I think I learned more about baseball from this book than I have ever in my life. Given that I have actively avoided absorbing any knowledge about baseball, the true testament to the quality of K.D. Casey’s debut romance, Unwritten Rules, is that I enjoyed learning about baseball.
Unwritten Rules is a leisurely paced second chance romance between two professional baseball players. Casey moves between the past and the present, giving the reader the end, the beginning, the middle, and the renewal all from Zach Glasser’s perspective. A major league catcher, Zach is Jewish, has hearing loss, and is deeply in the closet. For most of the book he is uncomfortably numb. Eugenio Morales, is also a catcher, Venezuelan American, and openly-ish bi. They meet at Spring Training camp where Zach is a returning veteran and Eugenio is a rookie called up from the minor leagues for a shot at the majors.
This book is Zach’s journey, from shut down and closeted to starting to be open and accepting of who he is. Interestingly, it took me a good bit of the book to realize that Zach was not a washed up player who never met his potential. I think he thought of himself that way, and of Eugenio as the bright star who went on to better. When Zach says something disparaging about his career, Eugenio looks at him like he’s nuts and points out that he played in the all-star game. Zach is a little bit of an unreliable narrator about himself.
Unwritten Rules has a wonderfully dreamy quality to it. It’s kind of a slow burn, in that Eugenio and Zach have sex early in the book, but the flashbacks feel slightly unreal. Zach’s emotional awakening come later in the book around the beat where slow burn romance book couples are likely to consummate their physical relationship. The only thing I would have liked to see was just a little bit more of happy Zach and Eugenio. The book ended with me feeling confident that they would be happy, but I wanted more of that dopamine at the end.
Romances that play with time and perspective are probably not new, but I feel like I’ve read more of them this year. I love it and hope to see more of it. I’m also hoping for more K.D. Casey.
CW: internalized homophobia, racist microaggressions, sexism in sports.
Thank you to NetGalley and Carina Press for the advance reader copy. I reviewed this voluntarily.