Whoohooo, today is the release day for the baseball themed anthology Playing Ball. And in honor of this day, Kate McMurray and I thought we’d get together to discuss our lifelong love of two teams in particular, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox and some of the moments we remember in this ongoing rivalry.
So, I am a lifelong Yankee fan who went to college in Massachusetts and, in fact, dated a Sox fan for almost ten years. (He was one of my favorite people to talk baseball with, even after we broke up, although we were dating when the Sox won the ‘04 World Series, and we had plenty to talk about that season. I almost wanted to root for the Sox to break the Curse of the Bambino—grudging respect and all that—though it was hard after they swept the Yankees in the ALCS. NOT THAT I’M BITTER.)
Anyway, I remember one game I watched with friends in college, and the Sox won and must have clinched something, their spot in the play-offs maybe, and all the baseball fans poured out of the dorms and gathered in the courtyard to cheer and talk about it—these are things we did before social networking, I guess—and, as was inevitable, chants of “Yankees suck!” broke out in the crowd. It didn’t matter that the Yankees hadn’t been anywhere near the game we just watched. (It also didn’t matter that this was the late-90s when the Yankees were AWESOME. Statistically, I mean; I’m not just saying that. I mean: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/201305-were-the-1998-yankees-the-best-team-ever) This is the funny thing about being a Yankee fan. Because there are two pools of baseball fans: Yankee fans and fans who hate the Yankees. No baseball fan has ambivalence about the Yankees. I’ve been to a few Mets games, and there is always at least one guy who whips the crowd into a “Yankees suck!” frenzy, even if the Yankees aren’t there.
And I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan. Hell, it’s in my blood. When my Grandmaman emigrated to the U.S. she became a huge fan of baseball before she even learned English and settled right down in the heart of Red Sox country. She passed that love down to the rest of us, though my mother takes it to a whole different level. I remember when we were transferred to Ohio when I was seven and I teased my mom about becoming a Cincinnati Reds fans since that was the closest team just to watch her explode. See the Cincinnati Reds had beat the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series and my mother never forgot or forgave them even though we lived in Ohio for seven years. Her best friend came from New York and was a diehard Yankees fan and there were many summer nights where the two of them would watch the games, trying to encourage each others’ kids to switch team loyalties, and hooting/hollering the entire time.
And as for BITTER, I will never forget the 7th Game in the ACLS of 2003. We were sure that this was the year. It seemed like we always thought that this could be the year. But in 2003 it was feverish. The entire clan gathered at my mom’s house for Game 7, kids, grandkids, even the family members who weren’t huge baseball fans. (I cannot believe such a creature actually exists.) My son wasn’t even a year yet, trying to sleep on my lap as we followed each pitch, every damn swing. And when Aaron Boone got that damned home run the living room exploded.
I have a good friend who lives in the Boston suburbs, and she and her husband are rabid, fanatical Sox fans. Their home office is completely Boston sports themed, with an entire wall taken up by 2004 World Series memorabilia. I am not making this up. I usually sleep in that room when I visit and it is terrifying. They come down to New York once a year or so for a game and usually invite me to tag along, so all of the Sox at Yankee Stadium games I’ve seen in person have been with them. There was a time when you could get bleacher seats at any Yankee game for 5 bucks, so I saw a few rivalry games that way. This is no longer true—I don’t think you can get even a hot dog for $5 at the new Yankee Stadium, no joke—but I saw some great Sox vs. Yankee games from the noisy bleachers, when people would get rowdy (and get tossed out of the stadium) even after the stadium banned the sale of alcohol to the Bleacher Creatures. (Not that one couldn’t get drunk at one of the many sports bars across the street before the game.)
Sadly, I have never seen a live game between the Red Sox and Yankees. Being a military brat we were rarely stationed anywhere close to a baseball stadium. Except for the year we lived in New York when sadly I think my parents thought I was too young to enjoy a live baseball game. And now that I’m settled in Maryland most of the games we catch are at Camden Yards. (Another beautiful, old stadium.) And home is the Great North Woods of New Hampshire and nowhere close to Fenway. However, I do get a lot of grief for being a Red Sox fan from my Orioles fan buddies. Speaking of memorabilia, my brother-in-law on my husband’s side of the family is from New York and passed his love for the Yankees down to my niece who is one of the sweetest girls you’ve ever known. She came to my sister’s house for a party and hanging in the garage was a sign proclaiming, “Yankees Suck.” The poor child was shocked down to her toes and I took her aside and told her not to let it get to her. Even if this house was Red Sox territory, she was still welcome and she should wear her cap with pride.
But it’s all in good fun. My Sox fan friends and (and my Mets fan friends) and my Yankees fan friends can talk baseball all day long, and it gets heated sometimes, but we joke around about it, too. But the Yankees are one of the greatest sports franchises of all time, and I will not hear arguments to the contrary.
My dad has a tee-shirt that says, “I’m a fan of two teams: the Yankees and whoever is playing the Red Sox.” I think that about sums it up.
LOL, my sister has almost the exact same T-shirt, only with the opposite sentiment.
Seriously though, I love the rivalry, I love the history between the two teams, and the grudging respect. I love that Fenway played “New York, New York” after 9/11 and New York played “Sweet Caroline” after the Boston Marathon bombing. How many other teams/rivalries have that same kind of vibe?
Well, that’s our little take on being fans and rivals, though I think we could’ve gone on forever if given the chance. But we channeled our love for baseball into our anthology. Kate McMurray’s story is “One Man to Remember,” a wonderful historic tale set in 1927 New York. The characters are so memorable and she really captures the time period.
It’s 1927, and in New York City Babe Ruth and the Yankee’s unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row, is all anyone can talk about. Across town, the Giants’ rookie infielder Skip Littlefield racks up hits, creating a streak to rival the Babe’s. Worried his secrets could get out, he avoids the spotlight, but he catches the attention of lauded sports reporter Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret. Skip reluctantly agrees to an interview, and mutual attraction is sparked. Skip can only hope the more charismatic stars will draw attention away from his romance with Walt. Otherwise, his career and everything he loves is at stake.
My story “Wild Pitch” is about two retired players and best friends who have gone on to coach rival Little League teams in Vermont.
Ruben Martell fell in love with Alan Hartner during their years playing baseball. They stepped over the foul line once, but the encounter left them struggling with heartache and guilt, turning away from each other to focus on their families. Now retired from the majors, they run a batting cage together and coach rival Little League teams as they juggle fatherhood and being single again. Though Ruben has never given up hope that Alan might look at him as more than a friend, Alan seems determined to keep things the way they’ve always been. But long-buried feelings and desires have a way of resurfacing, and Ruben can’t wait forever.
To celebrate the release of PLAYING BALL and our blog tour, Shae, Kate, Kerry, and I have put together a pretty awesome giveaway.
Grand prize: A print copy of PLAYING BALL signed by all four authors, a unisex BBQ apron featuring hot athletes from Originals by Lauren, and swag from all four authors.
Runner-up prize: An ebook copy of PLAYING BALL and swag from all four authors.
The giveaway will run from 12AM Central on September 21, 2013 to 12AM Central on October 11, 2013. To give an opportunity for the authors to get together to sign the book and gather swag, the winners will be picked and the prizes shipped after the end of GayRomLit 2013.
But there are some rules:
You must be a resident of Earth, 18 years or older, who lives in a place where the viewing of adult material is legal. By entering the giveaway, you are indicating your agreement to the rules. Winners must provide a physical mailing address to receive their prizes. If a winner does not respond to the prize notification within 48 hours, the prize will be re-awarded.
Author: Will Parkinson
Publisher: Dreamspinner (Harmony Ink)
Length: 53,637 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Debut Novel, High School, Unrequited Love, Closeted, Best Friends, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Coming Out, Coming of Age, Art/Artists, Sports, Baseball, Athletes, Abuse, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor’s life. He’s had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.
Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.
I’m always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I’ve been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I’ve picked up a book from DSP’s young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson’s debut novel. Sometimes it’s a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I’ve never read, but that’s another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that’s worth it. Often, it’s different though and while I like some of those books I also don’t like some of them. I’m afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn’t a total disappointment, I just didn’t connect with the book.
Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They’re best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor’s school. Jackson walks into Taylor’s homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson’s cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can’t seem to stay away.
It isn’t until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he’s less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin’s trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn’t true, about most of the people he knew.
There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn’t something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin’s actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.
As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn’t for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn’t fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author’s view. I’m not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters’ observations and personality and the author’s. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn’t say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn’t seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don’t need all the information. It’s a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.
Ultimately, this book just wasn’t for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I’ll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I’ve been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!
Posted by Cole in 2 Not Feelin' It, 41-75k, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, YA Tags: Abuse, Art, Artists, Athletes, Baseball, Best Friends, Closeted, Coming of Age, Coming Out, Debut Novel, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Harmony Ink Press, High School, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Secrets & Lies, Sports, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Unrequited Love, Will Parkinson
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.
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: Athletes, Baseball, Brooklyn, Coach, Dreamspinner Press, Food, Jocks/Nerds, Kate McMurray, NYC, Past Injury, Roommates, Short Story, Sports
Title: Deep in the Count
Author: Madison Parker
Publisher: M/M Goodreads Group
Length: 16k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: 2013 Love Has No Boundaries event, Free Reads, Short Story, Baseball, Sports, Nerds/Geeks, Nerds/Jocks trope, College, Tutor, Strip Studying!, Cryptology
Rating: Really Liked It!
**Note: This story is not yet available in the 2013 Love Has No Boundaries even by the M/M Romance Goodreads Group. No specific date yet, but will be available sometime in the next 2 months.
Brandon plays baseball for Virginia Tech. Although his coach is confident he has a successful career ahead of him, Brandon’s not so sure. What if he doesn’t make it? What will he have to fall back on? He wishes he were smarter. He looks at his friend’s roommate and thinks he’d give anything for that confidence and those brains. Because brains and confidence? That’s sexy! If only he could get Corey to notice him. He needs to find a way to appeal to Corey’s inner geek.
Corey’s degree program and academic standing are sure to land him a good job in his chosen career field: cryptology. Those popular kids? They think that because he’s a “geek” he’s missing out on life, but they’re wrong. He’s got his eye on the prize and doesn’t need the distractions of a social life. So why is he having such a hard time ignoring his roommate’s flirty friend?
This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group’s “Love Has No Boundaries” event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.
This story is not yet available, just so you know. But, seeing it already on Goodreads meant that I just couldn’t wait! So, Madison sent me a copy and let me know I could post it whenever I wanted, since we don’t yet know when it will be posted. And this is me really, really, really hoping that it’s posted soon because it’s such a cute, sweet, happy story that I want to share my reading experience with all of you!
This Jock/Nerd college story doesn’t rely on the typical trope. The prompt that started this story specifically asked for a different take on that trope, so what we get in this story is a jock that doesn’t really like his own popularity and a nerd that doesn’t want or need any of his own. Corey relies on his own genius to move him further in life. To him, college isn’t a chance to party, but to make connections and actually learn. He’s a student of mathematics, but really loves cryptology. Brandon is the star pitcher of the college’s baseball team, but has always been uncomfortable of the popularity that and his looks give him. He’s out and no one cares, but getting a date is a different thing altogether. Most people expect him to want to date another gay athlete at the school, someone like him, but Brandon has always been attracted to men smaller and smarter than him.
When Brandon finds out that his best friend’s roommate is gay, he’s curious to know more from his friend. Just seeing Corey’s side of the dorm room gives him some ideas — a worn Rubik’s Cube, posters of Battlestar Galactica, and little armies of figures in their precise places. Corey is obviously a nerd, something that his roommate and Brandon’s friend continues to tell him. So when Brandon finally faces the fact that he’ll fail his statistics class without tutoring, he’s surprised that the cute guy who helps him is Corey. He’s cute, really smart, and just happens to say no to Brandon every time he asks him out.
The continued rebuttals force Brandon to get creative, but at the same time Corey is succumbing to pressure from his best friend to get out of his room, take some time off from his work and flirt with a guy. Brandon just happens to be cute and already interested in him…
Sorry for going on so long there. The prompt for this story is really why the story is so wonderful. That and the fact that Madison Parker is really talented at putting together cute/feel-good stories. But the prompt that wanted, specifically, a story with a Jock/Nerd trope turned on it’s head is what makes this story unique and special. Throughout the story, when we’d normally expect the jock to have all the power while wooing the pants of the nerd (literally), we have Corey holding the reins. Brandon has shown his interest in him countless times and seems like he’ll try to do anything to get Corey to recognize him in a romantic way and to make time for him among his math and cryptology work. But Corey already has firm goals placed in mind and is halfway to completing them. College for him is about forging the path to his future career, and he’s got both feet placed firmly on that path. A romantic distraction is not something that he needs, or wants; there will always be time for a boyfriend later, when he’s more established. So instead of what we expected form this trope, we have a nerd with all the power! Woo!
Madison has a lot of fun with codes and making codes in this story. Not only is it a GREAT way for Brandon to woo Corey, it’s also fun for us because we’re told a lot about different codes and how they’re encrypted. And in the end (this isn’t a spoiler!), the story ends with a code that we’re left to solve ourselves. I had a lot of fun with that. Madison talks all about the story and ciphers on her blog, which you should definitely check out. She even explains a basic keyword shift and gives us a message to decipher.
It’s good practice before reading the story!
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 5 Really Like It, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: 2013 Love Has No Boundaries, Baseball, College, Cryptology, Free Reads, Jocks/Nerds, M/M GoodReads Group, Madison Parker, Nerds/Geeks, Short Story, Sports, Strip Studying!, Tutors
Title: The Boy Next Door
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 61,221 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Kate McMurray Week!, Re-Reads, Closeted, Coming Out, Second Chances, Childhood Friends, Baseball, Kids, Divorce, Nasty Exes, Small Town America, Neighbors, Caregiver
Rating: So So
When Lowell moves back to his hometown to take care of his ailing mother, the last person he expects to see living in the house next door is his childhood friend Jase, grown up now and more attractive than ever. Jase had starred in many of Lowell’s teenage fantasies, but Lowell is convinced Jase is straight. And yet, as they rekindle their friendship, it begins to look like Jase might not be so straight after all.
Jase has problems of his own: his troubled ex-wife has allowed him full custody of their daughter on one condition: he never exposes her to his affairs with other men. The arrangement works just fine until he starts falling for Lowell and a whole new world of possibilities opens up for him. But how can he have a relationship with a man and still keep his daughter?
I tried to read this book once before. It wasn’t too long after I first read Kindling Fire with Snow, which I really liked. And… I couldn’t make it through the book. Ultimately, I DNFed it and went on. I think, though I remember little of the reason now, I didn’t have any real hangups with the book, I just couldn’t get into it. And now that I’ve read all of Kate’s backlist, I was eager to try it again. Chances are I was just not in the mood the first time around. In fact, that’s how it seemed as I started reading this again. By the midway point, though (which is where I stopped the first time), I started to remember the reasons I had a hard time reading it. This time around, it bothered me less. Still, I’d probably say that this is my least favorite book from Kate McMurray.
Lowell moves back to his hometown after the death of his abusive alcoholic father to care for his mother and unknowingly moves into the house next door from his childhood best friend and crush, Jase. They’ve both grown up quite a lot in the intervening years. Lowell, the first out gay student at their high school, flew the nest at the first opportunity for the city, where he created a life for himself at NYU and then as a graphic designer. Jase, the popular baseball jock in high school, followed his sport to college where he met his ex-wife and ultimately fathered a little girl. But Layla was the only kind thing during those years. Jase, calling himself a coward, married Karen even though he knew he was gay and went on to try to live the perfect suburban life. It didn’t work out. They divorced when he came out to her just two years ago from the start of the book. Again, his six year old daughter Layla is the best thing that ever happened to him, but her mother is an absentee parent leaving him with sole custody but a mother who drops into town every few months giving her daughter false hope of a real relationship. And besides her own problems with alcohol, her bouts of outspoken homophobia to Jase are mostly a plea for a return to how things used to be an an unwillingness to move on without blaming everything on Jase.
My real frustration with this book are Jase and Karen. For the most part, I feel like their actions and choices are based in solid history in the story, so I at least understand why they make the choices they do. Still, I have a hard time watching them play out when it seemed to create a bit of extra angst that I had a hard time with. I think mostly, though, I wished there were a better balance in this story between the despair that Jase feels toward just about every area of his life with the hope that I needed to make the story feel not to angsty. I recognize that this is a matter of personal taste, so I have no qualms saying outright that it was just me that had a hard time here. I just couldn’t get close to Jase. Even though I understood that he was willing to sacrifice his happiness for his daughter, there are time where he seems hell bent on sacrificing his own happiness just because of his own guilt (not divorce/broken-family guilt, but like, childhood Catholic guilt) and I didn’t feel like I understood how he was raised enough to make that picture clear for me. This is what made Four Corners work better for me. In that book, the flashbacks give a really accurate portrayal of their childhoods, and I felt like that was missing here. I just couldn’t always justify Jase’s choices and I’d find myself getting angry with him. On the other hand, I felt a love/hate relationship with the character of Karen. Partly I feel like I understood the way she was but then she’d say some things that took it a little over the top for me and I’d realize that I just wasn’t sure if I didn’t know enough about her or if she was still a bit of an archetypical villain. I couldn’t make up my mind.
It’s pretty different reading this, though, on the other side of having read and enjoyed all of Kate’s other work. I can see, especially from this book, where she’s really grown as an author. So, please, take this review as one of the many out there because I know there are readers who really liked this book and where the things that bothered me weren’t even an issue for them.
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, 41-75k, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Baseball, Caregivers, Childhood Friends, Closeted, Coming Out, Divorce, Kate McMurray, Kate McMurray Week!, Kids, Loose Id, Nasty Exes, Neighbors, Re-Reads, Second Chances, Small Towns
Title: Four Corners
Author: Kate McMurray
Length: 72,033 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Kate McMurray Week!, Friends to Lovers, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Best Friends, Childhood Friends, Baseball, Sports, Flashbacks, High School, Second Chances, Chicago
Rating: Really Liked It
Since childhood, Jake, Adam, Kyle, and Brendan have been teammates, best friends, brothers. Then one day, when they were twenty-five, Adam disappeared without a word, devastating his friends—none more so than Jake, who had secretly loved Adam since they were teenagers.
