World Series of Romance Doubleheader: Baseball, Harlequin-Style

Yes, I know the World Series is over. It’s not MY fault the Tigers couldn’t hit worth a damn.

The Winner: The Real Deal by Debbi Rawlins

The Real Deal by Debbi Rawlins

  • Title: The Real Deal
  • Author:  Debbi Rawlins
  • Series/Category: Lose Yourself, Book 2 (Blaze)
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, November 2010
  • Source: Amazon ($3.82 ebook)
  • Length: 220 pages
  • Trope(s): Athlete, Beta Hero, Smartass Heroine,
  • Quick blurb: Lonely tourist and pro ballplayer try really, really hard to convince themselves their whirlwind romance is just a fling.
  • Quick review: Just the right amounts of angst and humor and lust and romance for a sweet and satisfying HEA.
  • Grade: B+

He sighed. “With all the beautiful airheads I have at my disposal, I had to choose a smart-ass to meet my folks.”

The set-up:

Freelance editor Emily drags herself out of her self-made, home-based Cave of Solitude for a much-needed splurge in New York City — but a run-in with a big-league ballplayer changes her vacation itinerary from spas and shopping to seduction and sex.

The hits:

Studly but sensitive beta hero. Smart, smartass heroine. Great relationship-building. Swoon-worthy romantic moments. Believable angstifying about friends and family. A low-key but effective use of the superstar-athlete angle. No over-the-top villains or plot shenanigans.

The misses:

The obligatory tacked-on-but-useless epilogue. Blech. The ballplayer hero thinks Romantical Thoughts in the final innings of a World Series game. My inner baseball fan was screaming “Keep your mind on the game, FFS!”

The final score: B+


The Loser: The Truth About Tara by Darlene Gardner

The Truth About Tara by Darlene Gardner

  • Title: The Truth About Tara
  • Author:  Darlene Gardner
  • Series/Category: Harlequin SuperRomance
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, September 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($3.82 ebook)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Trope(s): Injured Athlete, TSTL Mother, Misuse of Plot Moppets, Small Town, Mistaken Identity (or maybe not…)
  • Quick blurb: Minor-league ballplayer on the DL shows up in a small coastal town with an age-progression photo of a kidnapped child who looks exactly like the local gym teacher.
  • Quick review: Ugh. Too much of EVERYTHING. Except baseball.
  • Grade: DNF

If he smiled, he’d be handsome. But if he smiled, she’d be even more freaked out.

The set-up:

An injured ballplayer shows up in a small tourist town to track down a famous orthopedic surgeon. He’s also on a mission to help his private investigator sister solve a cold case.

The hits:

Um…. Gimme a second, here…. Still thinking…. Nope. Nada. Nil. Nothin’. Shut-out.

The wild pitches:

Ugh. Did I say that already? This book was ALL OVER THE PLACE, trying to do and be way too much. This seems to be common for Harlequin SuperRomances — squash as many tropes as possible into one book to appeal to every type of category reader.

The only references to the “hero” being a ballplayer are his injuries, for which he shows up uninvited and unannounced on the doorstep of a world-famous surgeon who’s on vacation.

While he’s on the DL, the “hero” is a stalker. The opening scene is the hero following the heroine in his car as she’s leaving work, then accosting her on the sidewalk. Then he innocently starts appearing at the grocery store, the gym, the camp where she volunteers…. And, poor baby, he doesn’t understand why she tries to avoid him.

Why is he following her, you ask? Because his sister the private investigator asked him to. She’s working on a cold-case kidnapping from 25 years earlier, so she sends him out with an age-progression photo of the now-grown missing child. Take a WILD guess who matches the photo exactly. This whole premise just has WTFery written all over it.

Nothing too overly awful about the heroine, except for her willingness to allow her widowed mother to guilt her into anything and everything. And of course we get the unnecessary and intrusive POV of the TSTL, passive-aggressive mother.

Strike three, game over:

The plot moppets. And not the usual annoyingly precocious plot moppets.

These plot moppets are kids with developmental disabilities. The heroine’s foster brother has Down’s syndrome, and she and her mother volunteer at his summer camp, providing ENDLESS opportunities for heavy-handed enlightenment.

It’s like a Diversity & Inclusion 101 lecture on Down’s syndrome, brain injuries and other conditions. EVERY mention of one of the kids is a “teachable moment” about their physical appearance, communication barriers, emotional control and social interaction. These kids aren’t characters — they’re just props to inject An Important Issue into an issue-driven category romance.

The final score: DNF at 33%

One thought on “World Series of Romance Doubleheader: Baseball, Harlequin-Style

  1. Plot moppets are a common problem in Superromance, I’m afraid. No realistic children need apply.

    And I’m adding that Blaze title. An athlete who’s a beta? Color me intrigued.

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