Book Review

Slow Heat by Jill Shalvis

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Title: Slow Heat
Author: Jill Shalvis
Publication Info: Berkley February 2010
ISBN: 9780425233665
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Cover Samantha McNead is the PR director for the Pacific Heat, a major league baseball team in California. Wade O’Riley is the catcher, both in the sense that he crouches behind home plate and grabs 90-mph fastballs, and in the sense that women throw themselves at him.

ETA: Forgot a paragraph – oops! When a crazy fan fakes a pregnancy and claims the baby is Wade’s, a decision is made to have Sam and Wade pair off for awhile in the public eye to take the negative attention off of him and to give him a person in his life that will keep both crazy fangirl and other potential crazy fangirls away. Their fake relationship begins at a wedding Wade is in, and being in close proximity forces them to confront a moment in their past that both Sam and Wade have been trying to forget.

So many times Shalvis sets up what could be a cliched tension or character, and she could have stopped there. It would have been familiar, though lame. There’s a series of examples of how she could have left something before drawing it out, and each time she takes the extra step (and another and another) to make the character, the situation, the plot into something more powerful, more important, just more.

For starters, the book begins with Sam and Wade going to the weekend wedding away,sharing a hotel suite, and pretending for the public to be a couple. Shalvis could have stopped there, or kept most of the book set at that weekend wedding, or made the wedding a week long extravaganza of sexual tension. Or it could have been a long, But no: Wade and Sam deal with their past, and their fradulent-but-sort-of-not-really present relationship and then move on from that weekend to reenter their lives. It’s not as if they escape into a wedding weekend and everything works out when they return home. They escape their lives temporarily, much like they do when they travel for away games. There is still “home” and problems that come with it every time they return. And since it’s baseball, they run home a lot.

Another example is Tag, Sam’s nephew. Tag’s father is checking into rehab, and sends Tag to Sam without warning or even explanation. Just ‘Hello, there’s a kid here for you.’ Tag moves into her condo, and begins life on the road with Sam and the team, learning from a tutor and trying to figure out what to do now that he’s not wanted by his mother or father. Sam initially accepts him because he’s family, and he’s a child, and she’s got a truly good heart, but ultimately, she learns to care about Tag in a way that scares her. But even with that fear, she perseveres because Tag is more important than her fear. In most things, she’s a grown up – how refreshing.

Tag could have been just a pesky kid who disappears and reappears at convenient plot points, but Shalvis takes him, like everything else, into new and dangerous territory. I didn’t always believe that Tag was so quick to adapt to the massive changes in his life, but Shalvis didn’t blink when it came to portraying the phases of adjustment Tag was going through. First he does everything perfectly to avoid being sent home, then he tests her to try to make her make him leave and prove that her promise of permanence (or semi-permanence) was a lie.

Sam’s relationship with Tag is as important in the story as her relationship with Wade. Sam is indelibly shaped by the men in her life, and this is a male of the next generation after her own, one who isn’t weighed down by the same pressure that was thrown upon Sam from an early age. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to understand how Sam, who is not a terribly instint-driven person, goes from not knowing Tag at all and having seen him twice in his life, to feeling a deep and prominent love for him such that his place in her life is crucial within a matter of weeks or a chapter or two. Theirs is a strange kind of familial insta-love that worked on some levels, but really didn’t on others.

Tag also serves as a mirror for Wade. Both males think they are temporary fixtures in her life, and are afraid to trust her completely, even though they both want to, and even though she’s given them no reason not to. All three of them are afraid for various reasons, and the steps of their learning from each other how to trust and be trusted are tiny and real and memorable.

Wade is a piece of work. Wade’s lazy. He hasn’t had to work terribly hard to be charming, and probably the greatest effort he’s exhibited is for baseball, and even then he makes it look easy. So with Sam, he figures he’ll take what he can get and doesn’t ever see himself permanently involved with her or anyone. Wade is a master avoider, and a lazy bum to boot, and seeing him have a fire lit under his ass and watching him realize that he has to face his own feelings to ever grow in any direction is wrenching and realistic. He’s also charming for the reader, and very likeable.

