Jacy and her super-cute combat boots.
Her BFF Stevie, on the other hand, has, um, issues.
“Good to see you, sweetheart.”
“Good to be seen,” Stevie returned as she ran her hands over her hips. “Even if I have put on a few pounds.”
Risk grinned. “I like curvy.”
“More like plump,” Stevie said on a sigh. “Working at the coffee shop has packed on the pounds.”
“You don’t have to sample every new treat,” Jacy teased her friend.
“I do to recommend them,” Stevie defended her weight gain.
You want some pounds to pack on? I’ll give you plenty.
While Stevie tipped the scale at one-thirty-six, ten of those pounds lacked sinew. Brownies and cookie dough had stolen her cheekbones. Her pants wouldn’t zip. Her thighs now rubbed together.
Oh, well, now that’s a different story. No cheekbones AND chafing thighs? No wonder she’s so self-conscious.
Then as an afterthought, he [Aaron the Old Flame] asked, “Do you have something presentable to wear?”
Presentable? She slid her hands down her sides, felt the slight bulge at her waist. Was he embarrassed by her weight? Her size sixes had evolved into tens and twelves over the years, and the occasional fourteen.
Though she would have preferred a little black dress, she’d be squeezing into a conservative rose silk suit. With elastic inserts around the waistband of the skirt.
Holy hell — double digits AND elastic? Oh. Dear. God.
Not done yet….
The woman looked familiar….
“Sherry Sherman, Risk’s high school flame, now living in Atlanta.” Stevie jarred Jacy’s memory as she joined her on the bleachers. “Rumor has it she’s home for the weekend.” Her friend scrunched up her nose.
“Put on a few pounds, hasn’t she?” About twenty, by Jacy’s calculation.
It must be so comforting to hear your best friend analyzing another woman’s weight, huh? As long as the claws are drawing someone else’s blood, it’s all good.
But weight – there’s more!
Didja catch that one? DAMN, I’m good.
It’s even more touching when Zen/Einstein — a man she just met hours ago — gets in on the fun when the conversation turns to jilted lovers:
“Chocolate-covered strawberries are great comfort food.”
“Find comfort elsewhere.”
“Why all the concern?” His gaze darkened to jet, dropped to her breasts, then to her belly….
“I know you like sports,” he said. “Are you more spectator than participant?”
She grew self-conscious. “I used to jog ten miles a day. Played tennis twice a week. Really pushed myself to stay fit.”
“When you and Aaron lost contact, you turned to chocolate.” He read her well. “Not quite as satisfying as your man, but it took the edge off. Am I right?”
Of COURSE he’s right. He’s a MAN. Duh. And he’s double-nicknamed as a BUDDHIST NOBEL-PRIZE-WINNING PHYSICIST, so you can never argue with him. Ever.
“No one’s perfect, Stevie,” he finally stated. “Outer beauty attracts, but inner beauty captivates.”
Gee, I never thought of that. You are a wise and caring man. May I subjugate myself to your omniscient omnipotence?
It was time for him to leave. He pushed to his feet. “No more chocolate tonight.”
Translation: “Of course. You need me to monitor your every move and thought, because I have phenomenal cosmic power.”
“Thanks for coming by,” she said softly. “Otherwise, I might have passed out in a container of Chunky Monkey.”
Translation: “I renounce Ben & Jerry’s and all their sinful flavors and all their empty calories.”
Are you ready for the swoon-worthy Reunited And It Feels So Gooood?
His gaze skimmed over her. “You look thinner.”
“You left and I dropped five pounds.” Five pounds from her waistline.
Once she shed ten additional pounds, she’d light a room full of candles. Twenty pounds total, and she’d parade around naked.
Zen cupped her chin. “I like you curvy.”
She’d keep her curves, just count her calories.
Aw, he cares about her soooo much — and she’s starving herself to earn his love! That’s so sweet! Because we all know that women who wear clothing sizes in double-digits are just pathetic losers, right?
There was NO REASON to include ANY of that. None. Completely irrelevant to the story. It’s just a lazy and insulting excuse for character development.
What exactly is a ROMANCE AUTHOR trying to communicate to readers with that kind of utter BULLSHIT? Am I the only one who notices — or cares — about demeaning, misogynistic presentations of women in contemporary fiction?
The absolutely forever-final because I’m never reading this again HEA….
This is Jacy and Risk — Stevie and Zen/Einstein are out shopping at Lane Bryant or counting calories or something.
“Marry me, babe.”
She caught the rise in his Levi’s. “At Christmas?”
“I want to jingle my bells long before then.”
God bless us, every one — including authors of ridiculous romance novels, because they need all the help they can get.
ETA: After I posted this review, there was a very interesting Twitter discussion, which compelled me to do a follow-up on the use of body issues in characterization. And of course that turned into a full-on OCD episode of Google image searching, which of course I had to share.
So, for your further keep-your-lazy-ass-on-the-couch enjoyment, don’t miss the Fall Festival of Fat Shaming: