ALL OF ME
Love Between the Bases #1
by Jennifer Bernard
HarperCollins/Avon Romance May 26, 2015
E-book and Mass Market Paperback 384 pages
E-Galley provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except otherwise noted or if I am relating information from a conversation with an author.
Playing for the Kilby Catfish is hotshot pitcher Caleb Hart’s last chance to salvage his career after a major league meltdown. But the day of his opener with the minor league team, Caleb strikes out with the gorgeous woman who is delivering a petition to run the unruly Catfish out of town. Now to stay in the lineup, Caleb will need to score big with the feisty brunette he can’t keep out of his thoughts.
After the nasty lies Sadie Merritt’s rich ex-boyfriend spread about her all over town, she’s lucky to have a job at all. She can’t afford to screw it up by falling for the player who is supposed to be helping her change the image of the fun-loving Catfish. But that’s easier said than done when Caleb’s voice alone is enough to make her pulse race. And when he surprises her with a mind-blowing kiss, she knows there’s no turning back. http://www.jenniferbernard.net/all-of-me.php
I have been chatting with Jennifer Bernard on Facebook and when she visited my area recently I asked if we could get in touch and talk about her work. She was nice enough to get together with me in a small cafe and we had a lovely lunch and, I think we both left feeling like friends. Honestly, we had so much fun that I kind of took crappy notes and I am relating this via memory (I also forgot to take a picture – >>face-palm<<).
Jennifer is wicked (a Maine term indicating “really, really,” amazingly, or cool!) intelligent, a Harvard graduate who has made a living in writing since graduation. Her mother is a poet and her father is a professor. Being academics, her parents are a little stymied by her love of romance novels. I asked her if she ever feels pressure to write loftier fiction. Smiling she replied, that her parents do have her books (although in the basement book shelves perhaps, she suggested, showing a little ambivalence for her career). Love and relationships are a huge part of our lives and if she can make people happy through her books then as far as she is concerned there isn’t much she can do that’s loftier than that.
Another blogger suggested I ask Jennifer whether her own relationships drive the relationships about which she writes. To me this is the alchemy of fiction: Creating characters and then putting them in stories, situations and relationships, and I am in awe of it. Jennifer said that she hasn’t done everything her characters do. But that there’s a little of her in all her characters. Strangely, she finds it easier to write male characters and get in their heads.
Jennifer told me that the series themes are a backdrop for the story and the relationship. Sometimes, though, she says she doesn’t know what the story is really about until she starts rewriting and editing the first draft. That’s when she realizes she is writing a love story and more.
Are her bachelor firemen stories just about getting it on with hot firefighters? Not just — each of those firefighters and the people they fall in love with have to overcome some major physical, psychological or family issue. Coming up against their jobs and the plot is where the characters work out their issues.
Jennifer is a big baseball fan (Go Sox!) and her new series takes her into the heart of the game. We all love the majors, but the “farm teams” the minor leagues are where people often start and end their careers. If a major league player gets off-track or injured they often get sent to a farm team to figure out why or to do their rehab. Caleb is a major league pitcher whose family life suddenly got really complicated. It threatened his career. First he got traded and then he got sent down.
His head and his heart haven’t quite gotten the message that he has to be all in for the game. He can’t play fro the wrong reason and he can’t hide from the public. When he meets Sadie, somehow that changes his life. Being with her, working on a project with her gets his game back on track.
The attraction between the couple is instant, exciting and Sadie thinks getting together is a bad idea but she is just too drawn to him to not enjoy it, at least for a little while.
Sadie’s issues are very au courant – she’s from a town run by one powerful family and she’s gotten on their bad side. They’ve bullied her so much that even her mother has suffered from it.
I was kind of amazed by how well Jennifer has translated the feelings of being bullied into this character’s life. The shame, the injustice and the frustration are all there and very palpable. She is “slut-shamed” [completely false allegations] in person and on line, and this felt very “pulled from the headlines.” I felt rather indignant on Sadie’s behalf. Both characters are very responsible but each needs to gain some emotional maturity to handle their relationship as it becomes complicated by their family issues. It is as if their emotional growth was put on hold by having had to become responsible too young.
Also palpable is the way Sadie feels a little guilty, as if she maybe acted in a way that prompted the behaviors of her ex and his family. And of course, Cal has feelings of guilt for being his father’s rube and evading questions about him. Guilt is such an unproductive emotion but it’s very human. I think the only people who don’t feel guilt are the people who probably should be feeling it.
Most of the other characters are developed to the extent they need to be; the less important characters are less fleshed out. Cal’s father is very interesting and complicated: he’s a grifter but I felt he really did love his family as far as he can. His identity is self-created, I enjoyed the allusion Jennifer makes to a certain TV show with it.
In any event the heat between the characters is instantaneous and just about melted my e-reader. Jennifer writes super hot stuff, but in all the work I have read the relationships are affectionate and respectful.
I really enjoyed the book, and I can’t wait to see what kind of ball Jennifer will pitch with the next book! It’s one pitch I do not want to miss!
HarperCollins’ Book Page: http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062372185/all-of-me