Now, five years later, Adam is back, and he has his mind set on Jake. But those years of anger, hurt, and confusion are a lot to overcome, and Jake doesn’t find it easy to forgive. He isn’t sure they’ll ever fit together the way they did. Jake, Kyle, and Brendan have moved on with their lives, but Adam’s high-profile career keeps him in the closet—the same place he’s been for years. Still, his apologies seem sincere, and the attraction is still there. Jake desperately wants to give him a chance. But first he has to find out why Adam left and if he’s really back for good.
Whew, this was a doozy for me — an intensely personal read and one that’s particularly difficult for me to review. The basis of the story is a bit of a Big Chill setup. Four childhood friends (the Four Corners because of the bases they all played on their high school baseball team) are split up when one of then, Adam, disappears for 5 years. Jake has been in love with Adam since they were in their early teens. Actually, probably before that but he didn’t know what his feelings meant. Though he knows that Adam is gay as well, it’s something they don’t speak of. When they all leave to go their separate ways for college, Jake is free to move on from his feelings for Adam and explore his sexuality.
But when Adam leaves, it destroys their close family. A new dynamic emerges over Adam’s five year absence. Brendan and Kyle become the ones Jake is closest to, and though they’re both straight (well, Kyle is a question mark!), they’re fiercely protective of him. It’s obvious that in all these years no one has claimed the feelings that Jake still harbors for Adam. But now those feelings are tainted with anger at Adams absence and confusion over what Jake did to make him leave.
When Adam turns up, almost as if nothing ever happened, their new dynamic as three best friends are thrown out of whack. But Jake can’t stay away from Adam. And when Adam starts doing whatever he can to make up his absence to Jake, it throws all of their relationships in turmoil. Why did Adam leave, refusing contact all those years? And can he ever really come to terms with being gay and out?
As I said, this was an intensely personal read for me. I have a feeling that some readers might have a hard time understanding Adam and why he did what he did. Make no mistake — despite my feelings, I felt like Kate McMurray did a remarkable job explaining his emotional turmoil and what he was going through to make him take such drastic action as to leave everyone behind. But, without going into too many details… I’ve been in that position before and so I could really understand what makes someone want to flee and the intense betrayal that causes.
I admired the writing in this story. I can’t say that it’s my favorite of Kate’s novels, but that’s only because I love Out in the Field so much that this book would have to be absolutely extraordinary to top that. But, this is really a grown up romance novel. Not to say that any kind of book with sex in it is childish! But… I think that this story is given care to represent a situation and real emotion in a way that isn’t sugarcoated. The characters aren’t written to be liked, but to simply play out their emotions, through which they make you like them. In fact, my feelings about both Adam and Jake were ambiguous until over halfway through the story when I felt like they both, at the same time, were starting to be accountable for their actions.
I rarely say this, but my favorite part of this book were the flashbacks. They aren’t classic flashbacks, more Jake’s memories depending on where he is in the story and what he’s thinking. But they tie the past and present perfectly together, framing the similarities and differences between the past Adam and Jake and the present Adam and Jake and showing the drastic dynamic change between the group of friends. It’s this atmosphere and mood of joy and solidarity created by the flashbacks that just how Adam’s disappearance messed up their group.
This is definitely a recommended read. And no matter how personal of a read it was for me, it wasn’t particularly angst-filled. Kate seems to have a knack, now that I realize I’ve said something similar in most of my reviews of her books this week, for allowing the characters their emotional turmoil but not taking things too far. The epilogue is sweet and gives this story a firm HEA. There’s also a free short sequel called “Shortstop” that was posted recently on the Dreamspinner Facebook page. I can’t find the link and I can’t find it on the Dreamspinner FB page (thought I didn’t have long to look), but I know it’s there from a google search. So, if you can find it, it’s really cute and shows Jake and Adam as a couple two years after the end of the novel.
Edit: Here’s the link to the free sequel short, “Shortstop”: http://dreamspinnerpress.com/blog/2013/05/24/sexy-anniversary-short-shortstop-by-kate-mcmurray/
Make sure to read my interview with Kate McMurray today!
Posted by Cole in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Baseball, Best Friends, Chicago, Childhood Friends, Dreamspinner Press, Flashbacks, Friends to Lovers, High School, Kate McMurray, Kate McMurray Week!, Second Chances, Sports, Straight/Gay Male Friendships