Posted by: annmariegamble | August 13, 2009

Fantasy Baseball: Jill Shalvis’s Double Play

My recreational reading this summer has taken a backseat to my new membership on Twitter. (I’ll pause here so you can lay in firewood or whatever your personal preparations for the apocalypse involve—the beauty of the interwebs is we’ll be here when you get back.) I decided to check it out because a writer friend who I actually know in person, who I first met on the corporeal plane, was a user (heh) and kept sending me links. His tweeps were talking about writing, I ended up having a question answered by Bob Mayer, and I was hooked.

The high literary standards that go into my selection of reading material

The high literary standards that go into my selection of reading material

The soaking up of free-reading time has been doubly problematic. Along with the writers and editors, I’ve found readers, bloggers, and reviewers. And during conversations about inspiration, process, and the publishing industry, they all tweet about what they’re reading lately. Three quarters of the books I want to read next I heard of through Twitter. And it’s not just hearing about them: a conversation about e-books and file protection methods landed me an e-galley of Jill Shalvis‘s latest, Double Play, put together by Sarah at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

It was a two-fer, I thought: gearhead novelty and a chance to read an author I was unfamiliar with. Turns out it was a three-fer: Double Play takes place in the world of baseball, a fictional realm I heartily enjoy. Shalvis does a great job assembling a cast of characters who subtly draw out several issues in professional sports: the competition for spots, playing through pain, and the job versus game attitude. I have a huge amount of respect for the players, although I’m not an especial fan of watching the game* (and no, I won’t show you my birth certificate, either).

Perhaps my disinterest in the game itself is due to the dearth of male nudity.** That’s the joy of relying on fiction for your baseball education. In Double Play, it gets hot in a hurry: the heroine ends up in the locker room before a game, and one thing leads to another. The team decides that they win the game when the hero kisses the heroine first, and they make sure to set up the situation from that point forward. The hero and heroine find the superstition annoying and arousing (which is also, of course, annoying), and then worse—the team thinks the makeout session can’t go any farther than kissing to preserve the streak.

It’s a stereotype of romance novels: she hates him, he hates her, one night of passion and then luuuuv. Shalvis, however, shows a seamless, gradual evolution in the hero’s and heroine’s feelings, from irritation to tolerance to grudging respect before more outright attraction, and a believable unpacking of the relevant baggage as the season progresses.

As a novelist trying to master smooth, believable segues from one stage of the plot to the next, I’ll be rereading Double Play. As a reader with two more weeks of summer vacation, I’m glad the package came with another book by Shalvis.

* My favorite sports are basketball and tennis.

** Thus answering the question, “Mom, can I read your blog?”

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