There is nothing I love more than stumbling across an author I’ve never heard of before either because of the intriguing book blurb or a gorgeous cover. When the first pages manage to suck me in and keep me flipping pages (I spent four hours reading this from cover to cover), then I know I’ve hit the jackpot. The Winning Season was, for me, a home run.
Kelly Maxwell was a great heroine with many layers to her personality. As the person who handled all aspects off public relations for the San Francisco Blaze MLB team, she had a reputation to upkeep. She was tough as nails, she was very dedicated to her job and she loved the game itself. She even played on a softball team, and she was damn good at it. On a more personal level, she had quite a temper when riled up, she could swear like a sailor, she was competitive and she was four years along in her recovery from an eating disorder. For the most part, her body image wasn’t that much of an issue for her, but once in a while an old insecurity would rear its ugly head. The mentions served to show just how far she’d come, but it also showed the her continuous struggle not to fall off the wagon. I liked that strength in her. Come to think of it, she reminded me of Geena Davies in A League of Their Own
(one of my all time favorite movies).
Matt Scanlon wasn’t a hero I instantly fell in love with. At least, not at first. Getting traded from his beloved L.A. Dodgers to the rival team was just the tip of the iceberg that made him come across as a jerk. From poster boy to bad boy. A tragedy, a secret kept out of the media’s eye, caused him to hit rock bottom. It was when he was at his worst that he met Kelly for the first time, and the sparks went flying, but not in a good way. A few choice insults back and forth, and it was a match made in hell. I liked the contrasting portrayal of his character throughout the story, especially with the hints that he hadn’t always been self-destructive. On a good day, he was cocky, confident, and he was learning to accept his place within his new team.
I absolutely loved Kelly and Matt as a couple. This couple invoked so many laugh out loud moments with their dialogues and great lines. He loved riling her up, and she gave back as good a she got. It wasn’t always a form of verbal foreplay but rather two incredibly stubborn individuals not willing to give an inch. Finding a reason to call a tentative truce seemed almost impossible, until Matt was chosen by a precious little girl, Lily, as her hero. The relationship eventually morphed from animosity into attraction, and I loved that Matt began to see her in a different light after watching her play. Their bond continued to grow and strengthened over their mutual concern for Lily, and with the awareness of the sexual tension between them. When they finally came together, it was so worth the struggle to get to that point. There were so many lovely moments between them, but what really stood out to me where the times when they didn’t beat around the bush when it came to opening up. That was a sign of maturity I often find lacking in other books.
The story and the development of their relationship was nicely and evenly paced. There were a lot of other things happening on the side, but I never got the feeling that they slowed the story down in any way. In fact, they served to provide a more well-rounded view of Kelly and Matt’s lives in the business as well as in their personal lives. The glimpses of Kelly’s family were a really sweet addition. The drama portion of the story was a little predictable, but in the end, I loved how our couple came by their epiphanies on their own. Though not necessary, the story of Kelly’s sister, Kayla, can be found in Love in the Afternoon.
I can’t wait to go back and read that book, and I hope the next book will be about Angie and J.T. I’m dying to know what went down between them that has Angie being so stubborn. With that said, go grab a copy of The Winning Season! Right now! I’m awarding this book with a Top Pick not only because I thought it was a very well written story, but it also has a re-readability factor that I can’t ignore. I will undoubtedly be reaching for this book repeatedly in the future.Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.