Heat Factor: Very very hot. There’s some Mile-High Club stuff that happens.
Character Chemistry: Flirty.
Plot: Boss and assistant fight their desire for each other. And then give in to it.
Overall: I enjoyed myself immensely.
After I finished reading Swing Batter Swing, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. While it is primarily a low-angst story full of super hot sexytimes, Polanco handles the power differential between her characters extremely well.
Our Hero, Jay: White, male, older, wealthy, the boss
Our Heroine, Marty: Woman of color, younger, struggling financially, the assistant
As you can see, Jay has more institutional power behind him than Marty does along pretty much every dimension. And while Jay tries to be woke (more on this later), he does sometimes use this power in ways that would be rage-inducing if Marty didn’t call him on his bullshit.
We also see power differentials on a macro level. The agency where Jay and Marty work is a gross boys’ club, and while Polanco does not harp on this aspect of the work environment, she does show that the sexism Marty faces is pervasive. Dudes come by Marty’s desk all the time to flirt with her, and she smiles nicely and then politely turns them down. I think this bit felt so real (and extra gross) to me precisely because Marty never comments on it or does anything about it but smile politely – because that’s what you actually have to do as a young woman working in a boys’ club.
Polanco clearly establishes the mutual desire between Marty and Jay, so while Jay pulls power plays in other components of their relationship, he never does in order to get Marty in the sack. On the contrary – Jay spends the first half of the book berating himself for having the hots for his assistant, because sleeping with her would be gross and unprofessional. This means that Marty and Jay do a good bit of pining – for the first half of the book, they are fantasizing about each other (and masturbating), because each is convinced that the other is off limits.
In spite of the pining in the first half of the book, my assessment of the relationship is that Marty and Jay are pretty adult about working through their issues. No one runs away. No one acts like an irrational child. Once they do get together, they have a series of conversations, each of which addresses a potential roadblock to making their relationship a success. Mini-fights, if you will. While one or the other might storm off and need to cool down a bit, they don’t drag out the arguments, so nothing felt repetitive.
Because I would classify this as predominantly a character-driven romance, I should probably talk about them a bit.
I loved Marty. She is saucy and confident – but she also actually felt like she was 24. There were moments when her confidence wavered. (Example: Jay tells her she can’t date a baseball player he’s representing because it would be unprofessional. He does this because he’s a jealous asshole. However, while Marty is upset about him inserting herself in her dating life, she also believes him, and berates herself for not recognizing this fact about the industry – because while he is a jealous asshole, he is also kinda right.) So she stands up for herself, but not so much that I was distracted by her unrealistic levels of feisty in the workplace.
Jay, on the other hand, I didn’t love. I didn’t loathe him, but I found him extremely Not Hot. First, his haircut:
Sorry, but this haircut will always be associated with Richard Spencer in my mind.
Second, his wokeness. Ok, so, you know how I said that he angsts a lot about having the hots for Marty? Well, he has this thing where he refuses to bang his assistant – so he always hires male assistants. Until Marty. Who he hires because he assumes she’s male. And who he then bangs. I mean, I get it. She’s The One. But also, I feel like we’re supposed to give him brownie points for perpetuating a boys’ club because he does it for Noble Reasons that don’t hold up. Also, does this mean that actually he would have banged a previous assistant if he’d had the opportunity and Marty is not The One after all?
On the other hand, there are times when his wokeness is endearing. Mainly the moments where he pulls a power play, gets yelled at, and then listens and learns. Maybe there’s hope for him. If Marty can convince him to update his look.
A final note on content: Both Marty and Jay have sex with other people early in the book. (As a way to try and deal with the lust that must not be acted upon.) So if multiple sex partners for the protagonists is a deal-breaker, you have been duly notified.
PS: If you’re looking for a sports romance, this is, at best, sports adjacent. Jay is a sports agent / retired baseball player. There are secondary characters who are athletes and Jay and Marty attend spring training, but the majority of the action takes place in the office.
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