Please note: this review was originally posted on June 14, 2011
My reputation for being Little Miss Crabby Pants seems to be getting out. Or at least my annoyance with romance authors who include professional sports in their books and muck up the details. My various tirades on this subject is what led Jami Davenport to e-mail me about her latest ebook, Fourth And Goal. Ms. Davenport assured me that she knew exactly how I felt, as she's a football (Seattle Seahawks) and baseball (Seattle Mariners) fan herself. She asked if I would be interested in reading her latest for review, and after a quick perusal of the excerpt, I signed on.
Derek Ramsey is a wide receiver for the Seattle Lumberjacks - he's just not sure for how long. A star athlete in high school and college, his career in the NFL has so far been a bust. He's well aware this is his last shot, and he's going to work his ass off to make it work. What he doesn't need are any distractions, so when he hires old friend Rachel McCormick to be a live-in caretaker for his property, he really questions his sanity.
Buddies growing up, Rachel and Derek shared one wild and passionate weekend of Hot Nookie. She made the mistake of confessing her true feelings, and he bolted faster than you can say "Wham, bam thank you ma'am." Coupled with the hurt feelings over this incident, Rachel's father, Derek's high school football coach, has become embroiled in an old points-shaving scandal. Rachel knows that Daddy is innocent, which means he's taking the fall for one of his old players. Derek seems like a good place to start snooping.
I love a good reunion story, especially when the reunion involves a love affair gone bust. Rachel adored Derek, so when he spurned her affections, it left her deeply wounded. For his part, Derek is a moron. He has feelings for Rachel, and can't seem to quite get her out of head, but since he's a guy, it takes him a while to admit it. All this gets complicated when they tumble back into bed together (boy howdy, do they tumble!), and Derek has the best game in his fledgling NFL career. Hey, ballplayers are nothing if not superstitious. They're just going to have to keep on burning up the sheets!
I really enjoyed the fact that Rachel is a heroine who knows football. She lives and breathes it. While she's the nonathletic klutz in a family of athletes, that doesn't mean she didn't learn a thing or two. In fact, Derek was such a good player in high school and college because she worked with him breaking down game tape. Her father's troubles led the arena league team she was working for to let her go (guilt by association). She needs to snoop on Derek to clear her father's name, to give herself a chance at a career she wants, but frankly, she also needs the money. She also needs to figure out what she wants to do. She wants to get into scouting, but between her father's troubles and the fact that she doesn't have a penis, it's proving to be difficult.
This is an erotic romance, and I generally go into this genre expecting "sexy and fun." So when an author gives me some depth, it's always, in my opinion, a nice addition. While there are plenty of Sexy Times between Rachel and Derek, their mutual back stories, coupled with Derek's burgeoning stardom (once the team starts winning!) gave this story such a lovely feel. Nobody knows the Lumberjacks exist, until they go on a winning streak, and with that comes more demands on Derek's time. Who does he say no to? I also appreciated the added touches of Derek's beat-up body surviving the grind of an NFL season, and also that he wasn't a mega-super-duper-star right out of the gate. You know how many guys have great college careers but are either a bust or "just OK" in the NFL? Quite a few.
The writing itself is quite good. It does take a little while to get to the Sexy Times, so some readers might find the first portion of the story "slow" - but it worked well for me as far as setting the stage is concerned. The one aspect that didn't always gel was the author's tendency to use football lingo/euphemisms in the story - especially during love scenes. A couple of times, this can be cute. More than that? We land in eye-rolling territory. Less definitely would have been more.
But you know what? I really enjoyed this story. A lot. With my nit-picks, my final grade would generally be around B- or B territory. However, I gotta say it, I got sucked into this book. I mean, hook line and sinker sucked in. I was deeply invested in these characters. Not just Derek and Rachel, but all of them. Even Derek's asshole cousin, Tyler, who cannot string a sentence together without dropping the F-bomb half a dozen times. Hooked folks, I'm positively hooked. So....
Final Grade = B+
When does the next book come out? Dang.