This one is hot. I mean steaming hot, with believable sex too, between two people I couldn’t help but like.
After a series of “meh” and C reads, not all of which I’ve reviewed, and a fair few DNF’s that I didn’t read far enough into to give a fair review to, someone said, “Try Jill Shalvis. You’ll love this one.”
Well, she was so totally right. I inhaled this book in one sitting. Could not stop reading. If you’re looking for a book with oodles of tension and will-they-won’t-they, you won’t get it here, but this is a romance, so it’s a guarantee that Mark and Rainey will end up together, committed to each other. But if you want to read about a courtship and romance, with very few distractions, then this is the book for you.
Rainey has forged a life for herself in her hometown. She’s thirty and is receiving the usual “Isn’t it time you settled down” noises from family and friends, not least from her best friend Lena, who has found the man of her dreams in local businessman Rick. She’s in no particular hurry, and the first scene of the story shows her accepting a blind date from the son of a friend of her mother’s.
Mark is Rick’s brother, but unlike Rick, he left home. He now coaches a team called the Mammoths, who don’t actually exist in reality, so don’t go looking for them in the leagues. I don’t understand US sport, but I wasn’t left wondering in this book, except for one or two cryptic utterances from the hero. He comes to his old home with two players in tow. They’ve misbehaved, so they’re doing Good Works rather than having some vacation time. After a recent fire, many people have been left homeless, and as well as coaching the local baseball team (I think it was baseball – it sounded like rounders and it had pitchers and catchers in it), they are helping around.
Rainey and Mark have history. When she was sixteen she had a helpless crush on him, leading her to an embarrassing scene when she got into his apartment wearing next to nothing, only to discover him getting a blowjob. So she resents him. The main conflict keeping Mark and Rainey apart is her shame from that earlier incident and her knowledge that he is a player on and off the field. However, Mark is a likeable player. He never pulls the old “this is just sex” thing, although he comes close a time or two, and he treats his girlfriends fairly. In less skilled hands, Rainey could be annoying, since she is extremely wary of getting involved with Mark. But in Shalvis’s, it works well. She knows Mark can’t stay and she knows he doesn’t take women seriously, not next to his career. That, taken with her continuing infatuation for him, is dangerous for her, and she knows it.
Mark has always wanted Rainey, and this time he gets her. The sex is hot, really hot. Scorching against the wall, shower – in fact, the only thing missing was elevator sex. They do get to a bed, but in different circumstances, and it allows Mark to show his practical, caring side.
A lesser writer might also assume that a sports coach is the nurturing kind. Well, he is, but not always in that gentle, feminine way. Otherwise, Sir Alex Ferguson might not have thrown a boot at David Beckham and made him get stitches for the resulting cut (allegedly – it’s a well-known incident, but neither side has confirmed or denied it, so I have to put that bit). Mark is the kind of take-no-nonsense coach who is aware of his investors and his responsibilities. He’s also very young, 34, and he has “the look” that he deploys a time or two. It’s something coaches of whatever sport have. At least the successful ones do. Although a bit younger, Mark has that Jose Mourinho thing going for him, and I’m all for that. This is the difference between providing an alpha male who is abusive and up his own ass and a true nurturing alpha. Mark’s busyness, the way he runs his job, the way he cares for people who need it and often notices before anyone else makes for a character I want to root for, despite his carelessness to the women in his life.
Rainey could have been irritatingly stubborn or perverse, but because she is afraid, and Shalvis lets the reader see that, I like her. She is a grown-up too, which I always prefer to a gorgeous but inexperienced twenty year old.
I used to drink up small-town romances by American authors, because they showed a way of life alien to me. Village life and small town life in the UK is totally different, even down to the geography and the youthful memories. Then the sweetness in many of these romances got to me and I went off them a bit. Everybody is kind and nice and neighbourly, apart from one person or one family. While Time Out has some of this, it is never overwhelming. The teenagers are a bit softer than they are in real life, more “Glee” than “Skins,” even the bad ones having reasons to be bad, and the black moment is only sketchily foreshadowed, but it is enough and it doesn’t spoil my enjoyment of this well written, eminently readable book.
NHL coach Mark Diego’s plan to spend his off-season volunteering in his hometown goes awry when he learns that not only is he coaching teenage girls, but that the program is coordinated by energetic (and five feet two inches of trouble) coordinator Rainey Saunders, his childhood friend—and the woman he could never stand to see dating any other guy….
When their tempers flare, Mark and Rainey discover their fireworks don’t just burn angry—they burn very, very hot! But that’ll just sweeten the victory. Because Mark always plays to win. And with Rainey, he’s planning on playing very dirty, too…
Read an excerpt.