****posted as a guest review at paranormalhaven.com*****
Alison Packard is quickly becoming an author to watch in the field of contemporary romance. I was enthralled with her debut novel, Love in the Afternoon, so when I found out that she had another novel due out, I quickly made the review request. I’m not exactly a fan of sports themed romances, but the author did a fantastic job of interspersing the sport of baseball throughout the book.
In The Winning Season, you have Kelly Maxwell, the senior media relations coordinator for the San Francisco Blaze, and Matt Scanlon, a player who’s been traded to the Blaze from the Dodgers. Matt and Kelly previously had met in Love in the Afternoon and to say it did not go well would be a severe understatement. Matt’s behavior has been on a downward spiral that ended with him being traded to the Blaze and Kelly calls him out on his attitude. Smart, no non-sense, with a practical attitude, Kelly makes for a wonderful heroine. I was slightly less sold on surly Matt, and I thought I could see his story coming from a mile away (though it turns out I was half right/wrong).You watch the two of them butt heads as Kelly tries to get Matt to interview for the team and he keeps refusing. Part of Matt’s resentment of Kelly stems at how professional and businesslike she appears to be at all times, and I very much appreciated this aspect of her character.
On a more serious note, she is also recovering from a serious eating disorder and I liked how the author didn’t try to gloss it over. I really did appreciate how this was represented because I used to compete in figure skating and I would see girls binge or damn near starve themselves to get thin. The recovery itself is a process, and this is represented in the text as such. There are also a couple of subplot threads that I could have honestly done without. Kelly is worried that her assistant, Alexis, has an eating disorder, and the way Kelly handles this is pretty ham-fisted. She’s slow to talk to her assistant or take any action whatsoever and this didn’t seem to measure up to her own history and practical nature.
The other subplot involved one of Kelly’s friends, Angie, her deadbeat boyfriend, and Angie’s tentative interest in one of the other ballplayers, J.T. It felt like filler, and didn’t really add anything to the story of Matt and Kelly.I like how the relationship between Matt and Kelly develops. You watch them reassess one another as they volunteer for a charity with sick children. This plotline foreshadows the big issue that concerns Matt, and while I wasn’t blown away with surprise, it did serve to make his character slightly more sympathetic. While Matt and Kelly certainly don’t start out as friends, watching them progress from hostility and into something so much more makes for a very satisfying read.