Wade’s father was a neglectful abusive alcoholic, and his father now wants to be part of his life. Wade avoids him, too, until he can’t avoid his father anymore, and must face his father and his father’s alcoholism and his past. Shalvis did a real job of portraying Wade’s dad’s withdrawal from alcohol. She could have left alcoholic father to experience miraculous recovery, but Wade’s dad goes through everything, and it’s painful.  Shalvis also doesn’t flinch from revealing how badly Wade needed to tell his dad what a shit he was so they could both recover. Wade’s dad is a painful but powerful character to read.

Wade’s father, however, provides an unhappy contrast with Sam’s family: for a force of males who have influenced her profoundly, we don’t see much of them, and when we see them, they’re stereotypes or fixtures. I wasn’t sure how she hadn’t told one or all of them to go fuck themselves a long time before the start of the novel because they did little of importance and mostly existed as distant, cold, scary assholes or just complete wastes of breath. I think Sam, though not as explicitly as I would have liked, identified with Tag as an outcast in his own family, and she was instantly sympathetic to him because she could create the kind of family environment that she and he both ought to have had. But the Insta-Love for kids is a tough sell when there’s nothing to contrast that with, especially since her brothers and dad were really absent, and the reader had to take Sam’s word for it, and Wade’s to a lesser extent, what real buttholes they were.

Wade avoids, and Sam gives, and eventually, the two of them step over their own fears and challenge one another – and the last scene, though not nearly long enough for my liking, was a powerful moment for Wade. As usual Shalvis delivers a memorable hero, and a heroine who is his match, both in the coupled sense and the game opponent sense. There were moments when I couldn’t stop reading, especially in the first two-thirds of the book, because so many “could have been cliche” moments coalesce into big, real, and delicately powerful problems that I had to keep reading. The resolution is too fast in some ways, and I wanted more of the “more” that Shalvis built on standard cliches, but either way, I finished with a smile on my face.


Want a copy? I’ve got 15 to giveaway to random commenters. Just leave a comment here and tell me about sports romances – like or not? Baseball or no? One thing about Shalvis’ Pacific Heat series, it’s made fans out of readers who proport not to like baseball (Can you imagine?). I’ll pick 15 winners after midnight on Sunday, 31 January, 2010. Standard disclaimers apply: I am not being compensated for this review and the copies are being provided by the author from her stash from the publisher. Freshest if eaten before date on carton. Limited time offer, call now to insure prompt delivery. Beware of dog. 

Slow Heat is available from Amazon.com, Book Depository and Powell’s.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    This sounds like a great book!

    I never would have thought I’d enjoy a “sports romance” – until I read SEP :)  And years ago when I lived in Cleveland, I became a huge Indians fans and still have a soft spot in my heart for them. A romance that incorporates romance sounds like a really interesting mix.

  2. 2
    Jessica M.D. says:

    I don’t know that I’ve ever read a sports romance, but the movie Bull Durham immediately came to mind—I used to watch it obsessively when I was ten or eleven (I spent my childhood watching movies inappropriate for my age—my favorite example: I saw The Crying Game when it came out in theaters. I was 9, but it’s okay, about 70% of it went right over my head . . .).  That’s still one of my favorite movies, but it never made me enjoy watching baseball.  Whenever my family dragged me to an Angels game, I brought a book—I got through a huge chunk of Gone With The Wind in the Angels stadium.

    But back to the topic, I wouldn’t NOT read a romance just because sports was prominently featured in it, but the sports angle alone wouldn’t sell me on one since I’m not a sports fan.  I don’t hate them, I just always have something better to do. Like reading book . Or sleeping.

  3. 3
    sharon says:

    I like sports romances just fine. To me, if the story is good, it doesn’t matter if it’s sports or not because the sports will drift off into the background in favor of a main plot.

    Sounds like a good Shalvis read!

  4. 4
    El says:

    Although I don’t go out of my way for sports romances, I did read the one before this one (Double Play?) ‘cause I read Shalvis. It was a good thing to do, and I’m looking forward to reading this one (however it comes to me).

