STRADDLING THE LINE by Jaci Burton
I should tell you up front that I am a huge baseball fan. I go to games, I listen to baseball podcasts, I follow fan blogs for my home team, and I even play in a fantasy league. I’m also a romance fan, and I love when these two things merge well. When I first started reading romance again about eight years ago, there was a dearth of good sports romances, but thanks to authors like Ms. Burton, I am happy to report this is no longer the case.
I should also probably tell you that when the baseball season ends, I turn to football to sate my sports fan needs. This works out, because the football season ends right around when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. So I’ve got sports year round!
And so does Trevor Shay, the hero of Ms. Burton’s Straddling the Line. You see, Trevor plays both baseball and football at the professional level, and somehow his NFL team does not mind too much that they lose him for the first part of every season while his sports overlap. Trevor is that good. Like Bo Jackson (remember how he knew everything?) or Deion Sanders (who I met one time, for what it’s worth).
Our heroine, Haven, is a sports journalist in deep mourning after the death of her father. She’s about ready to quit her job, but Trevor comes to the rescue. He was close to Haven’s parents, he and Haven went to college together, and he wants to help her succeed. Although he’s usually reclusive, he invites Haven to do a profile of him for her network.
I bet you can guess what happens next.
If you guessed “sports journalism,” you’re right. Haven spends a lot of her time following Trevor around and asking him questions, which he gamely answers except when she asks about his family. Whenever that happens, he shuts down the conversation. Still, he gives her plenty of material to put together her profile.
If you guessed “smoking hot sexy times,” you’re right about that, too. The sexual tension between these two characters is palpable, and Jaci Burton can write a pants-on-fire sex scene better than anyone I’ve read in a while.
Thus Haven is quickly pulled into Trevor’s world, which, okay, might as well just be called “the circle of friends made up of characters from previous books in the series,” but I’m okay with that. The book works pretty well as a standalone.
I like Haven a lot; her love of sports comes from her father (same for me!) and it’s clear early on that she’s smart and capable. Her main challenge in the novel is working through her grief for her father, to whom she was very close, and figuring out how to do her job well even though she’s kind of lost interest in it. The sports world she (literally) moves into for this profile of Trevor is woven closely with her memories of her father, and that continues to be a struggle for her throughout the novel.
Trevor is also affable and charismatic, though he doesn’t consider himself very smart. (There’s no evidence of lack of smarts on the page, and this one blip in his otherwise healthy self-esteem is explained by the big reveal at the end, so I won’t tell you why he feels this way.) He’s appealing, too, although there are times when his sports superstardom is maybe a little too far over the line of implausible.
The reunited friends trope is one of my favorites, too. Trevor and Haven weren’t quite friends in college—Haven was Trevor’s tutor—but they were both hot for each other at the time and totally misread the situation. Haven was nervous around Trevor, who he read as standoffish, and then both assumed the other wasn’t interested. It doesn’t take long for their adult selves to work out how foolish they were.
I had some niggles, mostly sporty factual things that probably only extreme fans will notice, not things that detract from the plot. Trevor’s superstardom is a little hard to believe at times, but I was willing to go with it for the sake of the book. There are a lot of characters who walk in and out of the book, and if you haven’t read the other books in the series, they’re hard to tell apart at times.
Overall, though, it’s a solid sports romance and one I think will make Burton’s fans happy.
STRADDLING THE LINE (Play-By-Play #8) by Jaci Burton/Penguin Group/July 1