All Sara Duke ever cared about was baseball. After years of hard work, she has finally gotten her shot at being a full-time sports writer for the St. Louis Cardinals. She loves her work and most of all she loves the game itself. On opening day, though, Duke meets Molly Grettano and her two boys, Joe and Charlie. Duke connects instantly with the young family and suddenly she wants to see if there’s more love in her heart for something besides baseball.
Molly’s life has been filled with people who left her and her boys, and she’s trying to make sure that Joe and Charlie don’t have to go through the same heartache again. Duke is that last thing Molly wants as a lover. Duke is too butch for Molly’s taste, and her job doesn’t ease Molly’s mind. Molly wants someone who is stable, someone who is fully dedicated to her and her children. Duke believes she has a big enough heart for Molly, the boys, and baseball. But will Molly give her the chance to prove it? Or will Molly give in to her own fears and doubts?
I love Sara Duke from the first sentence. She is very passionate about the sport of baseball, and the way Spangler describes her, taking the time to sift the dirt on the field through her fingers, emphasizes that it’s not only a passion but a love that has been engrained in Duke since she was a child. She is also very charming and very open. It’s her big heart and passion for baseball that gets her into trouble the first time she meets Joe, Molly’s son. However, it’s her charisma and sincerity that allows her to be included into this small family of three from day one.
Molly is a character that I can empathize with as a daughter of a single parent. She’s very much in love with her kids, and she does her best to protect them from anymore heartache, including giving up her own wants and desires to make sure of this. She is a woman who has tremendous love for her children and does what she thinks is best for them throughout the entire story. And even though some of her decisions are questionable and quick to execution, I can’t fault her for that giving the position she is in.
The two boys, Joe and Charlie, are just adorable and fun to read. Joe is a lot like Duke with his passion for baseball and nothing else. It’s no wonder he and Duke bond immediately as friends and discuss the good and bad of the game. Charlie is the cutest toddler I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t say much but his enthusiasm is told with such care by Spangler, as well as his obsession with getting and not eating hot dogs, that you just can’t help but fall in love with him.
The Writing Style
Think of how long a baseball season lasts, from opening day to the playoffs, and that’s the time frame Spangler uses to tell this story. There is baseball terminology and euphemisms that are placed perfectly throughout the book to give the reader the sense of a life lesson being taught to both Duke and Molly. In fact, Spangler does a great job of making baseball an important secondary character without making it overbearing.
I really liked the progression of the Duke and Molly’s relationship and how it mirrored the baseball season. Opening day is a fresh start anything can happen. The start of the season can be high/low and hit/miss, but it’s still early to gauge what’s going to happen. Then the winning streak begins, followed by a slump that can either make or break the rest of the season. Spangler does a spectacular job of showing this and keeping Duke and Molly the focus and using baseball as a tapestry to connect their lives and their hearts. Sometimes when stories have a sports focus, the sport itself can become overbearing. This is not the case with this book. Spangler is able to use baseball more responsibly in her story and allows the reader to find the logic in it and the lessons it reveals to the characters.
I wanted to see what happened to Duke and Molly after the story ended. Spangler ends the story with the Cardinals still in the playoffs and close to being eliminated before making a comeback. I’m not sure if she mirrored this story after a specific season, but it would’ve been nice to have an epilogue where we see what happened with the Cardinals, and if they did make it to the World Series. Then it would’ve been nice to see how that would’ve translated to Duke and Molly’s life together after the biggest win in baseball.
Spangler’s writing shows she is not only a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, she is also a big fan of the characters she creates in this story. Through Duke and Molly, she shows you how baseball and life can run parallel and teach you a lot about winning in all aspects of it.
You don’t have to know a lot about baseball to read this book. But if you’re looking for something a little bit different that makes you want to swing for the fences, I highly recommend picking up Heart of the Game for the season.
Excerpt from Heart of the Game by Rachel Spangler
Duke was being honorable, trying to do the right thing, which made her even harder to resist. They should slow down. The dynamics of their relationship were changing too fast, and they booth stood to lose a lot if they made a misstep this early in their relationship, but somehow it seemed harder to focus on those facts in the small hallway with little more than a breath between them. She could literally feel the heat emanating from Duke’s body, or maybe her own.
“I want to respect your wishes, your boundaries. You have all the control in this situation,” Duke whispered, her voice low and raspy. “But I need you to know I’m all in. I want to be here for you, with you. I want you to be part of my life, and I’d like a chance to be part of yours on whatever terms you set for me…for us.”
Molly couldn’t summon any restraint when Duke gave her all the power. So many people had tried to push and threaten her into breaking, and she’d never so much as bent for any of them. Yet, for some reason, being told she had all the control only mad her ache to surrender to the uncontrollable.
“You’re too special to –“
“Kiss me.” Molly lifted her fingers to Duke’s lips.
Duke arched her eyebrows.
“You said I could set the pace.” Molly slid her hands back up Duke’s chest. “Now kiss me.”
Duke needed no more instruction.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781626393271
- Publisher: Bold Strokes books