  5. 5
    Cheryl McInnis says:

    I’m not much of a baseball fan ( I’m Canadian, so it’s HOCKEY, HOCKEY, HOCKEY! for me ~) but I am a fan of Jill Shalvis and am looking forward to reading Slow Heat.

  6. 6
    TheDuchess says:

    I’ll echo Jenyfer and thank SEP. I’m not sporty, or a sports fan, and if it hadn’t been for her I might have steered clear sports romances altogether, and boy would I have missed out…

    image27…

  7. 7
    Abby says:

    Love sports romances.  Although baseball isn’t my favorite sport (gotta go with Cheryl on HOCKEY, HOCKEY, HOCKEY!), I loved Double Play and can’t wait to read Slow Heat!

  8. 8
    Melissa Lipscomb says:

    I’m sort of on the fence about sports in general, but I’ve loved baseball romances ever since Bull Durham!

    Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.

  9. 9
    L says:

    I like sports romances.  As I don’t live in the USA, I quite enjoy football and baseball stories.  Maybe that is because I don’t completely understand the ins and outs of how everything works so if something happens that is not as real as a true sports fan would wish, I don’t know that it should be different so I don’t get pulled out of the story.

  10. 10
    SL says:

    I fully admit that I’m a baseball fan, although I’ve never read a sports romance novel about baseball.  The only sports romance I’ve ever read is NASCAR (and even then it was because I couldn’t believe there were entire series of romances about NASCAR) and I was so pleasantly surprised- fun times were had by all

  11. 11
    Wendy says:

    I haven’t tried Jill’s sport romances but I totally love the hockey series by Rachel Gibson so I would definitely read Jill’s!

  12. 12
    Katrina says:

    I love SEP’s Stars. I’m not a hockey fan (never seen a match in my life), but Rachel Gibson’s hockey players are fantastic. See Jane Score is one of my favorites.

  13. 13
    Rebecca CH says:

    Wow! I don’t normally read contemporary. I stopped back in the good ol’ Harlequin heyday (or maybe it still is a “heyday” but I’ve stopped noticing). Anyway, I have only ever read one baseball romance and it played too much (or tried to) like Bull Durham—a personal favorite of mine. So, no, I wouldn’t say that I’m a fan of sports romances. But your description of these characters and their trials makes me want to READ this. Too many books take the something wonderful that they’ve created and turn it into a box of cliches. And that’s the worst part of reading. When you keep hoping with a book because you know that there’s something there—you’re already half in love with the characters—but the author doesn’t give you enough to get deeper with it. It likes a love at first sight that’s only followed up by monthly dates. Just kind of kills it, you know.

    Thanks for a great review. SB Sarah. As always.

  14. 14
    Vicki says:

    Not necessarily a fan of sport romance. I will generally pick an adventure romance over a sports romance but, at this point, do pick sports over the plethora of paranormal, just found I have special powers blech out there. Do, of course, adore SEP’s football series.

  15. 15
    Ana says:

    After watching invictus las night, I absolutly want to read something with rugby on it… any suggestions?

  16. 16

    I am a baseball fanatic. We live in a small rural community outside a small town(5000 pop). The only summer entertainment is baseball or the rodeo. We have a high school/first year college team that is sponsored by the American Legion that we watch every summer. We have been going for 30 years to watch them play and win. We have watched a lot of these boys grow up to to play college ball. We have watched them since they were in T-ball with our boys when they were more interested in catching bugs in the outfield then catching a ball. The team has had an amazing record often being in the top 10 in the state. They have won many championships and were state champs several times.
    We have seen many of these boys go on to play college ball and one, Madison Bumgarner, is playing AAA ball with the San Fransisco Giants. We expect to see him playing major league next year.
    We follow the team, watching regular season and through playoffs. If we can’t go, we listen on the radio, not missing a game. We even follow a neighboring county team, Cherryville, often riding an hour on the motorcycle just to pull against them(which really rips them up). They are even more rural than us. They put rocks in plastic drink bottles and rattle them to annoy the opposing team when they bat. While attending a playoff game (which we won) we were treated to a mooning of enormous Cherryville butts. After this, the rivalry took on new meaning. So as you can see , I love baseball and would looove to win a copy of Shalvis’s book.

