CBR14Bingo – Series: The second in a series, James’ time constraints from participation in the baseball series is a key part of the romance
This is the second book in E.M. Lindsey’s baseball romance series, and hey! I still don’t care about baseball, but luckily the skillful way the author handles relationships makes me willing to pretend I understand the difference between various pitches. Pietro’s best friend James is one of the main characters in this book, and as I really liked him in that one, I was very excited to see him again in this slow burn romance between a single dad and a wealthy baseball pitcher.
James had a rough childhood and a stint in prison, traumas that still haunt him even though he’s now a major league baseball player with more money than he knows what to do with. James is a bit impulsive, the type of guy who’ll buy a nightclub and a book store on a whim. While he was happy to hand off management of the night club to a general manager, he feels drawn to be more involved with the book store. With his BFF Pietro happily partnered up, James is left to deal with the emptiness in his life. When a teen sasses him for wanting to change up the bookstore, he doesn’t realize it’s the first step to bringing Ridley into his life. Ridley’s mostly trying to figure out how not to screw up as a single dad to that sassy teen. After having to drop out of the minor leagues after an injury, he became a high school gym teacher, and his only involvement now with baseball is coaching the high school team. Meeting one of his favorite players is initially a rush… until he starts criticizing his parenting. But with several misunderstandings cleared up – and Phoenix’s help – they slowly become friends, and then even more slowly fall into a relationship. But can they both overcome their insecurities to give a lasting relationship a try?
“I just want someone who takes the time to listen, even if they don’t get where I’m at or how I’m feeling. I want someone who can be satisfied with me as I am. And I know people change—but not the fundamentals. Not my core, you know?”
The character who really shown for me was Phoenix, Ridley’s teen son. He’s trans, and he also has cerebral palsy and uses crutches. E.M. Lindsey always excels at writing disabled characters and it’s definitely evident here. Ridley worries constantly about all the possible roadblocks life could throw at a disabled trans kid, much to Phoenix’s frustration as he just wants to live his life. He’s smart (and smart-mouthed!) and definitely ready to stretch his wings, but Ridley (and to some extent his ex-wife) are overprotective of him. As a parent of two young kids with various disabilities, I felt this deeply, and I think this helped me connect more with Ridley than James. Ridley is constantly consumed with worry about whether he’s a good parent and his attraction to James is just icing on the cake. Ridley’s ex-wife teased him about his “man crushes,” but he never really considered himself bisexual before. Dealing with that realization about his sexuality as a man over 40 and how exactly to come out to, well, everyone, is an added frustration to an already full plate.
James wasn’t the kind of man who settled down with a high school teacher. But he knew it would be nice while it lasted.
Besides, he’d felt heartbreak before. He knew what it was like to have his life shatter. He could survive it, and the pain would eventually fade. And, at least this time, he knew it was coming.
James and Ridley don’t even meet until about a quarter of the way through the book, and then things are still very slowburn from there. From the beginning, it’s their insecurities that separate them. James worries that Ridley won’t want to deal with his busy schedule, while Ridley can’t understand how a high school teacher could ever fit into James’ wealthy lifestyle. They’re both incredibly self-sabotaging, though for understandable reasons, and I was amused that often the kick-in-the-pants came from Phoenix! They’re such hot messes that watching them catch feelings for each other was adorable. The time they spend together, though, from pool fun time to making pizzas, is very sweet and steamy. The bits between James and Pietro are also adorable! It’s nice to see two men in such a positive and loving friendship.
As for cons, I wanted more of James’ backstory. Bits of his childhood are revealed in passing, but the reader (and Ridley) never quite get the full picture. A lot of it pops up in regards to parenting and Phoenix so I assumed that would become a heartfelt conversation with Ridley, but it’s never expanded on. I also wished Ridley and James spent more time together. Obviously, that was one of the big issues with their relationship so it fits with the story, but I wanted a bit more between the insta-attraction and them falling in love.
“If you never hear from me again, it’s because my manager has murdered me for holding everyone up. Make sure my bookstore survives, and if you have the time, avenge me.”
Overall, this was a quick read with an absolutely stellar side character. I can’t wait to see which character is next in the series!