Romancing The Zone by Kenna White is a story about the plans we make in life and how they may not turn out the way we expect. Whether they go askew due to a major life event, or we change them to take a chance on love, White shows us that sometimes where we end up is exactly where we’re supposed to be.
Liz Elliott is fast approaching forty. She is not disconcerted by this. In fact, she’s had a good life. She runs a successful business in Ashton, Vermont, and she raises her nineteen-year-old daughter, Becca, on her own. If there is one regret Liz has, it’s dropping out of college her senior year at Chilton College, where she was the top student and star player of the Lady Stingers basketball team. Becca, like her mom, plays basketball and impresses all who watch her. But when her playing days are put on hold after an injury, she sees it as an opportunity to get Liz back on the court and finish college. Liz accepts her daughter’s challenge, and decides to play her last year of eligibility. The new coach, however, isn’t very thrilled about exchanging her star player for her mother.
Coach Sheridan Ross has no patience for an over-the-hill athlete. She has her own plans to move up the coaching ladder and get to a Division I school as quickly as possible. But as she and Liz get to know each other on and off the court, sparks begin the fly between them. Soon Sheridan questions whether coaching is the most important thing in her life.
Just as things seem to be on course, Liz’s world gets turned upside down when someone from her past returns to Ashton. This person holds a powerful secret, something Liz has tried hard to keep from everyone, especially Becca. Will Liz and Becca be able to survive the fallout from this reveal? Will Sheridan give up everything for the coaching position she’s always dreamed of having? In this game, a lot is riding on the line. And all three women will need to team up to get the win.
What is great about Liz and Sheridan is that they embody the positive characteristics I associate with their descriptions and very little of the negative traits I have experienced with them in other stories.
Liz being a single mom, you’d expect some sort of struggle in her life that has made her jaded to the world. But that is totally not the case. Liz is a very loving, caring, single mom who is very successful and devoted to Becca. I’m sure there are ways she has struggled to get to this point in her life because it would be ignorant to think otherwise. But White does well not to dwell on those struggles. She portrays Liz as a “life gives you lemons, make lemonade” type of person. I loved reading about her and watching her interactions with Becca, her friends, and ultimately Sheridan.
Sheridan has the mentality I would expect from a basketball coach. She is very driven with one goal in mind, and it pushes not only her but her players to be the best at what they do. It’s not a surprising characteristic. In fact, it is expected. However, as her interactions with Liz, Becca, and the town of Ashton itself become more frequent, you see her thoughtfulness and attention to detail applied to the people she cares about with the same intensity and drive she uses to focus on the game she loves.
The Writing Style
Since it’s established that Liz had one year of eligibility left, then it stands to reason that we see her life unfold through the duration of this one basketball season. And what a season it is. So much happens, yet it doesn’t drag or dawdle. Even the events that transpire over the Christmas holiday I felt were important to the development of Liz, Sheridan, and their evolving relationship. It shows that there is possibility for them outside of school, and more importantly outside of basketball.
I thought White handled the portrayal of Liz as a former athlete who comes back to the game years later beautifully. White could’ve easily taken the stance that since Liz was the best player in college, her skill set didn’t diminish over the years. This would’ve made the character feel unrealistic. Instead, she portrays Liz as authentic as possible in her athletic ability. Liz may not be the best player anymore, but she’s not the worst player either. That, to me, is telling of White understanding the physical and mental maturity that an athlete goes through after they’ve concluded their playing days.
While I love the big reveal, I felt it took too long to reach it. Granted, White gives subtle clues along the way, yet I felt she could’ve used a few more to really build the tension. When the reveal finally did happen, it felt abrupt and left me a little bewildered as to how it was handled. Information of this magnitude should’ve had a more apparent trail for the reader to follow and allowed them to become intrigued to the point of great anticipation. Once it was revealed, however, it was a great moment. It had me captivated to see this secret finally unfold and watch how the characters handled it and moved on with their lives.
I was drawn to this book because of the basketball aspect, and I loved how I got that and so much more. This story is more than about just one woman going back to the game, it’s about finding those places that make us happy. Whether it’s the basketball court, a small college town in Vermont, or the arms of a loving and caring woman, White tells a story that coaches us to expect the unexpected. Because when you do, life can be more than what you envision it to be.
Excerpt from Romancing The Zone by Kenna White
“So you came in to see if you can still hit the rim,” Sheridan said finally, seeming to realize she was making Liz uncomfortable.
“I was hoping I could still sink one, not just hit the rim.” Liz looked up at the backboard.
“Try it again. Let’s see what happens.” Sheridan tossed her the ball.
Liz took her stance. She bounced the ball once, flexed her knees and rubbed the ball with her palms. She brought the ball up and shot. It hit the front of the rim and bounced back to her.
“Damn,” she muttered.
“Okay, not bad from here but you aren’t cocking your shot.” Sheridan stood next to her. “Try it again.”
Liz went through her preparation again and just as she was about to shoot, the coach pressed back on her forearms. She held them there, the ball just inches from her face.
“Bring it to this point before you release.” Sheridan released her arms.
Liz started again and did as she suggested. This time the ball made a longer arc and bounced off the back of the rim but still didn’t go in. Sheridan ran the ball down and brought it back.
“Once more,” she said taking a position behind Liz. As she brought the ball back to shoot, Sheridan wrapped her arms around her and pulled her elbows slightly. It wasn’t enough to stop her shot but it was enough to send the ball in a steeper arc and it dropped neatly through the net.
“Hey, what do you know? The basket doesn’t have a lid on it after all,” Liz joked.
Sheridan retrieved the ball and pointed for her to try again. She stood behind her again, waiting for her to set herself. Liz could feel Sheridan’s breath on the back of her neck. As she brought the ball up to shoot, Liz could also feel Sheridan’s body pressing against her. Sheridan’s arms around her and the touch of her body made concentrating on the shot impossible. This time the ball went sailing over the backboard, striking the wall.
“Oops!” she said and went to get it. She suddenly couldn’t think clearly. She needed to move away from Sheridan. She needed some fresh air.
“Well, you made one,” Sheridan teased.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781594930607
- Publisher: Bella Books
Kenna White Online
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