Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars
A second chance sports romance that is light hearted, and has an original concept that fans of the genre can really enjoy!
While a lot of other readers and reviewers can say they absolutely adored this title, I’m afraid I can’t necessarily join that group…The book wasn’t terrible by any means, believe me! There are plenty of great things to praise about this book, and I did enjoy it for what it was, especially with the more original concept for professional Baseball players getting together for a secret romance novel bookclub, but I can only say I just liked it and didn’t love it.
Normally I love sports romances! I grew up around sports pretty much my whole life, and have tried just about every single one at least once: Baseball, Hockey, Basketball, Soccer, and Football. I understand the dynamics of them, along with the brotherhood and camaraderie amongst the teammates as they compete for greatness. Even in this book, the athletes go against every stigma and stereotype of toxic masculinity as they read romance novels and help each other out with their relationships. The support they show each other is absolutely so genuine and heart-eyes, even though some of the dialogue is way off from a male perspective. Not that men can’t be sensitive and be in touch with their feelings, but you have to admit they talk about it differently than women do, and some of the dialogue that these grown men say about certain topics, even their take on toxic masculinity, is not realistic…sorry to say.
Besides that, this book has a lot of positive things to boast! The original concept of the book club, it’s a quick and easy read, there’s plenty of fluff and steam, and there’s plenty of likeable side-characters to get into!
Also, total side note: I got a real DJ and Stephanie Tanner vibe from Thea and her younger sister, Liv. By this, I do mean their sister dynamic from the Full House Netflix spinoff: Fuller House. It’s when they’re older and DJ has her kids while Stephanie is the cool aunt living in the basement while she’s trying to get back on her feet.
What It’s About:
The Official Blurb:
The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.
Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.
Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.
Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.
What I Liked:
- BOTH Spouses Needed to Work on their Marriage! One part of the story that I really enjoyed was how it’d turned out that both characters, Thea and Gavin, had issues they needed to work on if their marriage was to be fixed. I was worried about what the story would’ve been like if it’d continued being just about Gavin’s side of fixing their relationship, because this may shock some people: men aren’t the only ones who can ruin a relationship. Sure, Gavin didn’t handle it well when the issues had become too big to ignore any longer—which was a big part of the issues too—it’d become obvious that Thea wasn’t all that innocent either. Both needed to put in some more work, and I’m glad it became that way for the story, even though it’d felt like it was all about how only Gavin seemed to be doing anything to try and fix the problem for a lot of the book. I do wish Thea could’ve had her moments of growth earlier on in the book, as hers felt so rushed at the end.
- Crossover With A Novel Within The Novel! Like it’d mentioned in the blurb, there’s a regency romance mentioned quite a bit throughout the story. It has a similar theme to what Gavin is going through—hence why the book club chose it—and some chapters are actually excerpts from this book. If this book were a movie, I’d imagine Gavin and Thea also playing the characters in flashback-like scenes straight out of Courting The Countess.
- A More Original Idea for the Romance Genre! One shortcoming of the Romance genre in general is how it’s run on a lot of clichés. I mean that by character arcs and plots and how too many of them all have the same thing over and over. This book is a refreshing and new type of story for the “second chance” trope that I’m sure a lot of romance fans enjoy. I mean, I personally haven’t ever heard of any other story that has professional Baseball players forming a secret book club to read romance novels in order to help each other’s relationships. It’s a sweet idea, and novels like this one should be praised for their originality within the genre!
What I Didn’t Like:
- Too Cheesy in Some Areas! What I really mean by this is how all the professional athletes get a little too introspective during their meetings for the bookclub. Like, hear me out…I’m a gay male who’s been around quite a few different types of people, especially during my recent college years, but never have I heard any male of any orientation have conversations like the ones that happen in this book. Similar themes may have come up, but the way the guys spoke about certain topics like love, women, toxic masculinity, and relationships sounded a bit too far fetched for this male reader. Sure, women probably want men to sound like this when they get together for guys night and talk like the characters do, but it’s not usually the case, at least with how they did it. The tone was way off with how men actually speak, and you can tell a woman wrote them to sound like that, and not trying to start a sexism argument or anything here…but I HEAVILY rolled my eyes at some of the lines said, especially from the particular character, Braden Mack. He’s a smooth lady killer one moment that all the guys can’t stand, then next he’s the most introspective member of the whole group…I wasn’t sold.
- Thea Doesn’t Help Out! I mentioned this earlier, but also thought about saying it here too. Thea has her moments of growth in the story, but it happens so much later in the story—and is totally rushed—so she’s really unhelpful through almost 75% of the book. It’s learned how she’d faked orgasms with her husband, and just kept so many other issues bottled up, but got mad at Gavin when it seemed like he couldn’t read her mind. I personally get so annoyed when people do this—both men and woman—but holy freakin’ bitch-tits….COMMUNICATE! No one can know what the issue is if you don’t talk about it out loud and just leave it inside your own head. She doesn’t tell Gavin any of her issues, and gets upset at him for not immediately understanding her about a lot of it. She didn’t make things all that much easier when he actually starts putting in a lot of work to try and make things work for their marriage. I get the whole feminism thing and putting a masculine male in his place when it’s needed, but she was seriously just an unreasonable bitch at some points!
- Lack of Character Descriptions! This is a really small irksome critique for me, but there were almost no descriptions for any of the characters except for Gavin at the very beginning. I like to know the character’s skin tones, eye and hair colors, etc. and I got none of that in this book! Paint me a picture! Don’t leave it so wide open! Give me something to work with!!
Overall, I liked this book but didn’t love it. It had its moments, and was a cute, funny, heartwarming, cheesy and informative take on what it takes from both people to make a relationship work after it’s been getting worse and worse as the years go by. While giving readers everything they’d look for in a romance novel, but also provides some intelligent and valuable life lessons that just about anyone can grow from. It was an unexpected amount of depth for the story; almost coming of age.
The characters were all extremely likeable, especially Gavin Scott, and had you rooting for them all to have their happy endings, and since knowing this is the first in a series, provides some minor moments with others to hint at more to come later.
Some of the dialogue amongst the men and how they spoke about women, love, relationships was a little too far fetched and non-believable—this is coming from a male reader who’s gay too—that added a lot of the cheesiness to the story, but I don’t think everyone will be annoyed at that as much as I was.
I recommend this to anyone who likes “Second Chance” romance stories where the characters come back into each other’s lives and both work on what went wrong in the first place in order to make it work better the next time around. It’s an adorable story with a more original base with the book club, and I think lovers of contemporary romance will get a kick out of it!
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell