Reviewed: April 1, 2011
Genre: Sports Romance
Series: Pacific Heat, Book 2
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 336 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Pacific Heat publicist Samantha McNead is tasked with cleaning up the image of Major League Baseball's bad boy catcher Wade O'Riley after a paternity allegation from a stalker hurts the team's image and risks a valuable conservative corporate sponsor. To do so she and Wade are going to have to pretend to be in an exclusive relationship for a month, no matter how uncomfortable that thought makes her given their incendiary past and the memory of an erotic episode in an Atlanta elevator months ago.
A memory...and a man...that Sam just couldn't make herself forget.
He survived a childhood of abject poverty with an alcoholic father who was distressingly negligent. Hard work got him into college, more hard work and a gift for baseball saw him through and gave him a future, but left him forever marked by his past. Since the money started rolling in, Wade lives his life in as fun and easy a manner as possible. He gives to charities, financially supports causes, and sends buckets back to his father to pay for his health care. But light, fun, easy - those are more than words, they're his life's mantra, and the one thing Wade never gives to others is a true piece of himself. He keeps himself hidden behind a face of carefree insouciance. He's happy that way.
If there was one night months ago that might have broken through the walls he keeps so firmly in place and rocked him a bit deeper than he was comfortable admitting, well...it's not like Sam ever has to know. And who cares if he hasn't been with another woman since that hot Atlanta night? That's a personal choice. Really. Hell, if he was going to be stuck with a month of a pretend relationship with Sam, he was man enough to make the best of it, especially when just looking at the woman still sets all Wade's internal fires burning.
The problem is a month with Sam may just have Wade yearning to steal home. For life.
This second book in the Pacific Heat series is even more charming than the first, with all of Shalvis' skill in matching two complementary, likable characters with heat and passion. Wade was surprisingly complex, though such a stereotypical male in so many ways. He's scarred by his past, wounded deeply by his father's alcoholism, and yet as generous as he can be even as he protects his heart from the pain he knew as a child. His struggles with emotional maturity made for appealing reading and the culmination of his efforts were endearing. And he's mostly oblivious to it all. But charmingly so.
Sam was a smart, strong professional woman in a man's world. She more than holds her own, she commands respect and admiration in her job. Her personal life, though, has suffered. Being the only woman in a family of powerful men has given her backbone, but has forced her to sacrifice maybe a little too much of her heart. A fact she realizes when her ten year old nephew Tag is unceremoniously dumped on her and he's a total stranger to her. Shalvis did a really nice job developing Sam, rounding her out without compromising on her professional career.
The concept of the plot was a little silly, sure, and the thought that one of the owners of a MLB team would essentially prostitute his daughter for corporate sponsorship is more than a little gross. I also have a hard time believing that a month of fake relationship would achieve the intended objective, nor was I able to completely buy into the idea that it could be successfully pulled off in this day of public persona voyeurism. The lack of attention given to Sam's obviously flawed family situation bothered me, and the fact that Sam's detestable brother never got any sort of comeuppance was a tragedy. Call me vengeful, but that guy needed a serious kick in the athletic supporter.
The romance of Wade and Sam, though, and the subplots of Wade and his dad and Sam and Tag, were all very well done and fun to read, and full of genuine emotion that ran the gamut. I did think the end of Slow Heat was very abrupt, and I would have loved one more chapter or an epilogue or something, but overall it provided plenty of the sort of light, satisfying romance reading that I've come to absolutely count on when it comes to Shalvis. Her books are just flat-out fun to read. They're full of sexy heat, intense emotion, and well written story, and offer up the sort of characters that are most pleasant to spend time with. I fully expect I'll be spending my time with more of Shalvis' characters soon...and often.
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