Title: What There Is
Author: Kate McMurray
Length: 15,318 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Sports, Athletes, Baseball, Brooklyn, NYC, Roommates, Jock/Nerd, Food, Coach, Past Injury
Rating: Pretty Good
Former professional baseball player Justin Piersol needs a new life after a career-ending injury, and his job as a high school baseball coach isn’t exactly fulfilling. Still, things are looking up: he finds the perfect room in an apartment in Brooklyn with Mark, who writes a popular column on sports statistics.
Mark is nerdy and socially awkward and intensely shy, and he immediately develops a terrible crush on Justin, who barely seems to notice him. As they get to know each other, Justin admits he misses playing baseball, that coaching doesn’t scratch the itch. Mark confesses he thought he’d be married by now, that he wants a serious relationship. So they make a pact: Justin will help Mark find a man, and Mark will help Justin find something he loves more than baseball.
They put their plan into action… and then life gets complicated. Mark meets a nice guy named Dave, and Justin is suddenly crazy with jealousy. Justin realizes he wants to let go of the past and focus on the present, but as Mark and Dave become an item, Justin fears he’s too late.
I’ve been excited about this new story from Kate McMurray ever since she visited the blog in June for Kate McMurray Week. It’s another baseball story and though I first thought that it might be a spinoff/sequel, or in some way related to Out in the Field because the main character Mark works at Sports Net, it seems to have no connection.
The premise is a roommates-to-lovers story, when Justin visits Mark about a listing looking for a roommate to share his Brooklyn apartment. They find that though they’re different in a lot of ways — Mark is painfully shy in front of an outgoing and hunky Justin — they also have some things in common. Justin was once a baseball player, a pitcher for the Brooklyn Cyclones, before an injury forced him off of the field and into a coaching job. Mark works for Sports Net, writing about baseball statistics, but he’s never been an athlete himself no matter how much he enjoys the game. But most of all, Mark is just glad that a normal and sane person came in reply to his listing and actually wants to rent the room, no matter the fact that Justin is so hot it might be impossible for Mark to actually have a conversation with him.
After a little while, when the awkwardness of sharing a home with a stranger starts to abate and the two start to get to know one another, they both start to see that they’re unhappy in their lives. Justin is having a hard time coaching those who he knows will go on to have the career that he always wanted and coaching isn’t giving him the same thrill that playing did. Mark really wants to have a relationship and he confesses to Justin that he doesn’t know if he could ever meet someone because he’s so shy. So, the two decide to help the other out — Justin tells Mark that he’ll help him find a guy and Mark tells Justin that he’ll help him find something he’s passionate about, just as he was playing baseball.
Even though this had less baseball in it than I expected, I really quite enjoyed this story. It probably isn’t going to get rave reviews because it’s a short story and I have a feeling that a lot of readers are going to want more from this couple and feel like this story is too short. I don’t really think that’s true. We aren’t presented with a couple here that has issues they have to work through, together and individually, that will take them a long time to process in order to get their HEA. They’re more of a simple couple that takes a small amount of time and a little nudge to see that they could be good together. And that was fine with me, I finished the story enjoying it for what it was and feeling satisfied.
Fans of Kate McMurray will definitely want to read this story. All of the things that I like about her writing were presented here, like her love of Brooklyn and baseball, and I really liked how the food and cooking classes brought them together (food can definitely do that!). It was a nice story, sweet and light, and enough to tide me over for more of her work to come.