The Change Up
by Elley Arden
Series: The Arlington Aces, #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 16, 2016
Commercial real estate mogul Rachel Reed is the one person her father can depend on, so when he walks into her Philadelphia office two weeks shy of her fortieth birthday to drop a personal and professional bomb, she rises to the occasion. She will help get his independent professional baseball team up and running before the inaugural season, and then … she will sell the team to recoup his substantial investment. It’s a tall order, but Rachel knows one thing for sure: a sexy nuisance from her past and a few acres of trees won’t stand in her way.
Former minor-leaguer-turned-landscaper Sam Sutter is surprised to find his brother’s ex in the woods behind the house he bought when he cashed out his signing bonus and said so long to baseball. He’s even more surprised to learn “his” trees are on her chopping block. There’s no way he’ll desecrate his nature-loving mother’s memory by letting that happen. But butting heads with the beautiful business woman is a tricky task that leads Sam to accept a position as head groundskeeper at her father’s stadium. Working under Rachel’s watchful, smoldering eyes might be Sam’s undoing.
She doesn’t know a thing about baseball. He swore off the sport ten years ago. But strange things happen when field dust gets in your veins.
She thought about that for a minute, thought about him, standing there, looking at her like she was the only woman in the world, and the heat was undeniable. The attraction unmistakable. Sam Sutter was a mouth-wateringly beautiful man. Five years younger and without a discernible life plan, but damn it, libidos didn’t care about those things. And honestly, the only thing holding her back from taking out all her recent frustrations on his blessed body right now was the fact his crew was just outside the leftfield wall.
To neutralize the lust bubbling in her veins, she asked, “Do you miss baseball?”
He looked broadsided by the random question and didn’t rush to answer.
“I know that came out of left field …” she grinned at her cleverness, “but I’ve been wondering about it ever since the festival. When my dad was asking you about baseball, you looked very uncomfortable.”
His gaze shifted away from her and anchored onto something in the grandstand, but then he shrugged like she hadn’t hit a nerve. “I was uncomfortable because I was worried about your father. I wasn’t sure what was going on. That’s all.” But his jaw pulsed, and she knew better.
“Sam …” She stepped closer, narrowing the space between them. “I saw that same look a minute ago when I asked you to help me out with the coaching prospects. You miss baseball. It’s okay to admit it. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be human. God, you played every year of your life until you were how old? Just because you were ready to hang it up professionally doesn’t mean you don’t miss the game personally.” He looked at her then with a hurt in his eyes that seemed to be saying maybe he wasn’t as ready to hang it up as he pretended to be.
“I miss some things more than others,” he said. “There’s a rush you get from playing the game.” Silence stretched out between them as the warm wind wrapped them in the sun-dried fragrances of spring. All the while, his eyes roamed her face until they focused on her lips. “Fortunately you can get that rush from other things.”
“Like?” she asked, breathlessly, knowing damned well she was encouraging him.
“This,” he whispered before he leaned in and kissed her, a brush of his lips, soft as the breeze that carried the heated scent of his skin to her nose and then to her brain.
This was an enjoyable read that had many elements that I love in a romance novel – the quirky setting of a small town, the focus on a sports team, and a hero and heroine who were older (she’s 40 and he’s 35) - but for some reason I just couldn’t fully connect with the heroine and the hero at times.
Rachel had just about all the characteristics I love in my heroines. She’s smart, successful, capable, confident…but also vulnerable, insecure, and searching for a peace that she thinks can only come through her father’s approval. Even though she had so many of these characteristics that work for me, I found myself getting frustrated with her quite often - for someone so smart and capable who never backs down….she refused to confront many issues and problems right away, or at least ask some questions (like why her sister would get angry anytime she mentioned selling the team.) This made it hard for me to feel a connection to her at times and also really feel the chemistry between her and Sam.
I liked Sam, but he definitely had some unresolved issues to deal with. Having to choose between his passion (baseball) and his family once already, it’s easy to understand why he may be reluctant to get excited about the prospects of a new baseball team in his home town. He was a bit of a hot-head at times – definitely someone who would act before thinking, which led to some fun heated exchanges between him and Rachel. I loved seeing him come to terms with what he wanted for his future and you could really feel the weight being lifted off his shoulders as he begins to heal the wounds from his past.
Rachel and Sam together were just missing something for me until near the end of the book. There were flashes of the chemistry between them, but rather than feel a slow burn through the book it felt like it came and went until near the end, when they both seemed to get their acts together and exorcise some of the demons of their pasts. For most of the book it was hard to see these two ever finding a happy ever after together – while I love when the H/h banter and argue and create all that tension and sparks that usually lead to somewhere sexual, sometimes the tension and sparks when Sam and Rachel bantered seemed to produce more anger than heat.
As the first book in a new series there was a lot going on in addition to Rachel and Sam’s story. We were introduced to many different characters and the author teased us with some potential upcoming story lines.
This was a well written book that had great characters, but was just missing that spark between the H/h for me for most of the book. That being said, I will definitely be on the lookout for more books in this series and from this author. I liked the writing style and the author has put a lot of wonderful groundwork in laying out the world for this series, so I’m looking forward to finding out what’s in store next for the Arlington Aces.
Elley has been reading romance novels since she was a sixteen-year-old babysitter, sneaking Judith McNaught and Danielle Steele novels off the bookshelves of the women who employed her. To say she’d been sheltered up to that point is an understatement. No one had ever told her women could live bold, love freely, and have sex lives that were exciting and fulfilling. (They don’t teach these things in Catholic school!) Now that she knows, she’s happy to spread the word. The women she writes about may be fictional, but the success, respect, and love they find on the page is a universal right for women everywhere.
Elley writes books with charming characters, emotional stories, and sexy romance. Visit The Bookshelf for a detailed listing.