  17. 17
    Trai says:

    Before this, I don’t think I would’ve tried a sports romance—I’m not a sports fan in general, and my acquaintance with romances has thus far been brief. But this one sounds really interesting—I like that it apparently doesn’t fall for the cliches most of the time.

  18. 18
    Peggy P says:

    How is it I can love a fictional football team but can’t stand to watch the real thing? I never, ever watch baseball but loved “Double Play” – that takes some skillful writing. Thanks Jill and SEP!

  19. 19
    Linda Henderson says:

    I love sports of just about any kind, so sports and romance are all right with me. I enjoy Deirdre Martin’s hockey books very much, and I read the Nascar books from the Harlequin line. I enjoy Jill Shalvis so I know I would enjoy this book.

  20. 20
    rigmarole says:

    I’ve discovered in the last year that I can’t say no to anything NASCAR-related. God help me, I have no idea what’s up with that.

  21. 21
    Jan Oda says:

    Sport romances,
    they can be so great, and so terribly wrong. My biggest problem with sports romances in general is that they are very American in setting. As a reader from Belgium, often the typical American sport settings doesn’t make sense for me, because I didn’t grow up with them, and thus don’t have the prerequisite pre-knowledge to understand the setting. If authors take some time to set the sports setting so even those readers that don’t know the setting well understand it, sport romances can work incredible well.
    If they don’t it’s like a historical novel without a decent period setting.

    I’m often a little wary about them, but I really like Jill Shalvis, so I wouldn’t say no to this one :)

  22. 22
    Heather says:

    I have been getting more into sports romances as I get away from my historical romance kick. I always enjoyed SEP’s sports series, but lately I’ve been reading more Erin McCarthy, Kate Angell, and now Jill Shalvis. I think it’s a tough genre to do, and I’m not sure that I can read that Harlequin monthly series that does Nascar and other types, but I’ve been finding authors that do that type of adrenaline/attention junkie character really well.

  23. 23
    Kara says:

    I love sports romance…all sports (hockey, football, baseball, etc.) My first introduction into this would be Luanne Rice’s Summer Light centered around a hockey player. Loved it!!!

    Would love a chance to read a Jill Shalvis book!!!

  24. 24
    Scorpio M. says:

    Personally, I really enjoy sports romances because I love to follow baseball & football. My favorite sport-rom is a Harlequin Blaze called SCORING by Kristin Hardy.

    BTW, top-notch review. Thanks.

  25. 25
    Helen of Troy says:

    Love ‘em!  I must echo the HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! comments and love of Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score and also Deirdre Martin’s series about the New York Blades.  Next I need something with men playing *real* football (i.e. soccer) – they bring new meaning to the definition of “stamina”!  Rrowr!

    My submission word?  minutes33 – at the very least!

  26. 26
    Amelia says:

    I’m going to keep right on echoing this comment:

    Love ‘em!  I must echo the HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! comments and love of Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score and also Deirdre Martin’s series about the New York Blades.

    I must admit as long as it’s a sport and it’s believable I’m all for reading it.

  27. 27
    Carin says:

    SEP’s Chicago Stars were my first sports romances.  I LOVE Erin McCarthy’s NASCAR books, too.  After reading comments I have a few new books to read.  I’ve read other Jill Shalvis, but missed Double Play – I’ll go look now.  Which all adds up to, I’d LOVE a copy of Slow Heat.

  28. 28
    Hydecat says:

    I’ve never read a sports romance (except one random NASCAR book), but I love watching real-life baseball. I also just read my first Shalvis book (Blue Flame) and I’d like to read some more of her work.

  29. 29

    The plot sounds engaging.  I’m a big fan of SEP’s sport romances, and Slow Heat by Jill Salvis doesn’t sound like it would disappoint this reader.  Thanks for the great contest.

  30. 30
    lina says:

    Although I’m a big baseball fan (and looooove watching baseball movies), I’ve never really read many sports romances.  Oh, except for a free Nascar included in the Harlequin anniversary bundle—which was really not bad. 

    I’m definitely going to have to check out this one….I keep hearing things about Shalvis and I suppose I’d better sit down and read her!

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