The Winning Season by Alison Packard
Series: Feeling the Heat #2
Published by Carina Press
Publication Date: July 15th 2013
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Kelly Maxwell has finally landed her dream job as publicist for the San Francisco Blaze. But the team's newest member, handsome bad boy catcher Matt Scanlon, is refusing every interview. She's got to get him to open up before the season ends, or she may not be back next year. And after everything she overcame to achieve her dream, Kelly's not about to let that happen.
Matt Scanlon just wants to be left alone to rebuild his life and his career. After a year of masking the pain of a recent loss with hard partying and fast women, he finally hit rock bottom and was traded to a team he's loathed his entire life—a team with little to no chance at the post-season.
Butting heads is getting Kelly and Matt nowhere but annoyed, and with the team's schedule on the road, they can't avoid close quarters—or their surprising attraction to one another. As the season winds down, Matt finds his growing feelings for Kelly have brought his numbed emotions back to life. But when betrayal shatters their fragile trust, winning it all seems more impossible than ever.
I’m kind of a sucker for sports romances. This was a pretty good one. I enjoyed both main characters and the baseball setting.
Matt was the golden boy of MLB until he started partying too hard and acting out, for reasons known only to him. He pushes things too far and ends up getting traded to the Blaze, a team he’s always loathed. That was the wake-up call he needed to get himself back on track. Now he’s just biding his time and doing his best to earn back his reputation.
Kelly is the publicist for the Blaze and loathes Matt. They had a run-in a few months before he was traded and he said some terrible things to her that really hit her where it hurts. She’s tries to be professional and make the most of the situation, but Matt is being obstinate about doing interviews and, in general, making Kelly’s life hell.
Until a freak encounter makes them realize they’re extremely attracted to each other. Then the game changes. Where before there was just tension, now there’s sexual tension – in spades.
I really liked Kelly. She was a no-nonsense woman. She plays softball, she cusses, she tells it like it is and she’s not afraid to stand up for herself. She had some insecurities and vulnerabilities, but she didn’t let them define her. With the way Matt was acting, if Kelly hadn’t been the type to stand up for herself, there’s no way the story would have worked. That she could – and did – handle him and his surly moods, really made the story. She was easy to relate to.
Matt was a total jerk in the beginning of the story, but it wasn’t long before we saw there was more to him. His struggle to get back on track and redeem himself to his fans and the officials was real and interesting. He’s dealing with a lot of emotional turmoil – the loss that sent him spiraling to begin with, hitting rock bottom and being traded – and surprisingly, it’s Kelly who helps him deal with it. She doesn’t realize it, but she’s key in helping him get outside his own head and learning to deal with his new reality.
Their relationship doesn’t develop overnight, which really helped built the story. Their progression from enemies to frenemies to friends was well-documented and really worked. From there it made sense that they’d move into a physical relationship as well, since they had chemistry in spades.
The baseball side of the story really worked for me. There was a lot of interaction between Kelly and the team, Matt and his new teammates and so on. Packard did a good job of incorporating the sports and making it a strong foundation for the story.
With a strong romance, emotional story and sports theme, this was a winner.
4 out of 5