Strike Zone by Kate Angell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I have a weakness for the trope of celebrity hero falls for ordinary Jane heroine. These days, that's most commonly found in sport romances, where the hero is some superstar athlete. Kate Angell specializes in baseball romances.
Strike Zone is the third in Angell's Richmond Rogues series. Somehow I missed this one when it first came out and I picked it up from the library the other day. Angell is unique in that she seems incapable of just writing about one heroine and one hero, and the duality of the books are never evident by the cover blurb.
In Strike Zone, the main couple, and the one featured in the blurb, is Taylor and Stryke. Taylor is back in town after leaving Stryke at the altar years ago. Stryke is engaged, but thanks to an abruptly ended plot device, he's single again by page 135 and his fiancee is neatly tucked out of the way. Time passes in the book by way of 'three weeks later,' and the reader is told that Stryke and Taylor are rebuilding their relationship. However, while there's nothing to contradict with that statement, the reader doesn't get to see it either.
The secondary couple is Taylor's sister, Eve, and Stryke's teammate, Sloan. Sloan and Eve were much more interesting to me than Taylor and Stryke. First off, Sloan is a bit of a manwhore and doesn't attempt to hide that. Watching him deal with his growing feelings for Eve is quite enjoyable. On the flip side of that, Eve knows she has feelings for Sloan and isn't particularly happy about that. She has no desire to be one of his groupies and stands firm on the issue. While the chemistry crackled between Eve and Sloan, I would have liked to see Sloan's realization that he is head over heels for Eve. They go on three dates, he screws up big-time on the third one, she cuts him out of her life, and he spends the next chunk of the book trying to get her back. When Sloan finally convinces her to talk to him, the reader finds out that he's now super-serious about Eve to the extent he now knows she's the 'one.' After three dates. Yes, this is a romance novel and all, but I can't help think that this is why so many famous athletes get divorced.
What saves this book, quite frankly, is the baseball. Full disclosure, I go to one baseball game a year with my dad and pretty much ignore the sport the rest of the time. So while I suspect there are a few 'that would never happen' moments in this book (the mascot fight, perhaps), there was nothing that stood out to me with my limited knowledge. As a result, I loved the baseball scenes. I felt like I was right there on the mound with Sloan and Stryke. I liked how Angell underscored the fact that yes, these guys are celebrities, but one bad injury and their careers are over. While Stryke came off as a little too perfect, Sloan started off as the arrogant hot-shot I'd expect a star athlete to be.
I think, overall, Angell would benefit from either treating her books like anthologies and doing two distinct stories or keeping the focus on one particular couple. Sweet Spot, the fifth book in the series, is scheduled to be released in May 2012, but there's no info yet about the plot or publisher. Unfortunately, with Angell caught in the Dorchester quicksand, I would imagine Sweet Spot is likely going to be the last Richmond Rogue book.
There aren't a lot of baseball romances, but if you like the Richmond Rogue books, I recommend you check out Jill Shalvis's Double Play and Slow Heat.